153km (95 miles) SW of London; 16km (10 miles) W of Southampton
Encompassing 37,231 hectares (92,000 acres), the New Forest is a large tract created by William the Conqueror, who laid out the limits of this then-private hunting preserve. Successful poachers faced the executioner if they were caught, and those who hunted but missed had their hands severed. Henry VIII loved to hunt deer in the New Forest, but he also saw an opportunity to build up the British naval fleet by supplying oak and other hard timbers to the boatyards at Buckler's Hand on the Beaulieu River.
Today you can visit the old shipyards and the Maritime Museum at Buckler's Hard, with its fine models of men-of-war, pictures of the old yard, and dioramas showing the building of these ships, their construction, and their launching. Away from the main roads, where signs warn of wild ponies and deer, you'll find a private world of peace and quiet.