New Forest Beaulieu Review
Discover why it's one of the UK's leading Tourist Attractions

Welcome to my New Forest Beaulieu Review

We recently visited Beaulieu, home of the National Motor Museum and lots more. I'd highly recommend you plan a family day out here if you are visiting the New Forest. It's excellent value for money and was voted Visit England Gold Star in 2014 and best large visitor attraction for 2013. I can only agree!

If you're an Elvis fan you can now visit Beaulieu and see the two tone Cadillac owned by Elvis. This was the last car Elvis bought and he drove it the day before his death. It has the CB radio which Elvis would have used when approaching his house. Well worth a visit for any Elvis fan as well as a great day out for the family too. I loved seeing Lady Montagu in her rhinestone Elvis suit share her enthusiasm for this wonderful piece of history and all things Elvis on our local news. Her favourite Elvis song is "In the Ghetto" which I have to say is one of mine too.

I also think it's ironic and rather fitting that the middle name of Priscilla Presley was Beaulieu. To me it all fits in nicely but maybe I'm just a bit too sentimental for my own good!

There are many events for you to discover and enjoy throughout the year. Currently (Summer 2014) when we visited  For Britain and for the Hell of it is the latest event and exhibition I think you'll really enjoy.

Look at this stunning Proteous Bluebird CN7 which was the first car to officially set a Land Speed Record in excess of 400 mph still driven with wheels!

This is the story of British land speed records and our quest to be the fastest on earth - think this will appeal to Dad?

A great favourite with visitors is World of Top Gear. (I enjoyed it as you will see from my review. The Top Gear "boys" haven't changed and are still as daft, but equally entertaining. My favourite was the Dampervan which sank once it got onto water!).

Here's what Beaulieu has to offer - remember it's all in one ticket price so excellent value for all the family.

  • World of Top Gear.
  • The National Motor Museum.
  • The Land Speed Records Story exhibition
  • The On Screen Cars Exhibition - original cars and memorabilia.
  • The Palace House - history is alive as you are met by a Housemaid from 1899! and see a beautifully laid out childrens tea party.
  • The Secret Army Exhibition - the New Forest actually trained secret agents here during WW2.
  • The 13th century Beaulieu Abbey.
  • Beautiful gardens.
  • Travel around on the Monorail or a vintage open top bus and work out where you want to go next?
  • When you're tired and need a rest head for the Mini Cars and Play Trail area so the kids can enjoy a spin around the track and you get your picnic sorted out.

My biggest tip is..... allow plenty of time because there is so much to see and do!

The World of Top Gear

New Forest Beaulieu Top Gears Stretch Limo Fiat Panda

Look at this monstrosity! But what fun? The World of Top Gear Fiat Panda Stretch Limo - enter at your peril for a night out in this!

I expected to find this exhibition a bit tiring. Each night, in our cottage, I hear my husband watching Jeremy Clarkson and his team as they take on another daft challenge!

But, I was surprised - I actually enjoyed it. In the "Enormodrome" the Top Gear studio is recreated on large screens with clips to tie in with the original cars on display. We saw the Suzuki Swift Ice Hockey car, a Ski Jumping Mini, and a Toyota Hilux which they had put on a tower block which was then demolished - it was indestructible!

New Forest Beaulieu Top Gears Richard Hammond

We saw all this on a short video and apart from still wanting to slap the Top Gear teams legs - they were often so inane - I really did enjoy it.

We saw the Celebrity "Lap Time" boards - well done Jennifer Saunders you were up there with the men! Also the Cool Wall had a few surprise entries in the Very Uncool section.

This really is a top UK tourist attraction - even I was converted to the Top Gear Teams antics - I had to remember I was in the lovely New Forest at Beaulieu and not at the BBC!

The Challenge Gallery was bit of a hoot too.

