We've been meaning to go to Beaulieu for a couple of years, have even set out but then turned back when the rain started. But today we were determined and are so glad we finally made it.
We arrived at just past 10am, hoping to beat the rush at the start of the day. It was indeed a cunning plan and we were parked, paid, round the James Bond exhibit
and on the bus trip round the site by 1030. Perfect.
From the bus we had a good idea how the site is laid out and where we'd like to go when. Rachel wanted to go on the monorail so we did that first,
getting off at the palace stop to visit the abbey and the palace.
I was really impressed by the Abbey, just the right amount of information about the lives of the monks in centuries gone by and lots of the building and ruins to explore. The cloister felt especially peaceful and gets a separate blog post at LLM Calling.
I was explaining to Rachel about how the abbey was most likely destroyed by Henry VIII as part of the separation from Rome.
Her classic "why can't all the churches be ok with each other?" made me smile. If only! And then we saw that the previous refectory is now the parish church (CofE) - seems unity is alive and well in Beaulieu.
From the Abbey we walked to the Palace.
I was expecting Rachel to be mightily underwhelmed by old paintings, furniture and exhibits; but she was the opposite. She much preferred the palace than the abbey ruins, seemed fascinated by the age of the paintings and by the decoration of the rooms.
She was in fact disappointed that no bedrooms were available to see. (i think our National Trust membership will be useful now.)
On the way out she was mesmerised by this sculpture.
I prefer this one called "think".
We took the monorail back to the main area and had a sandwich lunch in the restaurant. Not too expensive, lots of tables, free water available.
Fed and watered we headed to the main attraction; the motor museum. And it was fabulous. Old cars, sports cars, speed cars, family cars, motorbikes, buses, vans, campers and motor sports including the fabulous F1 cars.
Cars from films, life, adventurers, challenges and races. And something we didn't know there'd be; a pod trip called "Wheels" exploring cars through time.
But I have to say we enjoyed the next bit best of all, the part we all equally enjoyed. Top Gear. Funny, clever, interesting, brilliant.
Beaulieu is so much more than I imagined and we will definitely be back for our second free trip within 12 months (just fill in the gift aid forms). I recommend it highly, not the cheapest day out by any extent, but worth every penny.
I have been told by Rachel not to forget her win on the kids car race, she was uber pleased to have beaten two very competitive 6 year old boys hands down!
That's my racing driver.
Celebrate a win in style.