A weekend in Lymington

With its market charm and picturesque setting, Lymington is the perfect weekend getaway, as Charlotte Tomlinson-White discovers

Getting there

Lymington is approached from the west and north along the A337. It is easy to get to from either junctions 1, 2 or 3 off the M27. The sat nav postcode for the town centre is SO41 9AA.

Nestling between Southampton and Bournemouth, Lymington sits on the west side of the Solent and the southern edge of the New Forest. Surrounded by areas of outstanding beauty, the picturesque waterside town was named as the most desirable place to live by the seaside in 2008 by the TV programme Property List. With its cobbled streets and period architecture, it’s not hard to see why the Georgian market town is so popular; a series of independent shops and designer boutiques add to Lymington’s quaintness.

History lessonLymington was originally named ‘Lentune’ in ancient times. Now a world renowned sailing resort, Lymington town flourished on the export of salt and although once known as a smugglers port, made a name for itself in shipbuilding in the Middle Ages; the Old Town Quay is still used as a base by commercial fishing boats. It is bursting with history, including the Parish Church of St Thomas the Apostle. Dominating the High Street, some of its architectural features are over 600 years old and it has an avenue of lime trees that were planted in the 17th century.

Lively Saturday

Museum & artExploring the unique history of Lymington and the New Forest Coast, St. Barbe Museum is a treat for all the family. With interesting facts and colourful interactive displays, you’ll discover the events and industries, as well as people and landscape which helped make the area what it is today. While you are there why not visit St Barbe Gallery? Regularly showcasing loans from the national galleries and museums, it hosts a varied programme of exhibitions. Local artists are often featured. Tel.  01590 676969.

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King of the castleExplore one of Henry VIII’s most sophisticated coastal fortresses – Hurst Castle. Built in 1544 and situated at the seaward end of the shingle spit, the castle was the perfect location to defend the western approach to the Solent and was even used during World War Two. Once the prison of Charles I, it has undergone several modernisations, including its armoured wings which housed enormous 38-ton guns – two can still be viewed in their casemates. Other attractions include the Trinity House lighthouse exhibition, the Association of Lighthouse Keepers’ display room and the only surviving World War Two ENSA theatre – Garrison Theatre. The monument can only be reached by boat or by a two-mile walk along the shingle beach so get your walking boots on. Don’t forget to find out which monarch was imprisoned there.

Who will buy?Step into the hustle and bustle of Lymington’s Charter Market. Held in the High Street every Saturday, it has been running since the 13th century and proves to be very popular. Lining the street all the way up to St Thomas’ Church, the Market takes place between 8am and 5pm and is packed with stalls selling food produce, plants, craft items, household goods and bric-a-brac. Pop along for a perusal, it’s perfect for picking up local produce as well as more unusual wares.

Lazy Sunday

All naturalGet back to nature at Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve. Covering nearly 500 acres, the area is made up of coastal marshes, reed beds, lagoon mud flats and former salterns; it plays a vital role in nourishing a number of endangered plants like Foxtail Stonewort and rare species of birds – including the breeding populations of Little Terns.  The Reserve also has historical and archaeological importance, housing the finest preserved examples of medieval and salt workings in the south of England.

Food for thoughtLet someone else do the cooking (and the washing up) with a meal at Verveine Fishmarket Restaurant in New Milton. Tel. 01590 642176.The Crown Inn is on the outskirts of Lymington in Everton and is another must visit, with fantastic food from a menu that changes regularly. Tel. 01590 642655. By day, Vanilla Pod Cafe offers a delicious range of breakfast dishes including the traditional English or sweet treats such as belgian waffles; then by night it offers a restaurant menu where you can sample delights such as whole dressed local crab or Chiperones’ (fried baby squid) with lemon and garlic mayonnaise . Tel. 01590 673828.

Water worldSit back and relax on a cruise of the Solent. Puffin Cruises (07850 947618) offers a leisurely tour lasting about one hour and departs at various times throughout the day. Enjoy the spectacular views as you journey down the Lymington River, past the marinas and out onto the Solent waters, over to the Isle of Wight. Sights to look out for include Yarmouth Harbour and on the way back, Hurst Castle.

Where to stayPebble Beach closeby in New Milton offers luxurious hotel rooms overlooking the Solent with breathtaking views of the Isle of Wight. Or, if you prefer self catering, try their new designer boutique Penthouse Apartment. Tel. 01425 627777Stanwell House in the centre of Lymington is perfectly placed for you to explore all that Lymington has to offer. They have some great deals on stays, including a Sunday getaway, and gourmet break. Tel. 01590 677123If you feel like exploring the rest of the New Forest during you stay then perhaps a self catering cottage would suit. New Forest Cottages have a plethora of traditional, quirky properties to choose from, from Beaulieu to Brockenhurst. Tel. 01590 679655

Take a stroll

• Discover the town’s history and its secrets by foot. Lymington Town Tours run guided walks on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings between May and September. Offering eight walks in total, seven of which are in Lymington, each themed walk is different and provides an intriguing insight into times gone by.  Themes include ‘The Story of Lymington’ walk, ‘Sea, Salt and Smuggling’ and ‘Pens and Personalities’ • Another good walk is the footpath from Keyhaven to Lymington, known as The Solent Way. Passing through a Nature Reserve, which is classified as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest and an area of outstanding beauty, there are splendid views across to the Isle of Wight.

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