If you haven’t been to Bucklers Hard, you are missing out. This 18th-century shipbuilding village was home to the craftsmen who built Nelson’s Naval ships in the 1700’s. Based on the Beaulieu River, in the New Forest National Park in Hampshire, the village remains almost identical to how it looked then.
Two rows of red brick houses frame a large village green. Down the middle, a gravel driveway leads down to the waterfront where this tidal estuary is busy with passing boats which are heading to the Marina next door, and pleasure cruisers which take visitors up and down the river. Whether you stay or not, you can grab a pint at the olde world pub on the corner of the green which leads through to the The Master Builders Hotel. Here you can sit out on one of the picnic tables and watch the people, the wildlife and the boats pass by.
You reach the Master Builders Hotel by driving towards Beaulieu in the New Forest in Hampshire and then navigating your way up a rather thin country lane which runs parallel to the Beaulieu river. Some way up, you reach the turning which takes you into the Master Builders Hotel car park. Alternatively, you can sail or motor your yacht up the Beaulieu River and park up in the nearby Marina.
Style & Character
The Master Builders Hotel has bags of character. The main hall is decked in nautical memorabilia celebrating Nelson and the shipbuilding history of the village. Old flags line the ceiling and various instruments, miniature wooden ships and historical paintings and photographs line the walls. The main hall leads to a restaurant, sitting area and out onto a large terrace which looks down upon the garden and the waterscape beyond.
For me, the terrace was a highlight. There is nothing better on an English summer’s day than sitting out with a pint, watching boats chug up and down the river and watching children run up and down the slope in the garden. In fact, the garden is heaven for kids with a perfect climbing tree right in the centre and a bamboo grove down by the waterside, with little pathways perfect for hide and seek.
Service & Facilities
The Master Builders is ranked as a 3-star, and so there is no pool or spa, but there is a lovely garden dropping down to the waterfront. To your left, as you reach the end of the garden, there is an excellent walk which runs parallel to the river and takes you all the way to the beautiful village of Beaulieu. The walk offers glimpses of the river and the large houses that line it along the way.
You are not short of activities in Bucklers Hard itself either. Beyond the walks, you can investigate the Bucklers Hard Maritime Museum or explore the Beaulieu Motor Museum and the New Forest beyond.
We stayed in a Luxury Room which was in the main building and had a large four poster bed, antique furnishings, plenty of space and views of the garden and river. The highlight was undoubtedly the views, and because we were lucky with the weather during our stay, we threw open our cute cottage style windows for the duration of our stay so that we could keep peeping out.
Food & Drink
There was a noteworthily good 1 Rosette restaurant, a historic bar complete with beams (see pictures) and outside there was a terrace and plenty of smart picnic tables where you could enjoy a drink and read your paper.
We spent the evening out on the terrace (which was magical) before coming into the restaurant where we enjoyed excellent Sea Bass and Lamb dishes. The food was undoubtedly worthy of the Rosette. We also found the staff to be excellent both at dinner and breakfast. They couldn’t do enough and seemed both kind and super helpful.
There are more luxury hotels in the New Forest than Bucklers Hard (with more facilities and a price tag to match), but the Master Builders in Bucklers Hard is my favourite to date. Enjoying a beer on the terrace as the sun goes down with the waterside vista in the distance. Watching my little boy run about in the sunshine and navigate far too high up the “climbing tree”. Exploring a village that hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. Walking along a pretty river as boats chug by. For me, there isn’t a better hotel in the New Forest. This hidden gem is one that I expect to return to. If you don’t give it a try, you are missing out.
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