Last week I was saying goodbye to the outgoing Land Rover Discovery before it is replaced. I wanted to complete a good, long round trip as a form of valediction for a venerable car that is, even now, still one of the best all-rounders out there. As this model departs into history it seemed appropriate to visit Beaulieu National Motor Museum in Hampshire.
If there’s one thing we’re good at in Great Britain, it is attractions. Parks and gardens, stately ‘omes, heritage centres, pageantry, theme parks where you can pay ready money to soil yourself on terrifying rides; all manner of entertainments.
The trouble is, family days out are becoming ruinously expensive. Last year, five of us – four adults and a small child – paid £130 to access an attraction and that’s before all the sundries. It’s good to report then that there is at least one such venue that is, by today’s standards, good value and that’s Beaulieu.
The National Motor Museum is, as you know, the main attraction. Originated in 1952 by the late Lord Montague (who put so much of his life into it) and currently ably run by the family, it has become a lauded institution to all who love cars. Most people reading this will be well aware of this automotive oasis in the New Forest and many have probably visited. I won’t dwell on the comprehensively brilliant Motor Museum then, but instead describe the package as a whole for a grand day out.
It’s worth buying the book because, although it is a bit out of date, it is inexpensive at three quid. Usually, I baulk at paying through the nose for these things but at that price it is very informative. The staff were uniformly helpful and friendly. The Geordie lad in the ice cream kiosk (New Forest Ice Cream is lovely, BTW) by the Abbey was especially cheerful and obliging. It’s not often, after stumping up money, that I leave anywhere in a better humour than I went in. That’s how good he was.
The Beaulieu Estate is a picture at this time of year. The grounds and formal gardens are beautiful with some quiet corners to spend some time taking the weight off.
There’s a bright restaurant, adequate and clean ‘facilities’ and sundry other attractions. There’s a ‘World of Top Gear’ tent with historical, hysterical vehicles on show. That’s old Top Gear with the three elderly gents of course, not the new one with that American fellow. There’s a monorail which kids seemed to love, a play and picnic area and, it goes without saying, when you’re leaving you exit through the gift shop.
The Beaulieu National Motor Museum itself is compact and well laid out. There are cars of various nations (and motorbikes for the oily-fingered fraternity) from throughout the history of the automobile, up to and including motors I have owned myself. This brought back a host of memories, some of them even good.
Additionally there are interesting displays of general automotive memorabilia from road and track plus informed commentary. In short, there’s something for everyone at Beaulieu and it is good value too. Did I mention that?