Images taken at Beaulieu. June 2014.
Beaulieu is best known for it’s National Motor Museum, but there was so much more to see than cars…
We picked up some free quiz trails at the entrance and were really impressed with the three different trails for different age groups. Our little boy enjoyed the ‘I spy’ style guide, finding the objects to match the pictures as we walked around the grounds. We started our day with the Millpond Walk, a scenic route leading to the Palace House – looking back at the photos it’s difficult to believe there was a Reliant Robin Space Shuttle sitting just metres away!
I’m not really into cars to be honest (I don’t even drive), so I was surprised how interested I was in seeing all the different vehicles, especially in the Top Gear exhibition. It was interesting to see things out of the ordinary and we all loved the double decker racing cars! The children enjoyed racing the miniature cars outside which were models of some of the Top Gear creations. In the main museum, James May’s Meccano bike was just amazing and the kids found the ‘orange’ car hilarious, especially the fact that it could topple over if it went too fast! They also enjoyed seeing Mr Bean’s car in the On Screen exhibition, along with the flying car from Harry Potter, Del Boy’s van and Zao’s Jaguar from Die Another Day.
There were many interactive features inside the museum which was great for keeping the kids entertained. A large touch screen table meant they could click on images and turn pages through virtual magazines to find information. Usually touch screen devices are upright like notice boards, but this was just at the right level for children to be able to use themselves. We also stumbled across ‘Wheels’ on our way out, which turned out to be a ride where you sit in pods (not really knowing what it was, it felt a bit like we were entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory ride!) and the pods spin to each side, showing you various displays with commentary on the history of cars.
Inside the Palace House we were taken back to the Victorian times, with everything styled as it would have been back then. Staff in period costume were present, ready to answer any questions. There was plenty to explore, from the dining room to the kitchen, even a secret staircase.
The Abbey grounds were beautiful, even though much of the Abbey itself was destroyed and in ruins.
It’s nice to see a place like this which is so dog-friendly, with bowls of water outside the entrances of buildings. Presumably this has something to do with the Montagu family’s love of dogs – many of their pet dogs (some from over 100 years ago) are buried in the pet cemetary under the very interesting ‘monkey puzzle tree’. It was also nice to see signs telling you how to avoid stairs, making it as accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs as a place like this can be.
Other activities we enjoyed were the monorail and the vintage bus ride. Both of these were included in the ticket price and it was nice to see there were no hidden charges. The steps to the top deck of the bus were very steep for small children, but that is the design of the times. The views from the monorail and the top of the bus were beautiful (well the name Beaulieu does mean ‘beautiful place’ after all). We were also lucky to enjoy the free Dodgem rides (although I think they were only there for the Hot Rod Festival that weekend). Somehow, we managed to completely miss the mini motorised vehicles and play trail, but we’ll definitely be visiting again so we’ll look for that next time.