Things to see and do in Hamble
- Credit: Peter Dawes
Hamble ahoy! for adventures, larks and food. Lots of food, on, off and beside the water. Emma Caulton goes overboard for a river view of this world famous nautical community
Hamble-le-Rice (usually called simply Hamble) is all about its waterside location. At the tip of a peninsula with Southampton Water on one side and the River Hamble on the other, it is renowned worldwide for sailing and boat building. The river benefits from deep water and double tides and there are marinas, sailing schools and numerous moorings, with over 3,000 boats on the river. The waterside views are mesmerising and help to make Hamble and the River Hamble feel special, different and perfect for a short break.
You can get out on the water yourself. Charter a boat for a luxury crewed sailing experience. Try Universal Yachting at Mercury Yacht Harbour, Mendez Marine at Hamble River Boat Yard or Hamble Point Yacht Charters at Hamble Point Marina, among others.
Sailors with Royal Yachting Association (RYA) qualifications can also charter bareboats. If you don’t have sailing qualifications, the River Hamble is a fantastic place to learn with RYA courses available at local sailing clubs. Obviously, this isn’t something that can be completed in a morning – it requires the commitment of full days or regular evenings, but beginners’ courses are available at the likes of Hamble River Sailing Club and there’s a ‘Start Yachting Taster Weekend’ at Hamble School of Yachting.
Experience scuba diving at Andark Diving, Swanwick, one of the country’s biggest leisure diving schools. Adults and children (minimum age eight) can take a 90 minute introductory session in the on-site heated pool. There’s also a purpose-built deep water diving lake for advanced courses.
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Hamble welcomes the hungry. Perhaps it is because yachties and socialising go together, but have you seen so many cafes, pubs and restaurants in one fairly compact area? You’re tripping over them in Hamble and there are more along the river.
Many have names that reflect the location and enjoy waterside views – such as The Jolly Sailor and The Ferry Inn, both located in Old Bursledon and reached via footpaths along the Hamble. The Jolly Sailor is a proper country pub (plus pontoon for those coming by water) that took a starring role in BBC TV’s Howard’s Way, a popular tale of boat building and business skulduggery aired in the 1980s and still fondly remembered. There’s more history at The Ferry Inn, a conversion of the original Woolston chain link ferry now afloat in The Elephant Boatyard (another Howard’s Way location). This is where HMS Elephant was built in 1786 – Nelson’s flagship during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801; it has been a working boatyard ever since.
Casual dining eateries can also be found hidden in marinas, such as The Boat House Café in Swanwick Marina, Bistro 8 in Universal Marina, Water’s Edge Bar and Restaurant in Mercury Yacht Harbour and The Ketch Rigger in Hamble Point Marina.
In Hamble itself there’s The Beach Hut Café on the foreshore with views across to Warsash. But don’t overlook Bonne Bouche on The Quay. It may not have a waterside setting, but it has friendly staff serving good coffee and tasty, reasonably priced food.
Take a stroll. Hamble is on the Solent Way. Head west and it takes you to Royal Victoria Country Park at Netley (200 acres of parkland with a small shingle beach). Or hop aboard the ferry between Hamble and Warsash to continue the Solent Way east through Hook with Warsash Nature Reserve at the mouth of the River Hamble. Or walk upriver, enjoying views across to Hamble and Bursledon.
Alternatively, explore the area’s past. At Bursledon you’ll find Manor Farm Country Park, which featured as the Wartime Farm in the BBC series of the same name. This is a farm straight out of a children’s storybook: 600 years old, in 400 acres and indescribably quaint. There are farmyard animals and families can help feed chickens and milk cows.
Down the road is Hampshire’s only working windmill at Old Bursledon. Built in 1814 and restored in 1990, this visitor attraction provides an opportunity to grind flour by hand using old stone querns.
Come forward to the Victorian era and visit Bursledon Brickworks in Lower Swanwick, an industrial museum and the UK’s only steam driven brickworks. You can try making your own brick, but it doesn’t open until April 2017.
Eat & sleep
Back to Hamble where you’re spoiled for choice for dinner. Suggestions include Ye Olde Whyte Harte pub, with oak beams, log fire and warm welcome, or La Dolce Vita, a long-established Italian and a favourite with locals.
Dropping down from Hamble’s picturesque Square (having noted the letter box painted gold in celebration of local Olympian Dani King), the cobbled lane to the quayside tempts with further pubs, bars and restaurants, such as River Rat Cellar & Restaurant, a hidden gem. There’s The King & Queen, with colourfully strewn sofas, candelabras and scrubbed pine tables, which has won several awards. Further on is The Bugle, cosy with woodburning stove and top notch food.
For a sleepover, rest beside the water at The Navigator, Lower Swanwick, a pub and restaurant with rooms decorated in coastal blues. Owned by Hampshire’s Upham Brewery, it serves good food and is a great base for exploring the area – strolling, sailing, supping and feasting as you go.
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