I am lucky to live not too far from the beautiful New Forest National Park. With its combination of woodland, heathland and coastline, it makes for an excellent place to visit for a day out or a short break.
One of my favourite walks to do in the New Forest (and one which I’ve done countless times) is the walk from Beaulieu to Buckler’s Hard. Now the motor enthusiasts in you might be very familiar with Beaulieu as it’s home to the National Motor Museum held within the grounds of the Beaulieu estate. The village itself is a beautiful, traditional village which is like taking a step back in time. To start the walk, I tend to park up at the village car park, which is just a short stroll from the village centre. Here, you’ll find a handful of shops as well as some places to eat if you are fancying an early pit-stop. At this point you may just come across some of the New Forest’s cheekiest residents, the donkeys!
For those that don’t know, New Forest commoners have the rights for their animals (be it ponies, donkeys, cattle and pigs) to roam the forest at certain times of the year) so it’s not uncommon to see animals in the villages, across the heathland and in some random places as you pass through the area. In fact, the last time I did this walk, we were temporarily halted as a small herd of donkeys had decided that they would equally like to follow along the footpath! Once the donkeys decided it was time to move, we began the 2-mile walk southbound towards Buckler’s Hard.
The majority of the route is traffic-free and is pretty level, making it a great walk to do with families. Along the way, you will begin to see glimpses of the Beaulieu River. I love just watching the comings and goings along the way and looking towards some of the huge houses that come with their own moorings for their boats and thinking which one I’d own if I won the lottery (one can dream hey?).
You have a choice along the way to follow the gravel path, which is the slightly more direct route to Buckler’s Hard, or to take the board walk that skirts the edge of the river. It’s worth noting however that at certain times of the year if it’s over the winter months or has been particularly wet or boggy that the Beaulieu estate close the board walk off.
I tend to prefer taking the board walk when I can as the views are stunning. The river here is tidal so you pass by marshes where you can spot a variety of wildlife if you wait patiently. There’s even a bird hide nearer to Buckler’s Hard that you can spend some time in.
It doesn’t take long until you arrive at the historic, maritime village of Buckler’s Hard. It’s the kind of village that wouldn’t look amiss in a Jane Austen drama. Here, at Buckler’s Hard, there’s a maritime museum, a maritime-themed hotel and a couple of places where you can pick up a snack. At certain times of the year you can also pay for boat rides along the Beaulieu river from here.
Once you’ve finished exploring then it’s back via the same way towards Beaulieu to end your walk so all in all it’s around a 4 mile trip. A lovely walk to do on a Sunday afternoon or simply because! Oh and be sure to pick up a New Forest ice cream before you head off… yummy!