- the most popular New Forest tourist attraction
The tiny village of Beaulieu is situated in the south-eastern corner of the New Forest National Park, on the bank of the Beaulieu River, a little under 4 miles inland from where the river meets the Solent.
The village sits on the southern side of the river and is host to a selection of small shops and boutiques and a pub and hotel. What the village lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm and is the most visited village in the whole of the National Park.
The main reason for its popularity can be found on the northern side of the river - the hub of the Beaulieu Estate comprising the world renowned National Motor Museum, Palace House and the abbey.
All located within the same grounds, and covered by a single admission ticket, this is the region's biggest attraction and is a huge draw to the area.
The National Motor Museum
Lord Montagu, an avid motor enthusiast, opened the Montagu Motor Museum in 1952 inside the grounds of Palace House, and the establishment has grown to become one of the world's most respected collection of motor vehicles.
Over 250 different vehicles can be seen at close quarters inside the modern and distinctively shaped museum building. These range from some of the earliest motor cars ever made to world speed record breaking machines such as the famous Bluebird, driven by Malcolm and Donald Campbell.
The collection is also home to modern racing cars such as Schumacher's 1994 World Championship Benetton and Damon Hill's 1996 World Championship Williams, as well as most of the James Bond cars and other vehicles made famous by TV.
Visitors can view the National Motor Museums latest exhibition; 'Feats of Endurance' featuring vehicles that have stretched the boundaries of motoring endurance both in extreme conditions and on challenging terrain. Vehicles include a Trans Australia Solar Powered Endurance car, The Land Rover Defender; winner of the 1989 Camel Trophy and 1978 'twice round the world' Austin Mini Clubman.
In World of Top Gear see actual vehicles created by presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May for some of their most ambitious challenges on the TV show over the years, including the Middle East cars from the 2010 Christmas Special.
The National Motor Museum also plays host to an annual auto jumble, indeed one of the best known and most popular auto jumbles in the world. Tradespeople and visitors alike come from all corners of the globe to this major motoring event, and practically anything automobile related can be purchased here, from a spark plug to a classic car in one of the auctions held during the event.
Palace House is the current home of Lord and Lady Montagu and has been home to generations of the Montagu family since the mid-16th century (1538). The house itself started life 200 years earlier as the Gatehouse to Beaulieu Abbey - extensions and modifications over time have transformed the former Gatehouse into one of the country's most recognised Gothic country house examples.
Despite this still being a family home, the public are welcome to enter many areas of the building to view a vast collection of personal memorabilia, including portraits and photographs, of family life for the Montagus.
The Abbey is the third building (or ruins of) included in the admission price.
It dates back to the 13th century (1204) and was founded by Cistercian monks - some of whom's spirits are said to still wander the grounds! Indeed, Beaulieu is recognised as one of Britain's most haunted places with recorded sightings dating back over a hundred years. Even today, visitors to the attraction have seen and heard some of the famous ghostly goings on, including sightings of 'The Grey Lady' in Palace House.
The Abbey today lies in ruins, having been largely destroyed during Henry VIII's reign and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Much of the original building is gone completely, but the Domus and Cloisters can still be visited along with other smaller parts.
An impressive series of embroidered wall hangings, created by Lady Montagu, can be seen in the Domus. The hangings depict life in the Abbey since 1204.
To go or not to go?
Without doubt, Beaulieu is the area's major attraction. It requires a full day to be enjoyed properly, and is highly recommended as a place to go if you have any interest whatsoever in motor vehicles, history or architecture.
While not the cheapest of days out in the New Forest National Park, the single admission ticket does represent very good value for the amount to see and do. If you do go, you won't leave disappointed!
Beaulieu Visitor Information
- 10.00am - 5.00 pm - 1st October to 1st June
- 10.00am - 6.00 pm - 2nd June to 30th September
- Closed Christmas Day
- Adult £20.00
- Child 5 - 12 yrs £9.95
- Youth 13 - 17 yrs £12.00
- Family £52.50
- Senior Citizens £18.50
Location: Towards the south-eastern corner of the New Forest, around 15 minutes drive from Lyndhurst centre.
Telephone: 01590 612345
Beaulieu location map
GPS / SatNav information:
Lat/long: 50.825,-1.459. OS grid ref: SU382029