The National Motor Museum in the village of Beaulieu sits in the beautiful surroundings of The New Forest National Park, Hampshire, England. It is home to over 250 vehicles dating back from the early days of motoring through to the high tech supercars of today.
Luckily our visit also coincided with the Simply Aston event, a meet up of the Aston Martin owners club. As an Aston Martin is on our fantasy shopping list, we were looking forward to browsing some future purchases. It would be nice to drive away in a Vanquish S at the end of the day.
Our first stop was the arena where the Aston Martins were gathering, despite the rain these iconic luxury British sports cars were drawing the crowds. One of the most popular cars was the Vanquish S Red Arrows, one of only 10 cars created as a tribute to the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. The lucky owner of this car had recently won it in the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund raffle.
As well as Simply Aston, Beaulieu also hosts other events throughout the year including Simply Porshe, Simply Jaguar, Supercar weekend and many more.
After drooling over the Astons and realising that no careless owners had left the keys in their car we headed over to the main attraction, the National Motor Museum building.
The National Motor Museum
The main museum takes you from the worlds earliest cars including steam carriages to the luxury of the latest Rolls Royce Phantom. We were surprised how many immaculate cars and motorbikes there were, definitely something for everyone. Whether it’s simply the car you remember your dad driving when you were a kid, the insane 1980’s group B rally cars or even Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The highlights for us were Ayrton Senna Toleman, the car he drove in the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix and the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.
We also really enjoyed the ‘For Britain & For The Hell Of It‘ display. This featured some of the iconic land speed record cars including Malcolm Campbell’s 350HP V12 Sunbeam and his son, Donald Campbell’s Bluebird CN7.
The World Of Top Gear
For a bit of fun and nonsense head over to the World of Top Gear where you can see some of the team’s strange and bizarre creations including the Snowbine Harvester, the Fiat Panda limousine and the Robin Reliant Space Shuttle. They also have the famous Toyota Hilux pickup which they repeatedly tried to kill!
The Beaulieu Monorail
For the kids, small and big alike, take the monorail which actually runs through the motor museum in part. This takes you from near the main entrance to the gardens. Judging by the screaming the kids onboard really liked it but just be warned, if you are six foot or over it can be a bit of a squeeze to get on.
If you don’t want to ride the monorail then try the 1912 open-topped London bus instead. Don’t worry, you won’t need your Oyster card.
The Secret Army Exhibition
In Beaulieu gardens, you can find the Secret Army Exhibition which tells the story of the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE). During WWII and in total secrecy, Beaulieu was home to the Special Operations ‘Finishing’ School. Agents were trained here before being sent to Europe to work with the various Resistance groups.
Due to the rain, we couldn’t really spend more time exploring the gardens so we headed to the warm and dry of Beaulieu Palace House, yes they did have the fires lit. Palace House has been the home of the Montagu family since 1538.
Victorian costumed guides helped show you around the house as they described their daily routine in the house during the Victorian era. The staff also included a Victorian cook working in the kitchen, unfortunately, we weren’t invited to stay for dinner with the gentry.
We really enjoyed our day at Beaulieu National Motor Museum, we were surprised how much there was to do and it’s not just for petrolheads. You can definitely spend a full day there, especially if it’s dry!
For more information, directions, upcomimg events and prices check out the Beaulieu website.