“ Address: Beaulieu / Brockenhurst / Hampshire / United Kingdom / SO42 7ZN / Tel: 01590 612345 „
So much for your money!
what a great day out!
situated in the new forest, not far from the m27, in a beautifully scenic setting.
when we went 29-05-2010 they had the top gear exhibition, the james bond exhibition, Palace house, Beualieu Abbey, the motor museum and the trucks and troops show. There was so much to do. and it was all really enjoyable even with two children in tow.
They have a good park for the little ones. some pretty reasonably priced food stands to get fast food from. a resturant for a good afternoon tea or full meal. We took our own luch and it was ideal sitting out on the vast grass areas in the sunshine.
You can get hand stamped to go in and out of the complex.
The queue was quick even though we visited in half-term!
We spent a full 6 hours there and flew round the abbey house exhibit.
That is the beauty of their return in six days policy. Once you have brought a full price ticket you can return within six days free of charge. (valid until 31st march 2011)
Definately go and take a charged digital camera
If setting out for a day trip to the "National Motor Museum" sounds to you like a bit of a bore think again! Though Beaulieu is indeed home to a huge collection of cars and bikes there's more to see, much more.
Beaulieu is situated in the New Forest, a short drive from Junction 2 of the M27, near to other attractions such as Exbury Gardens and Bucklers Hard. It's somewhere I've been to a fair few times throughout the years, each time I've been there have been a few changes, this time I was pleased to see a new "Top Gear" exhibit that is probably worth a trip on its own merits.
Entrance fees can be found on the Beaulieu website, I used a free child voucher that I downloaded, (details of both sites below), on my most recent visit this year. You pay for children over 5, adults cost £16.50 at the time of my trip, you can return for free within 6 days if staying in the area, and if you "Gift Aid" you can return to the Motor Museum all year for free, though not when there are special events on. I would say that in fine weather you are likely to spend all day at the site, which makes it quite good value in my view.
Beaulieu is primarily what I suppose you would call a Stately Home - it's home to the Montagu family who still reside in Palace House, an intriguing mishmash of Victorian and much earlier construction and part of the visit. The Motor Museum has been on the site since 1952.
When you first arrive at Beaulieu, a good way of seeing what there is to visit is to take a trip on the Monorail, this goes all round the whole grounds, this is what we did on our recent visit. There's one stop near to the Palace House and gardens and the other next to the 70's-looking Motor Museum and Top Gear section. I am not sure if the latter attraction is going to be a permanent fixture - though not huge there are quite a number of cars from the show to see, if you are a Clarkson and co fan you are sure to delight in seeing cars from the challenges such as the memorable amphibious "Dampervan" and the mopeds the team travelled around Vietnam on. Even if you only have a mild interest in the show and indeed cars - that would be me then - seeing the cars is quite interesting, the descriptions of them were very informative though the words "this is the actual car...." were rather overused! Still who couldn't fail to stare in wonder at a limo with a bowling alley in it and the car fitted out as a cottage? After seeing all this the Bond exhibition next to it can seem a little bit of a let down, however there are 10 or so "actual" Bond cars to see before you carry on with your visit.
As you visit the actual Motor Museum, the interior of which is glimpsed during the monorail ride as the train actually goes through the roof, there's a new exhibit at the entrance called "Promotion". These are vehicles made to promote products such as the Creme Egg and Peas, and made to look like the items they were used to advertise. We really enjoyed seeing the Outspan Orange car and then made our way into the main bit of the museum. Here you will see a huge collection of cars starting from some made in 1895 and up to modern day cars. There's the Bluebird world speed car and a lawnmower currently being used to try and set the World Speed Record for mowers, racing cars, vintage cars all beautifully maintained and with their chrome gleaming. I'm not *that* interested in cars but even I find the extent and the variety of the collection always has me fascinated. Every now and then there's an oddball car to see, the Mr Bean car or even motorised roller skates; it's an impressive and varied collection.
Moving on to visit the rest of the site, via a replica 1912 open topped double decker bus if you will, there's much more to see. The Abbey, which is partly in ruins, and has an exhibition in part of it about life as a monk, is worth spending some time at too. It is a haven of tranquillity, as a plaque from the Head of the SEO (Special Forces) points out - the reason being that in the War Beaulieu was used to train up Spies before they set off on their missions. A small exhibition near to the Palace House about the Special Forces makes for fascinating, if slightly tragic, reading. The survival rate for those who passed through Beaulieu on their way to missions in Europe was less than 50%. Some of the stories about the people who passed through Beaulieu are inspiring, others are heart breaking, I was interested to see some of the Spy paraphernalia that was exhibited, including a surprisingly stylish ladies' knuckle duster ring!
