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About The Place…
The Beaulieu Motor Museum is more than just a motor museum. There’s also a walled garden, a palace house and an Abbey ruins. Alongside the ruins is the active parish church. There is a beautiful footpath that runs between the lake at the palace house and the monorail station at the motor museum.
You can hop on a monorail to scoot across from the motor museum to the walled garden and Abbey ruins.
Its a short walk to the palace house from the walled garden and the Abbey ruins. There’s a playground nearby, too. They have a model double decker bus that the kids can climb all over, ring the bell and slip down the slide. The swings are, appropriately, old car tyres.
The (free!) car park is beside the entrance building where you will also find a shop (save it for when you leave) . You will be descended upon by the courteous staff to fill out a gift-aid form. If you pay tax in the UK, then fill it out. This is win-win: you get free admission to the museum for a year (but not the rest of the place; for that you will have to ante up half the normal admission price); and for them they get to claim back about 28% of the admission you pay.
The collection of Bond cars is in a separate building; instead of heading straight into the main motor museum, vear right and look to your right. It a long, narrow hut with just one way in or out.
Chitty is in the main hall, in the middle of the steps that lead down to the lower floor.
There’s a rotating exhibit in the front entrance. In March 2008 they had some really spiffy custom made cars on show there.
Down on the lower floor are a collection of cars which won the land-speed record over the years.
Also to found there is “Wheels” – a fun “ride” that carts you through the history of the automobile. Tosha and Tolii went on it three times in a row!
Across to the other side and up some stairs (go on, try and find a lift) is a large collection of motorbikes and scooters, including the famous Vespa.
And now, a long-winded bitch session:
The place is rather unfriendly towards pushchairs and grandparents in wheelchairs – there are steps everywhere in this unrefurbished 1970′s building. The place could do with an overhaul (and a good coat of paint).
Tip: to get to the lower level other than by stairs, you’ll have to go back out the main entrance and go down the sloping road along the side of the building past the domed building. There you will find a huge sliding door that can be opened by a strong escort (good luck to anyone in a wheelchair getting the darn thing open). Tough luck if you want to get to the upper level where the motorcycles are – we couldn’t find any lift.
Expect the same at the cafeteria, in the building opposite the museum. I mean really, why put three stairs to an entrance door? That’s just screaming “Screw you!” to parents with pushchairs and grandparents.
Shame on them!
A minor redemption: they offer electric buggies free of charge. Granny tried one out in March 2008 (her first time in such a contraption. She ran over Andrew’s toes just once).
Outside the museum building is a courtyard with fun things for the kids:
- a racetrack for remote controlled cars (Â£1 for 3 goes which last about 3 mins each [Mar 2008]);
- a simulator ride (separate fee; its hidden inside the domed building and surrounded by arcade games);
- a James Bond exhibit in a dedicated hut
- the entrance to the monorail (winner of most stairs you’ve ever seen)*
*the “pushchair parking area” for the monorail is at the bottom of the metal stairs that lead up to the monorail; all well and fine, except to get there you have to go up a long flight of stairs. Get it? Carry your push chair up so you can store it. Shame on them again!
On the topic of the monorail: it has tiny carriages. The roof is at your head when you are sitting in it. If you are near 6ft then you are guaranteed to look ridiculous trying to get into it.
Tip: take the last carriage in the monorail as it has a large plexiglass window to look out of, as well as the sides (perfect for photographers).
Abbey Ruins, Walled Garden and Playground
This place probably look very spectacular before the 16th century and its destruction of the monasteries. But one group’s loss is another’s gain. The current landowners, the Montagu family, married into the family that bought the place in 1538.
Nearby is the walled garden. This is very pretty. It includes a few fountains, an arch of vines and a greenhouse. Its just lovely to walk around it during the spring and summer. During the winter, why not have your kids do what ours did: plunk small stones into the fountain’s pool to encourage the sleeping fish to come out of hiding (you didn’t read it here)?
Also nearby is a playground which, new for 2008, has a race track with electric cars that young children can use for free. Our four year old enjoyed being the driver of his own transport**
**(I think young kids should have the chance to drive even a real car, well, at least steer it. There’s a large gravel lot next to Popham airfield which is good for it. I doubt your insurance would cover you though. You didn’t read it here; and I disavow any knowledge of such advice. I do not recommend whatsoever to let your kids drive your car – you do so at your own risk and peril.)
Palace House and Footpath
What a stunning mansion. The cute little bridge over the “moat” is one of the nicer touches in any historical building we’ve seen in the UK. Most people may not even notice they’re walking over it. I want one.
Some guides dressed in period costume give regular tours, and are always on hand to answer queries. It was lovely to be greeted upon entering the house and told to take as many pictures as I wished! My battery ran out before my wish was completed.
Watch out for the dog sleeping on the third step. By the way, its a ghost.
In the summer of 2007, they had outdoor early 20th century games in the garden. Stuff like dominoes, “horse” racing, pin bowling, and hoop spinning/chasing.
On your way back, why not walk beside the small lake – its a lovely path, and you come across ruins of an ancient wall along the way. There’s a pet cemetery along the way; and plenty of trees that are fun for kids to climb all over (another great activity that children should be encouraged to do more of!).
If this article was helpful, then why not buy us a beer (or some juice for the kids):
LocationBeaulieu Enterprises Ltd
John Montagu Building
Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
SO42 7ZN +44 (0) 1590 612345
(detailed breakdown of contacts are on the Beaulieu website)