This seaside town of Lymington is all about the lifestyle, says Emma Caulton

“You don’t have to be a yachtie to live here, but it helps,” suggested The Sunday Times when they recently named Lymington as one of the best places to live in the country. Positioned where Lymington River flows into the Solent and with a selection of sheltered marinas, sailing clubs and boat builders, there is certainly a cool yachtie vibe. However, this charming market town is also popular with families, drawn by the possibility of children enjoying a Swallows & Amazons childhood with adventures and activities on water and inland in the wilds of the New Forest, which nudges up against the northern edges of town. Meanwhile more mature folk consider Lymington ideal for retirement (around a third of the population are 65 and over) as it offers an excellent range of facilities and a strong community.

Lymington also scores on dazzling good looks. The High Street is dominated by elegant Georgian buildings while photogenic cobbled Quay Hill winds down to Old Town Quay with its fishing boats and yachts, families crabbing and lobster pots.

A spectrum of shopping experiences includes Waitrose and a proper traditional market, established way back in 1250, that lines the wide High Street every Saturday with over a hundred stalls selling anything and everything from bread to bric-a-brac, fishing tackle to fruit and veg. Otherwise there are delis and ice cream parlours, art galleries and interiors stores displaying the latest in contemporary coastal style, and a collection of boutiques encompassing on-trend and very wearable labels (try Elliotts, Loose Ends and Thirty Three among others) and (of course) sailing clobber.

An assortment of facilities range from the sublime to the unexpected – such as a leisure centre, petanque court and the oldest sea water baths in the country - with fun inflatable obstacle course. Parks and open areas include Woodside Park with skate park, sports fields, tennis courts, and woodland with fairy doors, as well as Bath Road Recreation Ground, fronting the river, which during the summer plays host to Artisans by the River (festival days mixing up arts, crafts, music and drama) and Hampshire Life Food & Drink Award finalists Lymington Seafood Festival (a new addition last year to Lymington’s lively events calendar).

Foodies will be happy with a delish choice of cafes, inns and restaurants including the likes of award-winning, Good Food Guide-recommended The Elderflower on Quay Hill. Other popular hang-outs include The Ship Inn on Old Town Quay and The Haven in Lymington Yacht Haven – both with boatie views.

All in all, Lymington is smart and stylish, distinguished and distinctive. Hard to imagine it was once the hang out of rough sea dogs and smugglers, while the Lymington-Pennington marshes which now provide lungfuls of fresh ozone and wide views across to the Isle of Wight (perfect for dog walking, bird spotting and meditating on life), was some 200 plus years ago at the heart of a thriving salt industry with boiling houses fired by coal. More about Lymington’s colourful past can be uncovered at the newly renovated St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery which also houses an extensive photographic archive - yet another extraordinary asset for a relatively small town.

For escapees moving from London, it is still possible to commute, just about. Lymington is on a branch line connecting with Brockenhurst mainline station. It takes about two hours - so doable, but probably not every day of the week. For those working in the area: it is about 30-40 minutes by train to Southampton in one direction and Bournemouth in the other, and both Bournemouth and Southampton have airports; a boon for those travelling further afield. As for accessing the Isle of Wight, Lymington to Yarmouth provides the quickest car ferry crossing (40 minutes).

For families, schooling is sound. Lymington Junior, Our Lady and St Joseph Catholic Primary and William Gilpin Primary are all ‘good’ says Ofsted, while Milford-on-Sea and Hordle Primaries are judged ‘outstanding’, and a new headteacher at Pennington Primary has ‘brought clear vision and direction’ to the school.

At secondary level, Priestlands is considered ‘good’ and so is Brockenhurst College of further education. As for independents, Walhampton prep school is described by the Independent Schools Inspectorate as “an exciting and dynamic school where pupils’ achievements and their learning, attitudes and skills are excellent”.

As for properties, in the town centre take your pick from Georgian cottages on Captain’s Row and Nelson Place, and Edwardian, mid-century and remodelled family homes on leafy avenues and closes between the marinas and High Street. New developments include modern townhouses such as Renaissance Mews and contemporary waterside penthouses, duplexes and villas at Lymington Shores.

For homes with more of a country outlook, try Lower Pennington and Woodside and Milford on Sea (a foodie enclave) to the west and properties off Sway Road to the north.

Overall, country and coast, community and everyday comforts and luxuries… You can see why Lymington earns its place on the best place to live list.


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