Here there are a selection of cars etc (or what is left of them) used in the programme for daft challenges. The Dampervan was a boat; the Nissank a tank, and a stretch limo Fiat Panda that went on for ever - cornering would be a real challenge! As you can see in the photo above.

Apparently in one programme they had gone round a track with one car on top of the other - a double decker challenge.

I think my favourite was the little cottage car - leaded light windows, upholstered furniture and a little wood burner - all totally daft, but very entertaining. Perhaps I was starting to remember the New Forest and Beaulieu was just outside the door?

The On Screen Cars Experience

Here is your chance to see the actual vintage car which starred in the Mr Bean films. To bring even more international flare to this exhibition Del Boys yellow Reliant Regal from Trotters International (and Peckham) Trading Company is also on display.

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu

The National Motor Museum is one of Beaulieu's most famous attractions in the New Forest. No wonder it is a top UK tourist attraction. There are more than 250 vehicles on show here. Make sure you allow plenty of time on your visit to take in all the wonderful aspects of this stunning vehicle collection.

New Forest Motor Museum RT London Bus

Here are just some of what is on offer:

  • The Land Speed Records Story exhibition
  • The Motor Sport Gallery - F-1's, rally cars and historic racing cars beautifully displayed.
  • World Land Speed Record Breakers - including Donald Campbell's Bluebird.
  • We loved the wooden caravan complete with wind up gramophone - all mods cons but very heavy to transport around we thought!
  • Jack Tucker's Garage recreates a 1930's country garage.
  • The Wheels space age pod journey takes you through travel over a 100yrs of motoring - look out for the amazing headgear used in the open front cars of the 1920's - they're really funny!Look at these wonderful vintage examples of vehicles you will see on your visit.
  • The London Transport RT bus brought back childhood memories for my husband, and when I sat inside it I realised I remembered so much of it - even down to the wooden floor!

New Forest Motor Museum 1933 Mobile Sho

This 1933 Morris Commercial was a mobile shop. It was fascinating to see how well it was stocked and just how much it could supply to its customers on its rounds.

This is a good example of the beauty of Beaulieu. Each area you visit is presented in a user friendly and really interesting way.

You wont be able avoid peering into so many of the wonderful vehicles on offer and recapture the feel of the decade they were on the road!

Is there anything in particular you want to search for?

The Palace House and Gardens at Beaulieu.

We were met in the Entrance Hall by Sarah Herbert, a Housemaid from 1899.

Sarah welcomed us into the beautiful Palace House and started to describe just some of the wonderful rooms we would be able to enjoy and experience on our visit to this magnificent, but friendly home.

The Palace House has a wonderful, warm atmosphere which is often missing in many large houses you visit. It felt very much a living home which the Montagu family were sharing with their guests.

"Sarah" told us what her life was like and asked us to look out for the menu on the wall of the kitchen which described what was on offer both above and below stairs on this date in 1899.

Apparently on this day in 1899 the servants had neck of mutton, roast beef, curry and apple pudding! What a feast - but then they had probably been up since 5a.m. or 6a.m. with still a quite hard day ahead of them.

We moved through the house visiting various rooms and then saw the stunning Dining Hall.

The dining table is made from a single elm tree and is 16 feet long and 3 inches thick. It seats 16 with chairs made from elm and yew wood.

Beside the massive fireplace in this room the heights of many of the Montagu children have been pencilled on the walls.

I thought this was a lovely personal touch the family were sharing with its visitors. It made you realsie you were guests in a family home, however grand your surroundings.

The Gothic stone vaulting, with ribs radiating from a series of half columns in this splendid hall, is probably based on the original monastic design.

But, it may be part of the Victorian restoration work. It is a stunning ceiling by anyones standards.

An atrium leads off the hall and looks an ideal spot for a quiet read on a hot summers day.

Like many houses with many centuries of family history The Palace House has a secret staircase.

Lord Montagu remembers it from his childhood as a great place to hide, although it was always a bit spooky.

