Although the weather yesterday was very blowy, it was at least dry and the sun did make a few brief appearances so we decided to drag the kids out for a bit and went over to the nearby village of Burley. I have driven through so many times but have never actually stopped to explore Burley and we decided it was about time we did. Parking is very easy - there is quite a large pay & display car park just next to the Queens Head pub and it's right in the middle of the village. Quite often they hold a farmers market here at weekends which is always worth a look. Burley isn't a very big village but it is very pretty with some very unique shops, a whole range of activities and of course surrounded by beautiful forest.
As soon as you enter the main street you can't help but notice that the shops are not your normal shops with 2 of them being witches shops, selling all sorts of mystical, magical & humorous gifts, they are definitely worth a look for their uniqueness. There is also a delightful leather shop that we visited Titan Leather Craft. There's lots of lovely things here and not too expensive either. While we were there the lady, who I believe is the owner, was busy decorating a beautiful leather book cover and she explained to my kids what she was doing, what it would be like when finished, explained about the unique paper from India and her experimental techniques. It was really interesting and an absolute surprise to find such a shop. You really can't beat seeing the products being made and listening to them talk about what they are doing - it's far more rewarding and enriching than just going to a shop, buying something of a shelf with no interaction with anyone, other than handing money over. We were only browsing this time but I know where I will be going next time I want a special gift for someone.
There are several lovely pubs & cafes to take a pit-stop and enjoy the surroundings but I think my personal favourite is The White Buck Inn. It is situated just outside of the main village near to the golf course and it's a beautiful country house set amongst a substantial sunny garden with a semi-hidden woodland play area for the kids. It's an ideal spot to sit for either just a drink or to have a meal - the food is lovely.
Going back to the village just next to the main car park there are two great attractions: Burley Wagon Rides and Deer Safari. So far we haven't done these yet but have seen them in operation and they are fun ways to see a bit more of the forest and the animals witnin. They are both seasonal and currently neither are open but they should be on everyone's list when visiting Burley.
Also operating from the beautiful Burley Manor hotel is a riding school, Burley Manor Riding Stables. We popped in yesterday to find out more about this, as I personally have decided to tick this particular activity off my "list of things to do" this year. We have more recently, had several guests go out horse riding whilst staying with us and every time they talk about I am always jealous, so this year I am doing it. The setting of the stables obviously is quite nice, in the grounds of the hotel and they are very well placed for walks out in the forest. They offer 1 hour (£33 per person) or 2 hour rides (£66 per person) they take any ability and anyone from the age of 4. The owner is a lovely lady who was very helpful and from what we could see from the group going out, they are very professional. Although I have not booked my session yet (only due to weather conditions) I would, from what I have experienced so far, have no problem with recommending them.
Other things to do in Burley - obviously cycling, there is a very helpful and friendly cycle shop New Forest Cycle Hire who will fix you up with whatever you need and send you off on one of the many "close by" routes that are suitable for all ages and abilities.
New Forest Cider & Cider Pantry Tea Room
Interested in how cider is made? This is a Commoner's smallholding with traditional cider press. You not only get see where it's made but you get a chance to sample the cider & perry too. There is a farm shop with lots of local preserves, cheese, wines & liqueurs and a tea room where you can enjoy a cream tea, home-made cake or lunch.
There is something for the sweet toothed visitor too with Burley Fudge, where they traditionally hand make fudge, Turkish delight, Belgian nougat, marzipan's, fondants & gingers.
Of course there is always just walking, with the forest all around you don't have to go that far, just get out there and enjoy it. There is nothing better than being outdoors, exploring and doing something different. I can't imagine how you wouldn't enjoy yourself in Burley - it has so much to offer - come see for yourself!