A great day out at Beaulieu
We had a great day out at The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. If you’re interested in cars then it’s the place for you, but even if, like me, you only have a passing interest in motor vehicles, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy.
One of the great things about the museum and how it is laid out is your ability to get close up and personal to all the hundreds of rare and historic cars. Despite their value – some must be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds – there’s no great walls of glass keeping you away from them, just polite signs asking you not to touch.
From vintage Bugattis to the good old British Austin Seven and from Formula One racing cars to a Volkswagen Golf (how can a car identical to one that my school friend had as a first car be in a museum – that made me feel very old!)
We went during half-term and there was a fantastic exhibition of the classic 1960s movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Not only have they got the famous car there but they also had one that drives around. They’ve got a whole exhibition of artefacts from the film.
If like me you grew up terrified of the Child Catcher, then you can relive your moment of terror by actually seeing one of the real Child Catcher’s carriages!
We also went on a vintage bus ride, which was great and reminded me of the days when there were such thing as bus conductors – I’m really showing my age here.
One of the highlights of the day was going on the monorail. Built in 1974 and notably opened by The Wombles, who I had to explain to my son, were huge back then, the monorail goes right round the estate and uniquely goes through the exhibition of cars. The doors open at one end and the monorail goes through the cars which you can see if you look over the edge looking at the cars below, before going back out the other end.
We also went to a fabulous exhibition of the Special Operations Executive. Beaulieu was a wartime training base for secret agents who were parachuted into occupied France to – in Churchill’s words – “set Europe ablaze”. What was fascinating amongst the exhibits was a glass display of some of the quirkier secret gadgets such a map hidden in a pen, a radio in a lunchbox and a hacksaw hidden in a brush.
A very popular exhibit at Beaulieu is a display of some of the cars that have been used on film and TV and it was there that I bumped into an old friend – a Reliant Regal, which, of course, was driven by the Trotters in Only Fools and Horses.
All in all, a super day out – highly recommended.