Newest Review: ... 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 re... more
Outstanding family day out
National Motor Museum (Hampshire)
Member Name: moo2moo
National Motor Museum (Hampshire)
Date: 17/12/09, updated on 18/12/09 (42 review reads)
Advantages: No extra costs. Once you've paid ethe entry fee absolutely everything else is free
Disadvantages: Avoid rush hour at the restaurant or take a picnic
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.
Summary: Something for everyone
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