The New Forest boasts a wide choice of traditional inns and pubs, many of which are steeped in the history of this former royal hunting ground and its inhabitants. Some enjoy prominent positions along the main thoroughfares whilst others are tucked away in some of the Forest’s more tranquil areas where on a summer’s days you can sit sit cheek by jowl with New Forest ponies.
Some are family owned whilst others are part of pub chains and a few have had their character and charm spoilt by those who have attempted to turn them into trendy wine bars or gastro pubs. However, this page is not intended as a good pub guide but a small selection of some of the “character” inns and quirky pubs that can be found in the area. Many of them provide an ideal start or finish to a New Forest walk or cycle ride.
For a more detailed guide to New Forest pubs, visit the local CAMRA website.
THE ROYAL OAK, FRITHAM
One of the few original pubs left in the New Forest. Situated deep in the Forest at the end of a road that leads to the Forestry Commission car parks at Fritham and Eyeworth Pond, the Royal Oak is a free house that has provided ale and sustenance for many centuries. Despite being one of the smallest watering holes in the Forest, this partly thatched pub is one of the most popular and an ideal place to start or end a walk over some of the area’s most spectacular landscape. It serves good quality traditional pub food and not chips and sandwiches. Once a regular haunt of smugglers, the Royal Oak dates back to the 1600s and remains a free house. It overlooks the village green where New Forest ponies graze peacefully. The area gets very busy on sunny weekends and peak summer periods ans parking can be a problem.
QUEEN’S HEAD, BURLEY
Like the Royal Oak, the Queen’s Head also has strong links to smuggling which was rife in the New Forest during the 18th century. The Queen’s Head was a notorious haunt of smugglers and highwaymen. During renovations a hidden cellar was discovered beneath the floor of the “Stable Bar” which contained pistols, bottles and coins of the period, believed to be one of the hiding places of smugglers. Situated in the centre of the small village of Burley it dates back to 1685 and was originally a blacksmiths. Whist subject to various alterations over the years, the pub still retains many of its original features from 100 years ago.
HIGH CORNER INN, LINWOOD
Situated at the bottom of a gravel track in the middle of nowhere but well worth the visit. Perhaps the most remote pub in the New Forest, it is surrounded by open heath and woodland where ponies and other wildlife abound. Built originally as a farmhouse in the 17th century it has seen considerable alteration and extension over the centuries but retains an old world charm. Follow the track that continues beyond the inn and you’ll enter Broomy inclosure, one of the finest bluebell woods in the New Forest which is at its peak in May.
Child friendly with plenty of garden area for them to play when the weather is dry.
TRUSTY SERVANT, MINSTEAD
The Trusty Servant is situated in the middle of the village of Minstead overlooking the village green and the village stocks. Whilst the village is mentioned in the Domesday Book, the pub dates from the 1800s and its most interest feature is its sign. Since the late 16th century the image of the Trusty Servant has been associated with Winchester College, where a painting of it hangs on a wall outside the kitchens. It comprises a pig’s snout signifying that the ideal servant will not be fussy about what he eats, the ass’s ears that will bear his master’s rages with patience and the stag’s feet that will be swift to carry out his errands – the padlocked lips indicate that he knows how to keep his master’s secrets! Walk out of the pub, turn right and after a hundred yards or so you will arrive at the village church and the graveyard where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is laid to rest.
JOHN BARLEYCORN, CADNAM
Cadnam is a major gateway to many areas of the New Forest and the Sir John Barleycorn, now a Grade II listed building, is one of the area’s oldest pubs dating back to the 12th century. Previously, the pub was a row of thatched cottages that belonged to the Purkiss family, one of whom is said to have discovered the body of William II (William Rufus) after he had been killed by an arrow while hunting in the Forest. It was originally situated along the busy A31 trunk road but is now bypassed and cut off by the M27 in whose shadow it sits.
OAK INN, BANK
Situated in the little hamlet of Bank just to the west of Lyndhurst and a short distance from the busy A35 is the Oak Inn. The Oak Inn is a two-storey building of painted brick dating back to 1719, which is thought to have been a cider house in the 18th century. It is surrounded by the open Forest and a favourite with cyclists and walkers. New Forest ponies regularly enjoy the shade of the front porch and peer over the fence into the beer garden. Very popular but arrive early as parking is limited.
NEW FOREST INN, EMERY DOWN
The New Forest Inn is an unspoilt 18th century country pub located in the heart of the New Forest in the village of Emery Down. The land on which it stands was claimed by squatters in the 1700s and became the site of a caravan trader who sold groceries and ales. His caravan now forms part of the lounge and bar. The captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith, spent his final night on British shores at the pub before he set sail on the ill-fated ship the next day. Parking is somewhat limited and spills out on to the narrow country road regularly.
MASTER BUILDER, BUCKLERS HARD
Perhaps one of the most scenic locations of any New Forest inn, the Master Builder’s House Hotel was built in the early 1700s as part of a row of cottages that run down to the banks of the Beaulieu River. Originally a private residence, its most famous tenants were Henry Adams and his sons Balthazar and Edward, Master Builders of ships for Nelson’s Navy, including three which fought at Trafalgar – Agamemnon, Swiftsure and Euryalus. Following the decline of shipbuilding at Buckler’s Hard in the 19th century, the house was rented out. In 1925 the house was converted into a hotel and was originally known as the Shipbuilders House until it was renamed as ‘The Master Builder’s House’ around 1926. Its bar is now a favourite haunt for locals, tourists and yachtsmen
FLEUR DE LYS, PILLEY
The little village of Pilley is mentioned in the Domesday Book and its pub, the Fleur de Lys, claims to be the oldest in the New Forest and to have been serving drinks since 1096. A list of landlords going back to 1498 is viewable by the entrance. The inn was described in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, “The White Company” which was based in the New Forest. Has changed hands several times in recent years with a bit of a chequered history but now appears to be doing well under new owners.
CROWN STiRRUP, LYNDHURST
The Crown Stirrup is located on the outskirts of Lyndhurst on the Lymington road and dates from the 15th century. Whilst situated on a busy main road it has a large beer garden at the rear which backs onto the open Forest, making it an ideal lunch stop for walkers and cyclists. It claims to be the only pub in the world with this name which it takes from a medieval stirrup which hangs in the Verderers Court in Lyndhurst. During its period as a Royal hunting ground, commoners’ dogs were only allowed out onto the Forest if they were small enough to pass through the stirrup, thereby ensuring that they were not big enough to harm the King’s deer.
RED SHOOT INN, LINWOOD
Whilst not a particularly old pub, this Edwardian building previously served as a general store and petrol station for travellers through the Forest. It is believed to take its name from Red Deer shooting that many people would have participated in over past centuries in order to have venison for the table. Nowadays deer culling is strictly controlled by the Forestry Commission for most of the New Forest. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this cosy little pub is the fact that it has its own micro brewery which produces beer on tap at the bar. Popular with cyclist and horse riders, there is also an adjacent campsite.