Upmarket Lymington regularly appears in the top 10 lists of ‘The Best places to live in the UK’, often as number 1. It’s for good reason too, as this little gem of a town on the south eastern coast of the New Forest is where the land meets the sea in perfect harmony. You’ll find modern marinas, pretty architecture, relaxed shopping, fantastic places to eat, wonderful scenery, plenty of things to do and places to visit.
Lymington supports a thriving marine industry. There are two big marinas, The Haven and Berthon, plus two sailing clubs -The Royal Lymington Yacht Club and Lymington Town. The busy harbour is where the Lymington River meets the Solent and is a working fishing port as well as a small marina. Locals and visitors alike love to amble around the peaceful yet active cobbled Town Quay, stopping for ice creams, fish and chips and feeding the ducks and swans, whilst fishermen tinker with lobster pots and nets alongside sailors busily preparing to set sail. From the Quay, you can take fishing trips, mini cruises and direct trips across to the Isle of Wight, which takes just 30 minutes. You can also hire speed boats and yachts for the day or zip at full throttle over to the Needles rock formation on a RIB from providers based at the marinas. Car ferries which also take foot passengers run from the other side of the harbour by WightLink. You’ll find them close to Lymington Town branch line railway station that connects in Brockenhurst for frequent trains to London Waterloo.
Lymington is very much a trendy maritime town. It’s home to a thriving and colourful high street where shoppers (many dressed in nautical stripes) head for supplies. The street is liberally sprinkled with the expected Marks and Spencer and Waitrose (this is Lymington after all), and a posse of interesting independent boutiques and designer shops. On Saturday, activity levels in the high street soar as locals mingle with New Forest villagers and visitors who come to the year-round weekly street market, whose origins can be traced back to the 13th century. Over 100 stalls line both sides of the high street selling a vast selection of goodies including food and drink, arts, gifts and crafts, flowers and plants, leather and household goods and artisan produce from the New Forest. Whilst in the high street, keep a lookout for a gold post box that was painted as a tribute to local lad, Sir Ben Ainslie who grew up and trained in Lymington before winning Gold in the 2012 Olympics.
Foodies will love Lymington! The town hosts a tempting array of quirky eateries, coffee shops and tea rooms, as well as a plentiful supply of family pubs, gastro pubs, cheap eats and, of course, great fish and chips. Our favourite pubs include The Bosun’s Chair and The Monkey House for tasty food and a good selection of drinks. For restaurants, try The Haven Bar and Restaurant inside Haven Marina, Lanes of Lymington – utterly delicious and they offer cooking lessons too, and finally, but by no means least, the amazing Elderflower Restaurant on the cobbles towards the Quay. Superb cuisine is created from the former head chef of the 5 star Chewton Glen in nearby New Milton – hotel to the rich and very famous. It’s also worth noting that from the Quay, you can buy fresh fish, lobsters and crabs to take back to your cottage for a speedily delicious lunch or supper.
Lymington is predominantly Georgian in architecture, blended with bursts of Victorian and Edwardian buildings interspersed with pops of historic and ancient houses and the odd Art Deco and modern residence thrown into the mix. The roads and leafy lanes tend to be on the narrow side, yet relaxing and captivating to walk around, especially at the bottom of the high street where the road turns into cobbles as it heads towards the Quay, lined with designer boutiques, antique and trinket shops and exclusive homeware stores.
Whilst there isn’t a multiplex cinema in the town, it does have a popular and successful Community Centre with a small cinema showing regular films and new(ish) releases. To learn more about the town, head to St Barbe Museum. It’s an art gallery with a year round programme of exhibitions, as well as a museum. The latter offers an insight into Lymington’s historical past, mystery, tales and folklore about the smugglers who frequented the town, digging a network of tunnels from the harbour to historic public houses and Inn’s on the high street to sell and stash their haul. Lymington Walking Tours offer walking tours of the town on Wednesdays and Sundays. Run mainly by volunteers who love to share their knowledge and research, the walks are imaginative, fun and fascinating. Other providers, events and information about the area can be found on the community website www.lymington.com.
We’d also urge you to make sure you book your Lymington holiday cottage early for two of the town’s annual events – Lymington Carnival in July, and the Lymington Seafood Festival in August, for a weekend of all things deliciously fishy with live music, stalls and music.
There isn’t a beach as such in Lymington, so locals head to Lymington Sea Water Baths which date back to 1833; they are the oldest in the UK and said to be the largest, retaining up to a colossal 1.7 million gallons of water. Go for a dip, swim or tackle the 150m floating obstacle course, which, by the way, is not just for children – adults and teens have hours of fun too. If you really want a day at the beach it’s only a fifteen minute drive to Milford on Sea, where you can also walk along the one-and-a-half mile spit to Henry VIII’s coastal fortress, the epic Hurst Castle.
Other leisure activities whilst on holiday in Lymington include paddle boarding, golf, archery, kayaking, fishing, horse riding and cycling – you can hire bikes from Figgures Cycles at the bottom of the high street. There is a gorgeous walk and cycle route west from Lymington past Keyhaven Nature Reserve which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest where you can see a plentiful collection of sea and migratory birds. Have a go at fishing, bird-watching and exploring dozens of walks (and more cycle trails) through woods and across the heathlands of the New Forest National Park which borders the north of the town.
There are so many options for days out with Beaulieu Motor Museum, Palace and Abbey and The New Forest Wildlife Park both a short drive away. Paultons Park – home of Peppa Pig World, voted best family theme park in the UK, and Longdown Activity Farm are both within a half hour drive. Other day trips include Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Southampton, Bournemouth and the cathedral cities of Salisbury, where you can see the best surviving original copy of the Magna Carta dating from 1215, and Winchester to see one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe surrounded by historic buildings and, during the festive season, home to the UK’s best Christmas Market.
Book a holiday cottage in Lymington as a destination with activities for everyone and as a perfect base for exploring the New Forest National Park and Hampshire coastline.
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