Lymington is often in The Times ‘Top 10 places to live in the UK’. Obviously we are totally biased and agree. It is marvellous. The quality of life here is very good. The town is surrounded by National Park to the north, coastal otherwise. There is a good mix of industry (boats) and retail. Less obvious is the connection to the rural workings of the National Park itself.
The community here is very diverse in its interests and the town really does make sure that everyone is catered to…it is always busy with something going on from the Saturday market to St Barbe Museum, with multiple play parks and of course cafe and restaurants galore. And if you manage to get through all that, then you could always jump on the ferry to the Isle of Wight – just a short 30 minute journey across the Solent.
Frequently noted in the ‘Top 10 places to live in Britain’ articles in the mainstream British press, Lymington is a smart, bustly Georgian market town by the sea. It supports a thriving marine industry, excellent independent shops, a very well supported Saturday market on the High Street, local festivals, sports events and plenty of activities around the area to amuse visitors. The town is surrounded by outstanding natural beauty; ancient woodlands and heath lands of the New Forest as well and the Solent and views of the Isle of Wight.
Foodies will love it here. Eating out options are numerous. There is still a fishing industry that runs out of the town quay. lobster, crab and other local fish are all excellent from the Solent Waters.
Walk from here east along the rural coast which has a wild and agricultural feel with ponies and cattle graze on the beaches. Walk west from here along the coastal paths and you’ll find masses of yacht marinas, marshes and bird reserve, Hurst Castle (read our blog for days out) and onto shingle and then sand beaches toward Highcliffe.
Lymington is conveniently located 50 mins from Southampton, and just 15 mins from the Brockenhurst forest by car. If you are planning to drive to Lymington, you can in one of the many council car parks in town, which are clearly signposted. On-street parking is limited but not impossible to find.
Why not Go Green!? – Check out these Summer Public Transport options ……
The Lymington line is a branch off the main Waterloo to Weymouth line, change at Brockenhurst for Lymington Town and Lymington Pier. Read our blog on the ‘Time warp train’ from London.
– Sea –
The Wightlink Passenger/Car Ferry between Lymington and Yarmouth, Isle of Wight takes about 30 minutes and in the summer generally leaves every 45 minutes.
Wilts & Dorset operate buses from Lymington to Bournemouth (X1 & X2) and Hythe Ferry (112). Blue Star operate buses from Lymington to Southampton (6) and the New Forest Bus Tour (a hop on hop off, circular trip around the New Forest).
Here’s our guide to the best of Lymington:
The coast. Being so close to the sea gives the town a useful purpose. You’ll see boats everywhere – stored in people’s back gardens, towed on trailers, chandleries to keep them stocked up, shops to keep those on them warm and stylish. The maritime history is interesting to learn about in the towns Museum, the St Barbe (read below) and you mustn’t leave without a wander along the coastal paths toward Keyhaven. The bird reserves and views here are beautiful.
The High Street seems to be continually busy and as a result, or perhaps because of it, we have some great independent shops which appear to be going strong.
Independent fashion shops: Our favourites are Elliots Department Store which has been trading since 1872. From smart casual to very smart, it’s a fabulous place and has a good cafe too. Number 33 Boutique which is great for smart casual, a particularly good selection of cashmere jumpers. Well loved is the very chi chi Stanwells Boutique. It’s on Stella magazine’s top 50 boutiques in Britain and mentioned in Vogue.
Vintage and preloved.
Designer Vintage, the fantastic chandleries for everything boaty and of course the charity shops, which are great for finding cashmere, vintage coats etc.
And more…Quba, Henri Lloyd, Joules (2 of them!), Fat Face, Salt Rock, Crew and many more. There is an excellent Waterstones, previously it was the famous Kings of Lymington, the second oldest trading bookshop in the UK.
For food shoppers, there is a big Waitrose, a Tesco Express and behind it, an excellent independent grocer and butcher.
