Travel Trends: New Forest - Beaulieu

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By Tim Saunders

If you love vehicles you’ll love Beaulieu. I’m very much at home here.

The Hampshire estate, home to the National Motor Museum, is the place to go to learn about motoring and how it all started. It’s packed with nostalgia. The Grenville Steam Carriage is believed to be the oldest self-propelled passenger carrying road vehicle still in working order. Screens above some exhibits show original black and white footage of such vehicles in action. Little Henry (2) adores cars but it all proves a little too much. A quick whistle stop tour of the first floor is called for and we revisit later on to see the racing cars and other vehicles ranging from a Jenson Interceptor to a convertible Rolls Royce. There are motorbikes and it’s fascinating to see that early motorcycles, even Harley-Davidsons, don’t look much different to standard bicycles.

We make for the lift because we’ve brought our pushchair along should Henry want a rest... On the ground floor we find Jack Tucker’s Garage from the 1930s and J Sainsbury as well as a milk float of the day. We climb aboard a bus and sit and watch a programme about this form of transport. As is the way with little children this entertains for a few minutes and then we’re on our way. Henry now decides to push the pushchair himself. Outside the children are instantly drawn to the Mustang Art area where they decorate a white Ford Mustang with washable pens. Let’s hope they don’t try this on our cars when they return home!

We go for a ride in an old bus and sit on the top deck. Henry then spots the monorail. He loves being so high up and looking down below.

Despite arriving at 10am, when Beaulieu opens, it is fast approaching lunchtime. We head for Brabazon café and restaurant (run by Leith’s). It’s named after Lord Brabazon of Tara, first patron of the Montagu Motor Museum. We’re all starving and so Harriett (7) and Heidi (5) decide on fish and chips while Henry goes for his favourite of sausage and chips (even though it isn’t on the menu). After carrot and coriander soup for starters Caroline has a margherita pizza while I choose fish and chips with mushy peas. The quality of the food is incredibly high and we thoroughly enjoy our meals. My fish and chips rank among the best I’ve eaten. We enjoy an unhurried experience.

It’s now Henry’s tired time and he should have a sleep but he’s not going to so we have to handle him carefully. Caroline is better than I at this arduous task. Our terrible two insists on pushing the pushchair and woe betide anybody who tries to tell him otherwise. We head for the play area in between the museum and Palace House. This all goes well especially when Henry spies the electric cars. Our three queue up and really enjoy driving the little Volvo cars around the circuit. Henry’s legs are not quite long enough to push the accelerator down so daddy gets more exercise keeping it pushed down and running alongside. It’s such fun we have another go. We return to the park. When the children are told that we need to walk to Palace House and Gardens, Henry screams with gusto. When calm has been restored we explore the vegetable gardens. The children are by now pretty exhausted but I am able to slope off to the World of Top Gear and enjoy a 10 minute snippet of the BBC programme.

A great day out for the whole family. If visitors don’t see everything by 6pm they can return for free within six days.

For more information visit www.beaulieu.co.uk

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