This New Forest walk takes in two gorgeous spots in the national park and affording great views along the Beaulieu River. I don’t usually like a walk that retraces my steps, but I make an exception for this one! Your starting point is in Beaulieu itself, one of my favourite spots in the Forest as I often see donkeys around and about as well as the usual ponies. You may get lucky and find a free parking spot in the tiny high street, but there’s also a pay and display signposted, with a handy toilet block alongside.
Leave the car park and head onto Palace Road. It’s worth crossing over and looking out of one of the prettiest bus stops I’ve seen to admire the views over Mill Dam (and to Beaulieu Palace House on the far side). Beaulieu itself is well worth a visit to tour the house and grounds, the abbey and the national motor museum, but that will take up a good chunk of your day if you’re planning a trip. Keeping Mill Dam on your left, head towards The Montagu Arms Hotel and then follow the road which runs along its left hand side. You’ll pass the fire station and the car park to the rear of the hotel before eventually reaching the end of the road and you should then follow the footpath that is the Solent Way.
The route is well signposted and takes you along between fields with views over the river before turning more inland. For a short while you join a road near Bailey’s Hard, but will soon take a left hand turn off the road to continue on the Solent Way towards Buckler’s Hard. If you’ve chosen to cycle this route, you will need to stay on the signposted Solent Way through to Buckler’s Hard. If you’re walking it, I highly recommend taking the riverside walk which is signposted from the Solent Way as you have lovely views over the Beaulieu River. It can get quite muddy along here, close to the riverbank, although several sections have an elevated boardwalk to follow.
The riverside detour rejoins the Solent Way near Keeping Marsh. Stay on the footpath and you’ll eventually emerge at the rear of a boat yard. The footpath then turns left to take you into Buckler’s Hard. If you haven’t visited before, Buckler’s Hard is an 18th century shipbuilding village that now operates as a maritime museum and visitor attraction. The Solent Way runs up through the centre of the village and is a public right of way – but you would need to purchase an admission ticket if you want to join in any of the activities or explore the village.
For my walk, I walked through the village and then started to retrace my steps to return to Beaulieu. The Master Builder’s Hotel is well worth a visit if you’d like a drink or some food before you head back. In the summer the garden’s are a lovely place to sit and look out over the river. When you head back to Beaulieu you can either follow the same route back with the detour along the riverside or stay on the Solent Way for a lovely woodland walk back.
If you’re holding out for refreshments until you make it back to Beaulieu, there are a number of spots to have a cup of tea, or there’s Monty’s Inn within the Montagu Arms Hotel.