The charming port city of Southampton is one of the UK’s most historic and interesting places to visit. It has been a major port since the 15th century and has played host to some of the most significant and poignant moments in British maritime history, from the departure of The Mayflower to the New World to the launch of The Titanic.
Southampton is also a wonderful destination to explore some of the best hiking and camping spots in the United Kingdom. While it can’t compete with the wild landscapes of the Scottish Highlands or the remote cliffs and moors of Devon and Cornwall, the Southampton area is full of beautiful parks, beaches, villages, and towns, with charming scenery and remarkably diverse landscapes. There are enough hills to keep you interested, but the gradients are usually gentle enough to make hikes accessible to all, and even the most picturesque and remote-feeling campsites are usually just a stone’s throw from the amenities and comforts of a village or town.
So if you plan to sail from Southampton on a cruise this year and want to add a little adventure and exploration to your trip, why not consider packing your best hiking rucksack and exploring the surrounding countryside first? Here are some of the most amazing hiking and camping places around Southampton.
This atmospheric Iron Age hill fort is perched impressively atop a chalk hill on the edge of the Blackmore Vale, east of the River Stour and just outside of Southampton. Hambledon Hill itself consists of a series of steep slopes and scrabbly trails and offers astonishing views of the sea, the river valley, and the surrounding area. You can camp freely on the hillside or at the top (except for in the hill fort itself), and the fort provides a historic and somewhat macabre ambiance that your family is sure to enjoy. As well as the trails that wind their way up the hill itself there is a great network of hiking paths, making this a great spot for an adventure vacation.
New Forest National Park
The New Forest is one of the largest surviving expanses of forest land in England, and one of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK. This gorgeous national park is a peaceful expanse of wild heathland, thickly forested woodland, and rich wetlands, punctuated by a number of charming rivers and streams. The forest covers over 71,000 acres there are hundreds of miles of trails to explore, making it a paradise for walkers, and it is home to an abundance of wildlife, from birds to deer, as well as the famous New Forest ponies. While camping is restricted to specific areas there are plenty of great spots, for both wild camping and campsite experiences. Thanks to the large expanse of protected green space the night sky is particularly clear, so stargazing is a wonderful added bonus to a night under canvas in the New Forest.
The Solent Way
This long-distance footpath is part of the UK’s excellent network of historic public rights of way, and stretches from Milford-on-Sea to Emsorth, a total of 36 miles. This stunning hike takes you along chalk cliffs and through lush green fields, offering up some of the best coastal views in the country. There are plenty of villages along the route, and camping is allowed along most of the Way, meaning you can take on the entire length of the trail over a few days.
Old Winchester Hill
With breathtaking views out across the South Downs and surrounded by gorgeous grassland meadows, Old Winchester Hill is one of the loveliest spots in the Southampton area. A great location for a picnic or a gentle walk, there are also plenty of opportunities to set up camp and enjoy a night under the stars.
Christchurch & Avon Beach
Southampton’s south coast location means it has access to some of the best beaches in the UK. Two of the finest examples, Christchurch Beach and Avon Beach, are just a stone’s throw away from the city center and offer achingly beautiful views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. Both beaches are great for swimming and surfing, and there are plenty of spots to set up camp along the coast.
Southampton is home to some of the most spectacular places to go camping and hiking in the UK. From Iron Age forts to the wildlands of the New Forest National Park, there are many stunning places to explore and enjoy. Whatever your preference, you can find some amazing spots to pitch your tent and enjoy the great outdoors.