Onto the Palace House and gardens, which are both beautiful and again an integral part of the visit. You can wander around the public part of the house, and apparently when Lord Montagu is in residence small tours of the private part of the house can be arranged. On previous trips some of the cars from the museum have been running and setting off from outside the house - there were none on my last trip, but when you see a vintage car parked outside the Palace you do feel that you have stumbled into a one of those quintessential British films!
There's a couple of more things to mention - access for pushchairs and wheelchairs is clearly signed throughout the site - I'm not sure either can be taken into Palace House itself, but elsewhere everything is accessible. There's a small children's play area which is quite cute, containing as it does little vehicles and petrol pumps as well as a swing or two, made of tyres of course! There's also a couple of motorised cars for children to drive for no extra cost.
There is a good picnic area with tables outside and a couple undercover, and the restaurant seemed to have quite a good range of food - we took a picnic though did have a delicious New Forest Ice Cream. We also found a good range at the Souvenir Shop, the eldest left clutching a motorised Camper van that was quite good value at under £4, and there were plenty of cars, Top Gear Stuff and the normal pens and such like that you tend to expect at museums these days. As for the toilets - again baby change and disabled toilets at both places where there are toilets at Beaulieu - the ones at the Abbey, which, having small children I visited several times, are probably the nicest I have been to at any attraction anywhere, very posh!
The museum does hold special events, details on the website, I've never been to one of these so cannot comment as to how good they are, the very kind and helpful man on the car ride did say that Beaulieu does get busy during these events but on non Summer weekends it is not over busy - this has certainly been our experience when we have been there on rainy and sunny days alike. I would have to say that all the staff we encountered were exceptionally helpful and polite on our recent trip, I overheard a Footman in the palace having a very good go at speaking German too, which is rare in any UK attraction in my experience.
For me a visit to Beaulieu in the sun is most enjoyable as you can make the most of wandering around the grounds and even though there were quite a lot of visitors on the day we went most recently it never felt crowded. On our recent trip there was nothing more exciting than a gathering of Peugot coupe 406 cars in the outside arena area - it was quite a sight seeing so many identical model cars, but one for the enthusiast only I feel!
That's the thing about the National Motoring Museum, if you are into cars in a big way you are going to love it, but if your interest is more casual it's still a good place to go. I've no idea how Beaulieu came to have its name, which, in French anyway, would be "Beautiful place", but it does seem a fitting one. There's certainly lots to do, and I look forward to my next visit in what is a beautiful part of the world. Recommended.
www.beaulieu.co.uk - for further details and directions - the info on the site that your satnav is likely to send you via junction 3 not 2 of the M27 was accurate in our case and duly ignored, more helpful info on the site
www.visit-hampshire.co.uk - for current discount vouchers
The national motor museum is a must see for all new forest visitors and residents.
It has been an established tourist attraction for donkeys years and we have been several times not only through our childhood but as now residents of the forest and never fail to have a beautiful day there. There are regularly events taking part and some of which are free when you go there, such as at halloween they give ghost stories, face painting, prizes and for bonfire night they never fail to put on a spectacular show usually to music of films.
The prices are relatively expensive to get in at £15 per adult and £8 per child however when you pay to get in you will be asked if you would like to give gift aid, always say yes because then you fill in a small card with your details but that gives you free entry to the museum for a year, so an excellent deal.
There are 2 for 1 vouchers for the attraction on various local sites including heart fm and on the backs of leaflets for it. The grounds are exquisite and can be walked around for miles as well as the monorail which is a high train track running around the attraction. Excellent for children and adults alike.
There is a cafe, ice cream parlours and a shop as well as bus rides, picnic areas, house tours, and the motor museum itself which is full of vehicles ranging from WW1. Inside the museum there is a pod ride which is excellent and we always go on it, as well as famous vehicles from movies and tv shows.
Its great fun, you get to see history but through an interesting way and its excellent value for money for a day out especially when you take up the gift aid.
When the other half suggested a day at a car museum whilst we were on holiday I couldn't have been any less enthusiastic if I'd tried. Did I really want to spend an entire hour looking at a mangy collection of rusting relics crammed into some dusty shed? Still the other half had an ace up his sleeve. This was no ordinary car museum this was the National Motor Museum and more importantly it was home to The World of Top Gear. That swung it in his favour and so we duly packed up the car and headed off to Beaulieu.