For drinks, don’t go past Solent Cellars on the cobbles part of town. You’ll get a discount off with us.
The Saturday market. A major draw to Lymington is the Saturday market which lines both sides of the Georgian High Street, the origins of which date back to the 13th century. Once a month there is a French market too.
Here colourful stalls can be found selling local produce, antiques, art, fashion and just about everything else.
– Ciao Belli – a great Italian cafe at the bottom of the High Street. They have the nicest,happiest staff, do fabulous coffee and great lunches and takeaway dessert.
– The Larder, at the bottom of the high street just below Tesco. Fast food in a slow style. Great selection for those with dietary requirements. Their food is always colourful and beautifully produced. It’s very social here and gets busy in peak times.
– Angel and Blue Pig pub. Choice of dining options. We like the back bar for lunch. Or the terrace. Food is generous, delicious and timely. Staff are full of smiles and banter. Lots of locals here in the evenings for town chat.
– The Ship Pub, down by old town quay. A great pub with a rich smuggling history and unbeatable for brunch. Parking at the front of the pub is free, or the public carpark next door. Crabbing out the front is superb for kids. You can walk from here after out toward and on the coastal path.
Things to do in Lymington
Walk the coastal path east toward Keyhaven
The track runs across the top of the sea defences, beside the many marinas, bird reserves, fields of crops, past pubs and finally onto the beaches of Hurst Castle or Milford on Sea, depending which route you take.
The Sea Water Baths
No self-respecting tween or teenager can possibly pass up the opportunity of the Lymington Salt Water Baths. There’s a 150m floating obstacle course, offering hours of splish-splash fun for both children, teens and daring adults. If you don’t fancy the inflatable course, there is plenty else to do here. The Lido offers water zorbs, stand up paddle boards, kayaks, aqua jousting, a children’s splash pool & sandpit along with a confectionery kiosk/cafe and toilets, changing rooms with shower facilities. There is disabled access here. The pool opening times vary each year weather depending, but tend to be open July to September. Read our blog about New Forest Water Parks here.
Goodall Pick Your Own fruit farm & Adventure golf.
The little fruit farm is on the south facing hill, opposite the Elmers Court Hotel, just past the ferry terminal.
One of favourite, secret and well loved places. Not only do they have fabulous summer fruits to pick but they have a vintage tea shop running for the early part of the summer. The fruit ripens from mid June to late July.
Adventure golf course.
This 18 hole course is centred on New Forest landmarks, and great fun for all the family.
Lymington Community Centre Cinema.
Got a rainy day? The Malt, at the Community Centre off New Street, behind Tesco, has a tiny cinema featuring the latest (ish) films. It has regular showings every week – visit here for more info.
The St Barbe Museum
Recently totally renovated, it’s well worth a visit. You’ll find out more about the Romans, smuggling on the Solent (quite a business) and how and where boat-builders and salt-makers developed their trade.
Marinas + Sailing
Where better to learn to sail than the town of Lymington? A famous yachting town with an international reputation for sailing; with Ben Ainslie as a resident, what better sailing pedigree could you ask for?
In Lymington you will find two Marinas, Berthon and Haven – along with two sailing clubs RLYC and Lymington Town. Boaty folk can hire sailing boats or RIBs locally – we have negotiated good discounts for our guests – Just ask.
Where to go for play parks? We like the park on Wainsford Road, in Upper Pennington best. It’s near the swimming pool but not in town. For more convenience, head to behind St Thomas Church where there is also a pétanque area sectioned off, Lower Buckland Road for a small zip wire and basketball ring or Bath Road where you can overlook the river and watch the world go by.
Where for swimming? For indoor swimming the Lymington Recreation Centre is very good. Clean pool, not too much chlorine in it, clean changing areas, a good selection of changing room options. The little pool is warm and rarely busy midweek. Check this link for timetable.
In summer, the Lymington Saltwater Pools opens up. This is a not to be missed bit of madness and fun that teens and kids will love. Read more about it and our New Forest waterparks here.
