My first visit to Beaulieu was many years ago, aged five, so it was a pleasure to re-visit with Jon, our children and my parents-in-law who had visited earlier in the year so were enjoying the complimentary return visit open to all visitors who Gift Aid their admission price.
"Brilliant day," chirped Toby who loved the whole trip. Toby is in Year 2 and his current topic is Transport so he could barely contain his delight at the vast display of cars housed in the National Motor Museum.
Pippa is nearly four and took her delight from the novelty and "famous" vehicles: a Cadbury's cream egg shaped car, an Outspan orange and her favourite, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
"I just want to stay on here all day," was Pippa's comment as we took our second ride on the mono-rail. The mono rail is a fabulous way of admiring the vast Beaulieu site and taking in the house, gardens, Abbey, vegetable patch, play area, museum and Top Gear display.
The mono-rail was included in the ticket price so we could indulge her love of the ride. Both children got equal pleasure from the "wheels" tour that takes you through an exhibition inside a rotating "pod" and could ride as many times as they wanted.
The area that first drew Toby was the World of Top Gear which featured many of the actual cars Clarkson and Co created for their TV stunts while clips of their escapades ran alongside the vehicles. This exhibit was clearly very popular with many visitors but did look quite tired around the edges.
Meanwhile the men were itching to get to the James Bond Exhibition which is a very slick and well designed temporary exhibition featuring 50 vehicles from the films alongside exciting projections of film clips and models. Toby has yet to see a Bond film but is now very keen to watch one.
We spent the entire day at Beaulieu and thanks to its unique site which includes entry to Palace House, the Montague family home since 1538, Beaulieu Abbey ruins and beautiful grounds including a nice play area - there was more than enough to keep every one happy.
We took a picnic and went to the café for a warm drink and car-shaped shortbread biscuit. On the day we visited the main car park was full yet despite the number of visitors there was a nice sense of space and easy access to all the exhibits.
A really fun family day out which has a much wider appeal than any obvious dads and lads petrol-related associations! And lastly do check the website for the wide range of extra events taking place at Beaulieu which would be the icing on the cake.
PWT rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Hampshire SO42 7ZN is open from 10am to 5pm every day.
Entrance is £19 adults, £17.50 seniors, £11.25 (13 to 17 years), £9.50 (5 to 12 years); family £49.75, under 5s free.
For more information telephone 01590 612345 or visit www.beaulieu.co.uk