This riverside attraction, where maritime history can be explored at a gentle pace, offers a relaxed family day out
Float way … Buckler’s Hard in Hampshire, with its former worker’s cottage leading to the water’s edge
In a nutshell
A former ship-building village on the River Beaulieu in the New Forest. Attractions include a maritime museum telling the story of warships built for Nelson’s navy and other moments in seafaring history, from the sinking of SS Persia by a German U-boat to Sir Francis Chichester’s circumnavigation of the globe in Gipsy Moth IV. Costumed volunteers are on hand to answer questions and enthuse children with, say, a game of coits or explain how families lived in the Shipwright’s Cottage. In summer hop on a boat for a cruise up the river (extra charge).
The saying “money for old rope” comes from sailors selling old ships’ ropes for oakum (used to waterproof ships) and therefore getting something for nothing.
The maritime museum. Photograph: Samantha Cook Photography
Best thing about it
The setting is lovely, two rows of well-preserved red-brick workers’ cottages – separated by an immaculate lawn – lead down to the water’s edge where boats glide past. Many family attractions are an assault on the senses (and the wallet) with their high-tech wizardry and high-octane activities but Buckler’s Hard offers a gentler day out.
What about lunch?
We arrived hungry and made a beeline for the Captain’s Cabin Tea Rooms, which had very few options. We had homemade but not very nice soup with a roll (£4.50), so doughy my son made bullet-like balls out of it. I wish we’d held out for the Yachtsman Bar and Garden, part of the on-site Master Builder’s hotel.
Exit through the gift shop?
The shop shares space with the tearoom and has a focus on twee homeware: lots of sailing or shell-related objets, plus cushions, mugs and kitchen signs – most of them emblazoned with “witty” phrases. There is little to tempt small beady eyes. The shop in the museum has toys and maritime-related books.
Take the M27, exit at junction 2 and follow the tourist signs towards nearby Beaulieu motor museum – from there Buckler’s Hard is signposted. Train to Brockenhurst then taxi – or hire a bike and cycle the eight miles through the New Forest.
Photograph: Baxter Bradford
Value for money?
Yes. The amount of time you take will likely depend on the weather. On a sunny day you could easily spend an afternoon for a reasonable £6.90 (adult), £4.70 (child 5-16) or £19.70 (family) – all online prices. An annual pass is £12.50 for an adult or £33 for a family and allows unlimited free visits.
10am-5pm every day, except Christmas Day
8/10. At its peak, Buckler’s Hard would have been noisy, crowded and smelly. Now it’s a calm backwater – in a good way.