Insider’s Guide to the Beaulieu River area

The Beaulieu River is one of the few privately owned rivers in the world and has been in the ownership of the Montagu family for over 400 years. Land here is tightly held and cherished by residents. The area feels manicured and wild.


At the head of the river, you’ll find the village itself. Dating back to the 13th century, it’s perhaps one of the most iconic and most visited in the New Forest. The main draw here is the Palace, Gardens, Abbey and Motor museum. The village is picturesque with tiny redbrick houses, tiny shops, a chocolaterie, several good cafes, an excellent garden centre and learning garden make up the tiny High Street. 


This village is perhaps one of the most iconic and most visited in the New Forest. For good reason too. It’s pretty red brick houses, tiny shops, a chocolatier, several good cafes, an excellent garden centre and learning garden make up the tiny High Street. The Palace, gardens, Abbey and Car Museum are lovely with amazing play spaces for children.

Great walks from/to here from Bucklers Hard, downriver, also well worth a visit.


In spring the woods are full of bluebells and birdsong. In summer the yachts and boat traffic are peaceful and beautiful, the forest dappled and calm. In autumn the forest colours are magical, especially on our clear, cold mornings when no one is about. In winter, the forest will protect you from the wind but you might get wet!

There are very good options for less mobile people to join in a day trip: look at our blog here.

Getting Here

Beaulieu is conveniently located 30mins from Southampton, and under 20 mins from Lymington by car. If you are planning to drive to Beaulieu, you can park your car for free in  Beaulieu visitor centre car park. There is a separate car park for disabled visitors, near to Visitor Reception.

Get discounts if you come by bus…  Check out these Summer Public Transport options ……

(P.S. Travel by bus for all or part of your journey to Beaulieu and you can receive 20% off standard admission by presenting your travel tickets to the visitor centre on arrival)

New Forest Tour (early July – early September)

The New Forest Tour’s Green Route links Beaulieu with Hythe Ferry (for Southampton), Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst (rail station) and Lymington. Tickets are valid all day on all routes and you can hop on and off wherever you like. For timetables and ticket information visit New Forest Tour.

 Beach Bus (23 July – 2 September)

The Beach Bus links Beaulieu with Hythe Ferry (for Southampton), Bucklers Hard and Lymington. Tickets are valid all day and you can hop on and off wherever you like. For timetables and ticket information visit the Beach Bus website.

Use these links to learn more about Beaulieu here:

Beaulieu Palace and Gardens – excellent day out for all the family, read more on our blog here.
Fairweathers, Cafe, Garden Centre and Learning garden – lovely garden centre, busy cafe, good accessibility and parking, the Learning garden is also accessible and extremely well laid out.
Montys Hotel – does a great cream team. Quite smart.
Chocolatierie. This shop up’s the ante of the independent shops in the village. Handmade, high quality ingredients, great food provenance. And our guests get 10% off when shopping here.
Belle and Blosson Flowers. We think they do the best flowers in the area. Certainly it’s worth popping into their shop on the high street.
Pallets Tea Room – great selection of teas, our guests get 10% off.

Being active here 

Active folk will enjoy what New Forest Activities have to offer you. Based in the village, they offer so many excellent trips and experiences: bushcraft,high ropes, cycle hire, water sports of most varieties which is what they’re most well known for etc. We get 10% off for our guests. Don’t miss them.

Do not miss the walk from the Agamemnon Boat Yard to Beaulieu and back.

It is suitable for children, prams, grannies and mobility vehicles (tho taking slightly different routes which split and rejoin along the coast) it’s a fabulous walk and very pretty. The return trip is about 2 hours and it’s pretty flat. Do stop at Beaulieu for a few hours. There are excellent places to eat and several good small shops.

Things to do near to Beaulieu

Exbury GardensA 200 acre garden, home to a world famous collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and plenty of rare trees and shrubs. Exbury has a myriad of hardcore pathways perfect for mobility scooters and children in prams or on balance bikes. There is as small adventure playground, and narrow guage steam railway too. It’s really worth a visit. Watch out for peak time offers. Mother’s Day is usually half price entry. 

Buckler’s Hard. Downriver by a 45 minute stroll, and untouched by the passage of time, the tiny hamlet is a tranquil haven, perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of modern life. The Maritime Museum is excellent.

The Master Builder’s Hotel at Buckler’s Hard has a lovely restaurant terrace overlooking the Beaulieu River as well as a separate pub and bar. It gets busy in summer. 

Feel the sand under your feet….. Beaulieus’s Nearest Beaches

Local beaches are very lovely, very quiet and very British (some mud, some sand) and very much home to cows, donkeys and ponies who love to roll in the sandy bits. Its great for kids to track them….Gruffalo-style!

Tanners Lane beach is a great access point for beachy walks and exploring.

A (very short ) history of the Beaulieu River…

The river was originally granted to the monks of Beaulieu Abbey by King John in 1204. With it were the rights and responsibilities of caring for the Beaulieu River and this was later passed to the Montagu family who still own it. It’s the only river in private ownership in England. Their care-taking has created a river which is largely unspoilt and a haven for wildlife. Read more here on the New Forest Explorers Guide. 

Dinner – party facts….

1. William I (of the 1066 fame) applied Forest Law to make the New Forest. Hunting lodges were established throughout the forest to allow the Royal hunting parties to rest. The hunting lodge at Bellus Locus or Beaulieu  was one of them.

2. At Bucklers Hard, near the mouth of the river, John second Duke of Montagu, known as ‘John the Planter,’ projected a town and docks as a depôt for the produce of the island of St. Lucia, then in his possession. The plan, however, came to nothing. In 1894 Lord Montagu of Beaulieu erected a pier there for the use of ‘excursionists’.

3. Finally, did you know that Queen Mary visited Beaulieu in 1927. She was picked up from’ Victoria and Albert’ in Lord Montagus’ yacht ‘Cygnet’ and went to Palace House for tea in Rolls Royce Phantom.

4. Swimming is prohibited on the Beaulieu River – too much boat and kayak traffic apparently.

And a little smuggling story…

Contraband, smuggled from France, was landed in many places along the thickly-wooded banks, and according to one account…

“All the farms along the river were more or less concerned in the traffic…At Ginn’s Farm (which you can rent through us, Gins sleeps 8 in a un-roguish style!) …a gentleman rode up and said to the servant girl ‘Do you ever see anything of the smugglers about here? If you can give me any information, I will give you a sovereign’. The girl was not likely to betray her friends, and replied ‘Smugglers Sir! Why we be always all in bed by nine o’clock’. A few minutes later the handmaiden found her master entertaining the stranger, who was deeply interested in the contraband trade, and who had only been trying to test the girl’s fidelity. He at once gave her the sovereign, not for giving information, but for withholding it”

Buckler’s Hard on the river was a major landfall for the contraband trade: the cottage that is now a chapel was a centre of operations. In Beaulieu itself Palace House made a convenient warehouse, since it was frequently unoccupied. To discourage unnecessary interest, and ensure that the premises remained vacant, smugglers laid on a variety of stage ghost effects — clanking chains, hair-raising screams in the night, and mysterious apparitions.

Read more about local history here on the Beaulieu website.