A local’s guide on the best things to see and do in Hythe
PUBLISHED: 10:42 30 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:15 30 April 2019
Hythe is a quiet backwater on one of Europe’s busiest waterways. We find out what’s on offer in the town
The UK's first marina village (and very pretty it is, too). One of the country's longest piers; with the world's oldest continuously running pier train trundling along its length. A breezy boardwalk promenade. Shingle beaches revealed at low tide. A waterside green. Views of cruise liners, container ships, ferries and yachts plying to and fro. These are just a few of the charms of Hythe.
Hythe has stories to tell - so many stories for a village on the western shore of Southampton Water abutting the New Forest. The name comes from the Anglo Saxon for landing place and it's thought to have been a crossing point over to Southampton for centuries. As late as the beginning of the 20th century, Hythe was a small fishing village.
It is still small in scale, but big on history. TE Lawrence (of Arabia) lived at Myrtle Cottage, Shore Road, when he was posted here to work on high-speed motor launches for the RAF at the British Power Boat Company. Hythe was also home to Sir Christopher Cockerell, the inventor of the Hovercraft, who developed his designs at The Grove, St John's Street.
Yet Hythe still remains low key: an intimate village with an attractive muddle of old buildings, mostly dating from the 18th and 19th century, but some earlier, and some decent eateries, such as Be-Be's Café, Millie's Tearoom, Seashells restaurant (with amazing views across to Southampton) and proper fish and chips from the likes of Philpott's.
Phil has lived in Hythe for 50 plus years while MDL Marinas (Europe's largest marina group) has owned Hythe Marina Village since 1991. The Village's design was inspired by the Côte d'Azur's Port Grimaud where houses have berths rather than gardens. It was the first marina village to be built in the UK (in 1985) and is still considered one of the finest. The 24-hour lock at the heart of the village was the first major piece of engineering work undertaken, and during excavations many items relating to Southampton's maritime past (including silver cutlery from ocean liners) were uncovered. One of the first boats through the lock was Richard Branson's record-breaking speedboat, Atlantic Challenger.
Phil's Local Life
“Hythe is full of secrets. Lawrence of Arabia lived here and Sir Christopher Cockerell was another local resident - he laid the first brick in the Marina development. He invented the Hovercraft and many were made in Hythe in the late 1960s. Hythe has always been at the forefront of technical advances - flying boats were leaving from here to go to Australia throughout the 1930s.”
• Spare time: “Hythe overlooks the cruise terminals and is a fantastic place to watch ships go out around the world.”
• Local event: “We're hosting an inaugural Seafood Festival on 8 June 2019. Hythe Village Marina will be full of cooking demonstrations, tasting stands, watersports activities and family fun. We're so excited as we've been swamped by people wanting to get involved.”
• Recommended restaurant: “I'm biased, but my favourite place to relax in the evening is The Boathouse which is on-site. It's got a fantastic view and it's also a hotel.”
• Best thing: “The community. There are all sorts of activities happening at the Marina [such as an art group and walking group]. Check out our Facebook page to find out more.”
Fairline Yachts was founded in 1967 in Oundle, Northamptonshire, with British craftsmanship at its core. In May 2016 the company announced its partnership with Italian superyacht designer, Alberto Mancini and renowned Dutch naval engineers, Vripack, marking a new era for the company. Fairline launched the first Alberto Mancini-designed, Vripack-engineered yacht, the Targa 63 GTO, at Cannes Yachting Festival in September 2017. It was here that Fairline also announced it would be setting up a new manufacturing facility in Hythe. Named Fairline Marine Park, the new site is enabling Fairline to build larger yachts, including a new large flybridge model set to launch this year at Cannes and making its UK debut days later at Southampton Boat Show.
David's Local Life
• Tell us a secret: “Fairline Marine Park was designed and built by the American military for the construction of landing craft and other vessels. There is a great book telling the story, which we have in the yard.”
• What's special about Hythe: “Over the last decade a specialist team based in Hythe have built the high-tech carbon hulls for some of the world's best superyachts. Two recent ones designed by Hampshire-based naval architect Malcolm McKeon are Missy and Ribelle. Right now another team is building Ben Ainslie's America's Cup challenge boat. The same team has just finished a new boat for the founder of Skype, Niklas Zennström.”
• Best things: “Hythe is a hive of British boat-building history that is not as well-known or as celebrated as it should be. Our site will have created more than 100 new jobs by the end of this year for boat builders, skilled crafts people and more. In doing so, we hope to be able to preserve and build upon this unique heritage in the area.”
• Favourite pub: “The Pier View in Cowes - it's the centre of boating gossip in the area!”
• Spare time: “You'll find me out on the water whenever I get the chance; the Solent is one of the best places in the world for boating.”
• 10 of the prettiest villages to visit in Hampshire - A beautiful village is something we're certainly not short of here in Hampshire