Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
The last time I visited Beaulieu was as a child with my mum and dad so it felt strange, but good, to be going back with my own husband and child.
One of the lovely things about Beaulieu is the location as our day started with a drive through the New Forest, it wasn’t long before we were all pointing and staring out the window as we spotted horses, donkey’s and sheep. The village itself is stunning and really well kept, unfortunately we ran out of time to stop and take a walk as there was so much to keep us occupied at Beaulieu.
As we drove in there were lots of staff to direct us and plentiful parking all a short walk from the entrance. It was busy as it was half term, but the queues were managed very quickly and we only had to wait a short time. When buying your tickets you had a choice to get the free map or purchase a large glossy book of Beaulieu at £3.00 and/or a great book of the James Bond cars at £5.00.
We started our day with the motor museum which was vast and luckily all under cover as the weather was not looking too hopeful. The visit started on the upper floor with the oldest cars, each with a description of age, engine size etc… and the thing I found most fascinating, the cost when new. Most of the exhibits you were not allowed to touch although you could get really close and there was easy access around with the pushchair even though it was busy. There was one old car set aside with costumes so you could put these on, sit in the car and take photos. As soon as one of the staff members saw us taking turns having our photo taken with our son, he was straight over offering to take photos of the three of us together which was great and a good memory of the day.
The highlight of the day were definitely the Bond cars, a selection of 50 different vehicles including cars, bikes, planes and even submarines together with lots of clips from the films being played so you could see the actual cars from the museum doing various stunts. By the time we finished looking around the upper floor we were feeling hungry and as there is not any internal access to the ground floor for pushchairs we decided we should try out the restaurant. Prices were as expected, around £8 for a main meal, £5 for a jacket potato, but the food quality was much better than expected. I had a chicken salad and all the produce tasted fresh and crunchy with no reliance on packet dressings for flavour. My husband had a pork baguette and the pork had no fat and came with a choice of four homemade chutneys. The nice thing was there were no signs everywhere telling you can’t drink/eat your own food like there are in some places and so there was a mix of people with picnics and eating from the restaurant both inside and out. From the restaurant we took the outside access to the ground floor and took a ride on “wheels” an indoor ride showing different ages of the vehicle. It was a little dated but worth a ride and our son loved it. We then completed viewing the ground floor which had a mix of vehicles, a 1930’s garage, some mock shops and a few more Bond cars. All in all we spent about 3 hours in the museum.
We then went round the “World of Top Gear”, a selection of crazy vehicles from the TV show which my husband enjoyed being a great fan of Top Gear. Needing a another rest we parked our buggy up at the buggy park and took the monorail, included in the price, around the gardens and museum, which was a great way to view everything without walking. They came frequently so there were not any long queues to hang about in with bored children.
The next couple of hours were spent looking around the house, abbey & gardens.
Disappointingly there were not many rooms open in the house, but it was still interesting and the gardens beautiful. We walked back to the restaurant via the children’s play area which had a good selection with electric cars on a track, little tikes wheeled cars, swings & slides. We were going to end our day with a ride on the vintage bus but our son had fallen asleep so we had a final cup of tea before we visited the well-stocked shop and made our way home.
Plus points were the staff were excellent, all extremely helpful and friendly, the facilities and nappy changing areas very clean. Downside was all the buggy parks were uncovered and as no one wanted to leave their buggies to get wet, including me, they were getting left in entrance ways of the various buildings.
We spent an enjoyable family day at Beaulieu and although I do think there is more to entertain men than ladies, fun was had by all. Highly recommend especially as most is undercover, good for the great British weather!
For more information or to buy tickets visit www.beaulieu.co.uk