THE WHITE BUCK, BURLEY, HAMPSHIRE
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? This charming country house, operated by Fuller’s, lies in the heart of the New Forest. Formerly known as Holmehurst, it was used as a hospital during World War Two but today, it serves as a stylish pub, restaurant and hotel. The White Buck is hugely popular with dog owners, whether they’re hungry locals popping in for a meal or weary travellers checking in for a longer stay.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? They certainly are. We encountered five dogs during our stay and at least two of those were staying over. Chances are you’ll practically fall over a pooch as soon as you walk through the front door!
Pets are welcome in selected rooms at the hotel and there’s a £15 charge per night to accommodate them. A maximum of two dogs can stay in any one room and they will receive bowls and Bonios for the duration of their stay. There is also a big jar of dog treats on the bar, which is always a good sign.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? The 20 stylish bedrooms come in three different classes – Indulgence, Comfy and Cosy. We stayed in the Griffin room – or Room 9 – which is named after Fuller’s London brewery. As hotel rooms go, it was seriously impressive. Not only was the room enormous, but it also had one of the biggest bay windows I’ve ever seen, overlooking the garden and surrounding woodland.
We could enjoy the view from the sumptuous 6ft bed, while Ernie preferred the floral chaise longue, which took him all of five minutes to adopt. This was accompanied by antique furniture, a retro telephone and wallpaper with a subtle horse print to give the room a cosy feel. The welcome pack – with complimentary bottles of wine and beer – was a nice touch too and the homemade biscuits (replenished daily in a White Buck tin) went down a treat with the Teapigs teas and posh coffee.
The stylish bathroom was also a delight to spend time, with its retro lighting, letterbox tiles and on-trend wooden shutters. The rolltop bath was lovely and the rainforest shower was just what we needed to wake us up in the morning. I loved the Cole & Lewis toiletries and it was also great to have robes and slippers to snuggle up in.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Very tasty. We visited in January when the restaurant was experimenting with vegan dishes for Veganuary but there was still plenty on the menu for meat-eaters. On the whole, I’d say the food is classic pub grub that’s locally sourced wherever possible. Think liver and bacon and super-sized Sunday roasts.
Breakfast is also a fine affair with a good selection of cereal, fruit, yoghurt and pastries. The cooked options have also been given a trendy twist with dishes such as smashed avocado on toast sitting comfortably alongside the traditional Full English.
Dogs are not allowed in the main restaurant but the bar area is huge with plenty of tables to choose from – and water bowls dotted all around. You can also enjoy drinks and food in the cosy Gun Room or light and airy lobby, where you’ll find a couple of comfy sofas in front of the a roaring fire.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? There’s no resident hotel dog but I can practically guarantee that your pet won’t be the only four-legged visitor.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Everywhere! There are more than 140 miles of tracks and footpaths in the New Forest, making it perfect for walkers and cyclists. Dogs should really be kept on a lead, thanks to all the free-roaming ponies, donkeys, cattle and deer, but the abundance of wildlife means you never get bored. I really thought we’d have to search for the wild animals but they pop up next to the roads, on people’s driveways… everywhere! We even saw some donkeys nibbling on someone’s garden hedge.
When we visited, in the depths of winter, there wasn’t much going on in Burley (a good 20-minute walk through heathland from The White Buck) but in the summer months, you can follow the Burley Food Trail. It’s either 3.5 miles or five miles, depending on which way you go, but you can taste some New Forest cider, handmade fudge and traditional sweets along the way. You can also find out about the village’s spooky past – we counted three shops devoted to witchcraft.
The walk from Beaulieu to Buckler’s Hard – where ships for Nelson’s Navy were built in the 18th Century – is also a lovely one. From Beaulieu village, follow the signs to the footpath that tracks the river. It’s approximately two miles each way and if you’re in need of a cuppa after, I can recommend Pallets Tea & Coffee House which is very dog-friendly and has some lovely local artwork for sale.
From Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst, there are also some great “Rail Trail” walks of varying lengths – many of which go through the marshes. For more walk inspiration, visit the official New Forest website. Alternatively, check out my Ruff Guide to the New Forest, which has suggestions for walks, as well as dog-friendly days out and places to eat and drink.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: All the wildlife on the doorstep, great walks around the New Forest, meeting so many other doggy pals
WHAT I LOVED: The secluded location, the stylish rooms, the delicious food
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: A night at The White Buck starts from £79, including breakfast. It’s also worth watching out for special offers – at the time of writing, there was a dinner, bed and breakfast deal for £129 (based on two people sharing a room). For further details, visit The White Buck website or call 01425 402264. Book direct online to save 10% on stays.