Parking? There is parking all the way up the High street but it only allows for one hour – great for popping in but not good for long term. There are various short term and long term car parks ideal for longer lunches or shopping trips. Most of them work off ‘RingGo’ so we suggest downloading the app before you get there to save time and lots of searching for coins! Have a look at our map here.
We are very lucky to have a fantastic cottage hospital which has a daytime minor A&E facility. Excellent Dr’s surgeries and dentist options. At least 3 big chemists on the High Street.
Feel the sand under your feet….. Lymington’s Nearest Beaches
There are two nearby beaches to Lymington.
Head east and you’ll get to Tanners Lane. A very lovely, very quiet and very British (some mud, some sand) and very much home to cows, donkeys and ponies who love to roll in the sandy bits.
Across the Lymington river, wind and wend the path to Tanners Lane beach. The coastline faces the Isle of Wight and its a perfect spot for catching the last rays of evening sun for champagne. You can park at Tanners too so less mobile folk can meet you along the way. There are no rocks for rock-pooling but there is good mud to scratch about it, a stream and some great trees for climbing. There is a bridge over an estuary and we often see swans here too. You can walk under the shade of the trees, but it does get very muddy at points, so take care not to get stuck! It’s also a great place to spot crabs.
Head west and you’ll get to beaches at …
Hurst Castle Spit and Museum is just the most lovely walk. Almost always blustery but the views are superb when you get there and the Castle has a little cafe. The walk starts at Keyhaven in between Lymington and Milford-on-Sea. You follow the shingle spit for about 1.5 miles out to the castle where there are splendid views of the nearby Isle of Wight and the south coast. At Hurst Spit and you’ll find a bridge for crabbing, a stream for paddling in, amazing views of the island. On the Western side of the spit, at low tide there’s a perfect and small sandy beach.
Kids too small to walk to the castle? Go by boat and take the short trip out to Hurst Castle. The boat leaves from Keyhaven.
For escapists, don’t miss a top reading spot: take your book and walk out to Hurst Castle. Find a spot out of the wind and boat watch and read in the peace and quiet out there.
Milford on Sea beaches.
Sandy at mid-low tide, this long beach stretches out toward Highcliffe, where there are even more beaches. Dogs are welcome here all year around. There is good parking along the top of the cliff. The Raft Rocks is a great spot for lunch year around.
Bird watching on the marshes
There is some fantastic bird watching from the coastal path. Read more here: http://www.hants.gov.uk/rh/lym/leaflet.pdf and http://www.rspb.org.uk/groups/newforest/places/163879/
Dinner party worthy, Interesting Facts….
1. Roman Baths? Not Quite.
The “historic Roman Seawater Baths” in Lymington are not quite Roman. Built in 1833, the attraction is, however, the oldest lido in the UK. It’s also one of the largest, capable of holding up to 1.7 million gallons of water. Controversy has pursued the not-too-profitable operation of Seawater Baths – and at the time of writing their management has been transferred to a private company. Jump in while you can!
2. The Golden Letterbox
Fired up by the fabulously successful 2012 Olympic Games, the people of Lymington waiting patiently for Royal Mail to paint one of the local letterboxes gold in recognition of Ben Ainslie’s fifth Gold Medal. As many other boxes countrywide turned gold, Royal Mail painted a tiny one in Cornwall instead (where Ben grew up). Local bar owner, Rob Simth, took it upon himself to paint the High Street letterbox and got himself arrested. A furore ensued, Royal Mail capitulated… and painted it gold without making the same mess as Rob…
If the number of smuggling yarns circulating about a town is any reflection of the importance of the place in free trade, then Lymington would have been the trading centre for the whole of Hampshire! The tales of tunnels leading from the Town Quay up to the Angel Inn have been many and varied. Whether their basis in fact is sound, or the tunnels are simply an elaborate Victorian drainage system, remains to be seen – but it’s much more fun to perpetuate the legend!