The superbly sited Master Builder's Hotel, overlooking the Beaulieu River, had long been ripe for a carefully judged overhaul, and when its lease from Lord Montagu of Beaulieu came up for renewal in 2009, Hillbrooke Hotels took it on.
They gave it a thorough makeover, using their trick of importing eclectic furnishings and artefacts from India and the resulting bedrooms in the old part of the building are cosy, interesting and comfortable. Downstairs, the layout and decoration is more conventional with an obvious Maritime theme. Buckler's Hard was a rural shipyard where some of Nelson's ships were built in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The hotel was lumbered some years back with an unsympathetic modern annexe, the Henry Adams Wing. Even the designer's best efforts could not give the bedrooms here the character they lacked, although they are now comfortable and attractive, given their size.
Since taking over in 2009 Hillbrooke have done well to realize much of the Master Builders’ unrealized potential. They've recently introduced a new dinner menu (with some takeaway options) including Wiltshire lamb and Lymington mackerel; and they've much improved the main indoor eating area, which is full of character and much less formal and pretentious than the old dining room. They often offer competitive deals for eating and sleeping on off-season weekdays – some of these are great value for money. And it’s hard to find a hotel in a lovelier location.