Beaulieu – much more than a motor museum

Beaulieu – much more than a motor museum

Located in the New Forest National Park, only a short drive from Southampton Airport, lies Beaulieu, home of the the world famous National Motor Museum, Palace House - home of the Montagu family and historic Beaulieu Abbey. Southampton Airport, Security Officer, Jez, took his family for a day out:

Beaulieu

On a snowy, chilly January afternoon my wife and I, along with our two young children decided to visit Beaulieu situated in the beautiful New Forest National Park, less than 30 minutes from Southampton International Airport.

The thought of dragging a 4 and 2 year old around a car museum and 13th century gatehouse came with some concerns, although I was nicely surprised. The website  promised many attractions ideal for families such as play areas, go-karting, Dipstick’s Driving Circuit, Veteran Bus tour and Monorail (ideal for the warmer months).

Due to the weather it was unlikely we’d be able to visit everything, so the aim was to at least check out the Museum and Palace House.  After a number of toilet stops, the first proper attraction was The National Motor Museum. Here we found a superb collection of over 250 cars and motorbikes, from old classics to the latest, luxurious models.  Also on display is Campbell’s Bluebird, the magical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, various F1 cars as well as a few comical methods of transport. For the motor enthusiast there are themed tours at 2:30pm every day, including the opportunity to get up close and view each vehicle’s unique specification. 

One highlight was ‘Bond in Motion’ marking the 50th Anniversary of James Bond (2012), with the largest selection of Bond vehicles ever staged, including a few from the latest film ‘Skyfall’.  There were some amazing, amuzing and glorious vehicles on display such as the Aston Martin DB 5, Lotus Esprit S1 and iconic 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III.  I heard my wife describing it as dreamy, smooth, sleak and powerful……I assume she was talking about the cars and not Pierce Brosnan!

The whole family enjoyed ‘Wheels’, a ride journey through history in a space age pod, were you can see contraptions from the stone age wheel to visions of the future.  Set in the 1930′s was Jack Tucker’s Garage, a very interesting assortment of genuine artefacts collected over a 25 year period.  Returning to the 21st Century, The World of Top Gear exhibits a number of amusing vehicles all ‘tweaked’ by the presenters, Clarkson, Hammond and May.  The children liked the limosine-bowling alley, while my wife took a liking to the wood burner in Anne Hathaway’s Cottage-Car. The Motorhome Challenge vehicles were hilarious, but I didn’t see anything suitable for our summer holiday.  Finally, we spotted the flying car used by Mr Weasley in Harry Potter, along with Mr Bean’s Mini and Del Boy’s yellow Robin Reliant in the On Screen Cars area.

We then decided to venture into sub-zero temperatures and head towards Palace House, formerly the 13th Century Great Gatehouse to Beaulieu Abbey.  The house is still occupied by the Montague family and we felt privaledged to enjoy the splendour and beauty of the historic furniture, family portraits and elegant décor.  The staff were friendly and helpful, they clearly loved their work fulfilling their roles passionatly and wholeheartedly.

On our return we passed The Secret Army Exhibition, but didn’t stop on this occasion as the children were busy attacking us with snowballs.  The grounds and gardens looked a picture covered in a blanket of snow and I imagine they would be wonderful for picnics in the Summer months. After a chilly walk back we were pleased to warm up in the gift shop where there was a range of Beaulieu merchadise, toys and clothing for sale.

Beaulieu is a great family day out, there really is so much to do and see, whether you’re a petrol-head or not.  If you don’t have time to see everything the first time round, you can visit again for free!  Normal admission prices are Adults £20.00, children 5-12 £9.95, 13-17 £12.00.  Kids under 5 go free and family tickets are £52.50.

Visit www.beaulieu.co.uk for further information.