Beaulieu from the Norman French meaning beautiful place, and boy does it live up to its name, apart from the traffic.
Parked cars ruin the view of the main street, and the traffic grinding through the village does nothing to enhance the scene.
The old Tide Mills, pictured left, are being restored, but Beaulieu is most famous for the Motor Museum.
Beaulieu Motor Museum, Palace and Abbey
Like many Stately Homes the touristy bits are away from the main house, and can avoided, if not ignored, if you so wish.
Check the Beaulieu Motor Museum, Palace and Abbey's website for opening times etc.
National Motor Museum
However in the case of the Motor Museum this would be a mistake. Even if you have no great interest in cars, the reconstructed street scenes, particularly the 1930s smithy-cum-garage, are interesting, as are some of the other displays.
Among the cars, Donald Campbell's Bluebird (in which he set a new World Land Speed Record of 403.10 mph (648.783 kph) on 17 July 1964), the Mini Outspan Orange, Uri Geller’s Cadillac* covered in bent spoons, and that other record-breaker the Golden Arrow (which Henry Segrave drove to a new record of 231.362mph (372.341kph) at Daytona Beach Florida on 11th March 1929) stand out in my memory.
Outside, the Monorail is not to be missed. Built in the sixties as the transport of the future, it now feels surprisingly dated, like some ancient tramway. I only hope that if ever Lord Montagu decides to get rid of it, some preservation society will spring up and find it a good home.
The Monorail and a vintage bus both run between the museum and the house (the former actually through the museum) although it is not too far to walk.
* No longer at Beaulieu.
The House, palace really does seem to be too grand a word, was formerly the 14th century Great Gatehouse of Beaulieu Abbey, and came into Lord Montagu's family ownership in 1538, when Sir Thomas Wriothesley, later 1st Earl of Southampton, bought the estate, along with nearby Titchfield Abbey, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The house was extended in the 1870s is now a mixture of Victorian gothic, medieval gothic, and 18th century fortification styles.
Outside Palace House looks over the Beaulieu River to the village and is surrounded by lawns and gardens.
Inside there are actors pretending to be servants (or possibly servants pretending to be actors) and, back in 2003, there was always a chance of a glimpse of the old Lord Montagu exercising his dog in the private gardens.
The Cistercian monks founded Beaulieu Abbey in 1204 on land given to them by King John who was allegedly motivated by a nightmare to make reparation for his oppression of the Cistercian community. At the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries much of the abbey was destroyed but there is still a lot to see:
Formerly the living quarters of the Lay Brothers, it now houses a worthy exhibition on the life of the Cistercian Monks.
The Choir Monks Refectory
Was once the monks eating place and has been Beaulieu's Parish Church of since the middle of the 16th century. Unusually, because it was not built as a church, the altar is in the south end.
The Abbey Church
Only the foundations remain of what was once one of the largest Cistercian churches in England, as most of the Abbey Church was demolished in 1538 on the orders of Henry VIII. However, you can still pick out most of the Abbey Church's features, and try to imagine its original scale.