Cycling in the New Forest

Our inside track on bike riding for all in the New Forest National Park

It’s not surprising cycling is so popular in the New Forest, both our heathland and wooded terrains are in the main, kind to legs and lungs and it’s a brilliant way to explore and see the forest up close.

This of course, at the same time, healthily provides a good dose of fresh air and exercise!  By providing fantastic routes for both on and off-road cycling, during all the seasons, the forest buzzes with bikes of all descriptions from super sporty pelotons enjoying the open roads, to family groups on mountain bikes exploring the Inclosure routes, towing tiny children and even the family dog in trailers.  The number of electric two wheelers we see continues to grow as well and looks set to be the next big thing in bikes, especially useful for our golden years visitors who can explore further afield without getting too out of puff!

Road cycling in the New Forest

Keen all-year round cyclists staying in self catering cottages will usually bring their own bikes. For these seasoned cyclists it’s good to know where to head for to get the best all round value for your precious holiday time.  (We would also suggest one or two places to avoid, including perhaps rather contentiously, for families with small children Mill Lane Brockenhurst. This road is a key link route across our own village but narrow, with a lot of traffic speeding through in a great hurry there is very little margin for wobbles.)

Many visitors don’t have the car space to bring their own bikes so will appreciate the three main bike hire operators which are based in Burley, Brockenhurst and Beaulieu   respectively.

Each of these villages is a great base from which to explore different parts of the forest on a wide range of two wheels to suit customers’ needs.  All bike hire companies provide helmets and all the extra equipment and accessories you might require.

Information from various New Forest cycling websites

In putting this article together we’ve found some useful information across a number of websites, therefore we hope that by pulling some of it together in one place for your easy reference, we’ll be providing a useful service.  Service is of course the name of our game at New Forest Holiday Lets where we offer a selection of lovely holiday cottages in fabulous locations, which we fully manage on behalf of their owners.  If you need information about any aspect of planning a self catering holiday in the New Forest,  do give us a ring on 01590 622449.  We’re always more than delighted to share our knowledge and experience based on many decades of living and working here.

Responsible cycling in the New Forest

The New Forest National Park Authority attempts to represent the widely differing needs and demands of our busy National Park.  They try to provide a fine balance of leisure, conservation and the preservation of ancient ways. This then all adds up to make the New Forest an extremely special place, both in which to live and to visit.  Everybody is asked to respect and follow the very sensible and reasonable Forest Cycle Code – read before getting on your bike!

Bike Hire and Cycle Routes 

cycling in the new forest map

The main thing is to keep to the marked cycle tracks of course.  The Forestry Commission map of New Forest cycle routes enables you to zoom out to see the full picture as well as, in to study the routes within a specific area. 

The bike hire operators we’ve mentioned offer a range of routes including a number centred on Brockenhurst, considered by many to be “the” centre of the New Forest.   They all also provide printed route maps and other information. 

Some of these routes offer the best of both worlds for families and those of average fitness who don’t cycle regularly, including some level but also varied and enjoyable cycling, combining a mix of forest, village and rural landscapes.

Back Through Balmer Lawn   is a popular family route through sheltered woodland to the north east of Brockenhurst.  Easy to ride forest tracks wind through thick pine forests teaming with wildlife – all in all a relaxing way to explore. 

Ornamental Woods  is a stunning route visiting the 19th Century hamlet of Bank and the towering redwood trees of Rhinefield Ornamental Forest and includes rivers, ancient oak forests, and a deer reserve. Cycling this route it’s hard to resist a stop at the Oak Inn at Bank where you feel far from anywhere – although the pub itself can be quite busy at lunchtime!

cycling new forest cycling crew at bank


Cycle to Sea   is quite a long ride, again starting and finishing in Brockenhurst, taking in country, forest and sea including Keyhaven and sight of Hurst Castle.  Families however will enjoy just the section between Milford/Keyhaven and Lymington along the sea wall, with lovely views of the Solent and mud flats – you should find parking at either end.

Burley on your Backside  is also quite a long route but also family friendly, following the disused Southampton to Dorchester railway to the picturesque forest village of Burley.  Discover witchcraft, smuggling and cider before heading back through ornamental forests.

Cycling in the New Forest for families

New Forest Cycle Hire in Brockenhurst from whose website these routes were selected also has a brand new free downloadable app for your mobile phone  

Meanwhile Forest Leisure Cycling in Burley lists a number of cycle routes which overlap only a little with the ones already mentioned. 

Another very enjoyable bike ride is based upon the popular family friendly pub at East Boldre, the Turfcutters Arms .  It provides an interesting circular road route taking in historic Beaulieu and BucklersHard as well as open forest heathland and the quiet rural lanes of Sowley.  There’s a bit of a hill coming up out of Beaulieu on the main road where you need to take care of the small ones, when almost everybody needs to get off and push, but this is, in the main a fairly relaxing ride and of course tarmac is easier going than gravel tracks after rain! 

We found another useful cycling website  which also offers maps of each route custom designed to fit on one sheet of A4 (to fold up into your cycle jersey!)  Although you do have to work a bit to find your way through the site, it’s worth a look to broaden your route choices.  Each route has a text summary of the key points to help you visualise it as well as a route for GPS.

Whilst hot off the press for the adventurous cyclists there's another new app you can download and select New Forest cycling routes:  Komoot

Happy cycling in the New Forest from the team at New Forest Holiday Lets!



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