I’ve been to the Beaulieu Motor Museum a number of times over the years and it never fails to keep us busy for a whole day. There’s something for everyone throughout the year – whether you love cars, movies, history, stately homes or beautiful gardens then the whole family should be able to find something that will entertain them.
I’ve taken William there quite a few times over the last couple of years – being a typical little boy he loves planes, trains and automobiles. Not only are there plenty of cars for him to see, but you can have trips on vintage buses and cars, and there are great childrens play areas and he loves the monorail which takes in all the major sites of the museum and drives you right through the top of the main motor museum exhibition hall. This year we’ve had even more of a reason to go since William features on their advertising campaign – sorry – proud mummy moment. Although I think I was more excited when I saw his little face on the advertising than he was, William just seemed confused! But he was ‘spotted’ by a member of staff which made him feel special.
From the earliest cars to modern day family saloons, the first motorbikes to F1 cars, the museum has one of the finest collections in the world. There are over 250 vehicles in the main museum and there is currently a really interesting Steam Punk Costume exhibition alongside the cars which were inspired by the vehicles themselves. I love the
really old cars – when life was so much slower, and cars seemed more elegant. There are some wonderful old black and white movies as well which show some of the types of cars in action back in the day. There is an incredible fire engine as well as the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The majority of the cars, F1 and motobikes are upstairs, but downstairs you have special exhibitions as well as a mock 1930’s garage as well as the frontage to old shops and old goods vehicles, such as the Harrods delivery van
A special exhibition in another building also features cars from movies such as the flying car from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the unmissable and unforgettable yellow three wheeled van from Only Fools and Horses. They also have a special Top Gear exhibition with varying vehicles created by the team which featured on the BBC show when Jeremy Clarkson was in charge.
One of Williams favourite things is to take a trip on the old vintage bus. This takes you on a short ride to the other end of the site, beside the ice cream hut near the old abbey. You can get off here or go back on the bus to the stop outside the main motor museum.
At this end you can take a walk around the old Beaulieu Abbey remains – there is a beautiful quad with the village church as well as the dormitory and an exhibitions about the Cistercian Monks. The abbey was founded in 1202-1203 by King John and peopled by 30 monks from the Citeaux Abbey in France, which was the main house of the Cistercian order. Few buildings remain, but those that do are wonderful and well worth a wander.
There are often falconry displays in this area too which are great for kids and adults.
From here you can take a stroll around the gardens – smell the roses, admire the herbaceous border and currently there is a great topiary display featuring the Mad Hatters Tea Party from Alice In Wonderland.
At the furthest part of the estate is Beaulieu House, the home of Lord Montague and his family. Originally built in the 13th century it was the Gatehouse to the abbey. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, the estates were bought by Thomas Wriotheseley and the Montagus are descendants of this family line. This is well worth a visit if you like old stately homes like me. There are several rooms to visit on both the ground and first floors and from the first floor rooms you also have a beautiful view over the village pond and the village itself as well as the old abbey gatehouse and mill. On the ground floor there is an elegant dining room which is till used by the family, especially at Christmas. I always stand on the steps and look down the room imaging what Christmas must be like around the table.
For those who love things that go bump in the night – Beaulieu is supposedly one of the most haunted places in England. The smell of incense, a lady in blue, and even Arthur Conan Doyle allegedly made contact with a spirit during a seance at the palace. Maybe you will feel shivers down your spine as you walk through the abbey ruins or ascend the stairs in the house.
There is a lovely woodland walk around the pond here and after a tour round the house, I like to walk back through the gardens and take a look at the big kitchen gardens on the way back up and admire the vegetables and wonder why my allotment is not so forthcoming.
There is an exhibition on World War Two in the old outhouses near the main house which features uniform, objects and stories of those who lived and world during the war in the area, who worked on part of the estate and also in the forces.
When the children have had enough of going around the main attractions there are two great play areas with loads of cars from them to drive and more recently a beautiful wooden bus. William could easily spend hours in this area and for older children there is a little race track as well plus plenty of benches for parents to sit and relax and keep a watch.
There are great facilities as well – a good sized restaurant/cafe which stocks both hot and cold food as well as a good range of cakes and snacks. There are plenty of tables and an outside seating area. there is also the ice-cream kiosk beside the Abbey. There is also an excellent shop with a good range of cars and automobiles for the little people as well as other gifts, books, stationary and edible treats for the adults. There is plenty of parking even in the busy periods.
There are also a huge range of events throughout the year – with frequent car rallys and autojumbles for the enthusiast, fireworks and special evening talks and lectures. There’s something for everyone and even on a non event day there is plenty to do.
I love this place and look forward to coming back for our next adventure here.