THE MASTER BUILDER'S, BEAULIEU
Now that we've hopefully seen the last of the snow and Spring seems to finally be in full swing, who's up for a weekend away? Sadly, as much as I'd love to, it's not happening for me anytime soon but if you are hoping to get away for Easter you could do a lot worse than the Master Builder's in the uniquely pretty and tranquil setting of Buckler's Hard, on the banks of the Beaulieu river in Hampshire.
I stayed here a few years ago with the former Mr VKH as little treat before hopping over to the Isle of Wight to visit my family (as much as I love seeing them, it's always a slightly arduous task!). I really wanted to stay at The Pig but our budget wouldn't stretch that far so I decided on The Master Builder's instead. I can't remember what time of year we stayed here but I do recall that although the weather was slightly cold and overcast it is a stunning setting.
Built by the second Duke of Montagu, Buckler's Hard was originally called Montagu Town and intended as a free port for trade with the West Indies. When the French captured the islands and scuppered the Duke's dreams of import and export it was renamed Buckler's Hard and reborn as a shipbuilding village in the early eighteenth century.
With an abundance of New Forest oak in close proximity it became a hive of industry with the cottages providing homes to tradesmen and labourers. In all, over 50 wooden ships were built for the Royal Navy including three which sailed under Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Although the need for shipbuilding waned in the nineteenth century the village remained an important maritime location, being used to build motor torpedo boats in WWII and also as a landing base. Today it has a much more genteel nature with the main attraction a yachting marina but there is also a maritime museum for anyone particularly interested in naval history.
The Master Builder's hotel is situated at the end of the row nearest the water and is a chic boutique which was once home to the head shipbuilder, Henry Adams. In the main house there are four 'luxury rooms', two 'chic' rooms, a 'posh classic' room and a 'classic room'. All have been beautifully decorated by interior designer Christine Boswell and although there are nods to its nautical heritage this is certainly not a theme. It feels elegant yet comfortable and each room is fairly spacious with plenty of room to chill and sumptuous beds to sink in to.
In the newer part, the Henry Adams wing, there are two further 'posh classic' rooms which have a more airy, seaside feel (below).
When it comes to eating and drinking there are two options - you can either enjoy some fine dining by the river in the AA Rosette-awarded Riverview Restaurant or if you prefer things a little more casual, the Yachtsman's Bar and Garden is a great spot to relax with an ale or two.
Even if, like me, you have zero interest in sailing (or boats in general) it is a lovely place to unwind with just the lapping of the water and the tinkling of the masts to distract you.
I'd love to return one day - perhaps I'll make it a regular stop off to ease the stress of visiting the place I hated so much growing up!
For more information and to book, visit Hillbrooke Hotels