Burley village and the surrounding area is as about as perfectly pretty as the New Forest gets. You’re deep in the Western part of the New Forest National Park here and live is slow and rustic.
You’ll find ancient forests, heathlands, wild ponies, cattle and donkeys – all of whom have right of way over cars, and plenty of endearing red brick cottages, many still have thatch roofs.
We love that the animals have right of way. There is even a law court dedicated especially to the right to graze animals ‘wild’ here. Livestock, grazing, and cutting wood are managed under the Commoning laws. These were set up in the 13 century and are very much alive and followed today. Back then animals were grazed wild, and it’s the same now too. The roads are not fenced and animals do have right of way. It’s a slow and an ancient way of living.
Witches are a part of Burley’s history that have become celebrated in the village. During the late 1950’s a famous ‘White’ witch named Sybil Leek lived locally. She wore a long black cloak and had a pet jackdaw who used to ride upon her shoulder. Because her costume fitted the idea of a wicked witch, the locals fell out with her and she moved to the USA. Her work on the occult and astrology is still available online and there are several local gift shops that celebrate the theme.
In the 16th century, a new pub was built. Named ‘The Queen’s Head; it was (as many are across the forest) notorious for smugglers, vagabonds and highwaymen. If you visit, ask about the hidden cellar which was discovered beneath the floor of the “Stable bar”. It was hidden full of pistols, coins, bottles and other goods and was believed to be one of the hiding places of the local band of smugglers.
Public transport isn’t straight forward. There might be a bus once in a blue moon. You really need to be travelling by car. It is well set up for off road travel by horse or bike (on and off road). Trains come to Brockenhurst, 15 minutes away by car, but no further north.
Great pubs to visit
The White Buck is a good local pub. Fullers own the pub and it has generally good reviews. You can still see the odd white roe deer buck (male with antlers) around in the New Forest. Keep your eyes open!
The Queens Head serves good hearty meals and is a popular place. The architecture of the pub is very much of the local style and the brickwork is handsome on this old lady.
Is the nearest big town with a large supermarket. The town also hosts; New Forest Wines are worth supporting. They do a great job. Patterson’s fish monger/butcher are well regarded. There as is a Waitrose and Lidl. Plus 2 good bike shops.
Being active here
Horse riding. There is a great place in Godshill, just 20 minutes away to the north, at Arniss Farm. You can ride from here for miles and this is some of the best, (and quietest) hacking in the county.
Feel the sand under your feet….. the Nearest Beaches
The long and sandy beaches at Highcliffe Castle Beach and Mudeford Beach are both charming. There are good cafe’s along the coast here. Read our Insiders Guide to the New Forest beaches for more.
Hengitsbury Head is very close too. It is a site of significant archeological importance. It has a great cafe and visitors centre too.
The Mudeford spit is most fun to arrive by the ‘noddy’ train, or take the little boat. A 20 minute drive then a 30 minute walk.
Even nearer, on the ‘main land’ Avon beach is white sand and lifeguards in summer. It also has a fab’ cafe and further up you’ll find the Noisy Lobster – a well loved and brilliant cafe with some reputation. A 20 minute drive.
As you leave Highcliffe, there is a left turn into Rothesay Drive, short road just at the end, park behind the castle. walk down to beach from there. Castle cafe and nice areas to sit out. Or can park across the road. A 25 minute drive.