Just imagine being a young child playing in this house and having a secret staircase to play on.

great fun and very rewarding during bright, daylight hours but I wonder how many nightmares happened in this house when everyone was tucked up in bed?

How many ghosts were seen or imagined seen?

I'm sure there are memories to pass down the generations from this hidden treasure.

The Palace House Kitchens

I love visiting the kitchens in historic houses and the Beaulieu kitchen offers a great insight into the inner runnings of the house from past times.

New Forest game would have been on offer, with the Gamekeeper providing lots of local food for the table each day. Everything is on a large scale to cater for the guests above stairs, but also to feed the huge number of staff working below.

There was a definite hierarchy of status and responsibilities. Everything had to run smoothly both inside the house and also on many events which were held outside on the Estate.

Hot food and welcoming drinks, in full set up, would have had to be transported around the grounds. A nightmare for the cook to keep food hot I'd think?

Half of the kitchen area is now a well stocked shop. The gifts I saw here were good quality and reasonably priced and quite individual.

I hadn't seen most items in other houses I have visited which is refreshing.

The Secret Army Exhibition

At Beaulieu you can discover how our own wartime Special Agents (the S.O.E.) trained at Beaulieu and what ingenius tools they used to combat the real enemy at war. They were extremely brave and often only survived around 3 months in enemy territory.

This is the story of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) which trained secret agents during WW2 on the Beaulieu Estate, ready to be returned to occupied Europe, to work along with Resistance groups.

I found this totally fascinating and it added lots of invaluable information to my WW2 Special Agents and Spies page.

The photo above shows hair brushes with hidden compartments and match boxes hiding compasses and maps etc. Just a few ingenious tools the newly trained agents would have had on offer.

A pack of pencils actually held fuses for explosives! They were colour coded which meant differing time delays for going off.

Messages were written on different types of paper:

  • Rice paper - could be eaten once read.
  • Flash paper - ignited easily and left no ash.
  • Jute fibre - looked like string but could unroll and the message would be read, then rolled up again or something tied up with it

This really is a wonderful exhibit where you discover just how clever the Allied effort in the New Forest was, to win WW2.

When I say a visit to Beaulieu is for all the family this sort of exhibition really shows why. It will be fascinating to younger visitors. Here were real WW2 Special Agents - who sometimes didn't return home, but who had tried their best with totally unique tools.

Beaulieu Abbey and the Gardens of Palace House

We took the Monorail, passing through the roof of the National Motor Museum and on towards the 13th century Beaulieu Abbey. This photo was taken as we came into the station.

You can see the remains of what was a huge Abbey built for Cistercian monks. A film presentation and an exhibition of the daily lives of these monks is fascinating.

You can also learn how this idyll ended when King Henry V111 caused total destruction to this way of life, following his Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The Abbey's Domus is a stunning building and has a wonderful display of Wall Hangings which depict the history of the Abbey. As you can see these are stunning works of art done in fine detail. They are very difficult to photograph as they must be protected from the light and atmosphere to prevent damage but despite that I think you'll agree, when you visit, that they are delightful.

Within the walls of the Abbey buildings you will see this plaque. It was erected in 1969 to respect and remember, all those agents who did, or did not, come back from WW2.
It remembers their valiant effort to win World War Two, on behalf of the Allied Forces.

New Forest Beaulieu Special Operations Executive Plaque

I do hope you visit Beaulieu in the beautiful New Forest, and enjoy all it has to offer over the coming months, and hope that my New Forest Beaulieu Review has been interesting and informative.

I realised after my visit that it is a very special place within the New Forest. No wonder it is a top UK tourist attraction! It welcomes you with warmth and ensures you explore and enjoy so many different experiences on your very special family day out. Beaulieu really does offer excellent value for money too.

Check out the Beaulieu website

I hope you have as good a day out at Beaulieu in the beautiful New Forest as we did! It really is a top UK tourist attraction and great value for money! Enjoy!

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