The motor museum is approached along A roads through spectacularly beautiful countryside passing through the New Forest and an array of wild ponies. We arrived before the museum opened at 10am and spent a happy half hour wandering thorough the leaf strewn shaded car park amongst the enormous oak trees. The car park is segmented into many smaller parking bays around these magnificent trees. There was plenty of shade for us to leave the dog in the car but Beaulieu welcomes dogs with opens arms. In fact they welcome everyone with open arms. At five to ten we joined a small crowd of people awaiting entry and got chatting to a very smartly dressed lady with a name tag who we found out is the lady of the manor for within the grounds is a magnificent manor house referred to as Beaulieu Palace and which is also open to the public.
At £15.75 per adult entry to Beaulieu is not cheap although the £43 family ticket covers a family of five with under fives going free. The ticket allows a return visit within the following six days but is not transferable and this is enforced by having all adults sign the ticket at the point of purchase. As visitors with a four legged escort we were issued with an environmentally friendly poop-a-scoop bag and told that further bags were available free we simply had to ask a member of staff. Lots of thought had gone into catering for dog owners. Dogs are required to be kept on a lead at all times and are not allowed inside buildings, this wasn't the headache it sounds as shaded tethering points were available at strategically placed locations keeping the dogs both in the shade and away from the distractions of members of the public. Bowls of water were available at these points and were regularly topped up during the day.
Even more effort went into keeping children entertained. We visited during October half term, our children were issued with a Halloween themed quiz which was simple enough for even the smallest child as although clues were given the quiz simply required you to spot the bat or skeleton and make a not of its name and location. These were hidden in allsorts of locations including the upper floor of a bus. Completed quiz sheets were rewarded with edible delights from within a bubbling witches cauldron.
Opportunities were provided for dressing up in period costume and taking photos within a car of the same era. This was free of charge as was absolutely everything else within Beaulieu. There were no hidden extras. The site is set in a vast quantity of beautifully manicured parkland which you can tour on an open topped bus (free) or via monorail (free again). Trips were unlimited and because it was a quiet day we had plenty. The mono rail goes through the interior of the Motor museum so you get an overhead glimpse of the sheer size of the collection and a birds eye view of cars as diverse as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the 1980s Outspan orange car. There were cars from every ear from the first production models to current vehicles. Its amazing how far the motor car has come in such a short period of time. Our daughters were amazed that the things they thought were farcically funny, like the mobile greengrocers van, we remembered from our childhoods. There was the opportunity to rent a childs explorer back pack for the duration of our visit to allow children to complete other quizzes as well as draw vehicles. On another occasion this would be fun but this time around we struggled to fit everything in as it was.
The museum was incredibly varied with an array of motor cycles, bicycles and buses as well as cars of every shape and size from a steam powered fire engine to a hand built wooden Morgan and a vast array of racing cars. However from the point of view of a six year old the single best exhibit of the whole experience wasn't the array of vehicles from the James Bond collection but a Robin Reliant. It wasn't just any old Robin Reliant though. This one had wings and formed part of The World of Top Gear.
The World of Top Gear was tiny but crammed full of interesting things. It had a miniature version of the Top Gear studio within which a film made specially for Beaulieu by Messer's Hammond, Clarkson and May was shown on an endless loop. On display was the indestructible truck along with a number of special project vehicles including the stretch Panda, several rather dubious looking police cars and a mobile country cottage. Of course it was the toilet seat on the Arctic expedition prepared Toyota Hilux that attracted the most attention.
As if that's not enough to keep you busy theres also a secret army exhibition, the ruins of Beaulieu Abbey and a functioning parish church in addition to Palace House which is open to the public every day except Christmas Day and that's only because the family use the dining room for Christmas dinner. Costumed tour guides give very interesting talks which seem to change regularly. The day we were there the talks were themed to hauntings of the Abbey and Palace House. Upstairs in the nursery the children were treated to tales of witches and audience participation was rewarded with more free sweets which kept the children occupied as they waited patiently to have their faces painted (free again). No areas were cordoned off, instead you are invited to look around at your leisure with discrete signs asking you not to lean on fragile furniture, play the piano or get stuck in the priest hole.
There was a small play park with a wooden bus complete with bell for children to play on. Picnic benches throughout the park and motorised go-karts for under 10s which once again were free but fully staffed to ensure safety was paramount at all times.
Toilets were clean and plentiful and easily accessed by the disabled and those with pushchairs.
The only low point of the entire visit was the food hall which wasn't able to cope with a large volume of visitors. Portions were small and expensive portions, service was incredibly slow and frustratingly laid out. You have to queue separately for childrens food and jacket potatoes and then again to pay meaning food is cold when you eventually reach a table. Still there were plenty of places to sit for those with picnics and a separate counter for drinks meant you could avoid the worst of the queues if you just wanted a cuppa and a cake.