Lymington is a delightful, bustling and colourful Georgian town – one of those glorious places where the New Forest meets the sea. Located on the southern edge of the New Forest, on the west bank of the Lymington River and between Bournemouth and Southampton, Lymington Quay was, in the past, a thriving commercial port, mainly for exporting local salt to Newfoundland as well as importing coal for the salt industry, rum from Jamaica and timber from Scandinavia for boat building. There are still some fishing boats operating commercially from the port and a ferry service across to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight but most of Lymington’s boats now are pleasure craft and there are marinas at both Berthon and Haven.
There are, in addition, two very active sailing clubs in the town – the Royal Lymington Yacht Club and the Lymington Town Sailing Club. If you happen to be around on a Thursday during the summer, then the popular Thursday Evening Races, with up to 100 competitors, provide an exciting spectacle.
Lymington High Street, as well as having a street market every Saturday, is also an interesting walk, with some fascinating antique shops and designer boutiques, leading to the thirteenth century church of St Thomas at the top end and a series of quaint cobblestone road leading down to the Old Town Quay at the bottom.
There are local stories of a complex series of tunnels under the High Street – leading from the old inns down to the quay – which were used by smugglers during the port’s golden age; but nobody has fallen into a collapsed tunnel yet.
Lymington, of course, is surrounded by some outstanding natural beauty. Royden Woods, just north of the town, are beautiful in the spring, when they are full of flowering bluebells, and then there are the 145 square miles of the woodlands and heath lands of the New Forest, with all they can offer. Just to the west of Lymington you can walk along the four mile coastal nature reserve of Hurst Spit from Milford on Sea, a site of Special Scientific Interest, and look at the shipping in the Solent from Hurst Castle. Additionally, New Milton is only just down the road and even the neighbouring county of Dorset is just a very short drive away.
If your walking and site-seeing works up an appetite, there are many lovely places in and around Lymington for you to fully satisfy it. Especially well-known is the Mayflower – a family friendly pub with a large garden and an especially nice terrace which serves excellent food. The Hobler Inn, with a very appealing ‘gastro pub’ ambiance about it, also offers all-day dining in a lovely, relaxed atmosphere.
Finally, right on the edge of the historic salt marshes, is The Chequers, a picturesque 16th Century pub which is especially popular with yachtsmen and women. There are also, around the High Street area, lots of little cafés and bars for you to relax in.
Just a note for some of our slightly more mature visitors – if you think that many of the streets and harbour scenes around Lymington look familiar to you and you can’t quite work out why. Well, think back to Howard’s Way in the early 1980s, as much of the series was filmed in this area and at Hamble on the Solent.
The town also featured in the famous children’s book by Captain Marryat, The Children of the New Forest.
Lymington is one of those delightful, quintessentially coastal English towns that are always worth spending time in – when the visitor really does feel part of a ‘green and pleasant land’.
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