New Forest

A Guide to Beaulieu, the New Forest

Nestled on the riverside in the beautiful New Forest is the enchanting Beaulieu, famously known for being the home of Beaulieu Palace House (one of the Treasure Houses of England) and the National Motor Museum. A cute village filled with quintessential English charm alongside a sprawling estate, its petite size packs in a surprising amount to offer to its visitors, from car shows to open-air museums to historical landmarks. It’s even home to the oldest monorail sky train in England. Curious? 

Beaulieu Village 

Beaulieu literally translates as “beautiful place” in French and it’s little surprise as to how this picture-perfect village has earned itself such a name. Perched on the banks of the Beaulieu River near Brockenhurst and surrounded by stunning New Forest scenery, this ancient village is full of honey-coloured cottages, red-brick buildings and timber-framed houses that whisper at bygone centuries. As you wander around, it’s all but impossible not to be charmed by its traditional aesthetics that blend seamlessly with its modern boutiques. Red brick buildings framed with flowering creepers in the village of Beaulieu in the New Forest, Hampshire

Dating back to the 13th Century, the foundations of the village first came to be after the New Forest was chosen as a royal hunting ground under King John. Originally, a single hunting lodge could be found at Beaulieu – the King’s beautiful place. That said, plans were soon made by King John to build a Cistercian Abbey on the site of the lodge to atone for squabbles he had previously had with the Order. The rest of the village grew up around the former Abbey, and today much of the village still falls within Beaulieu’s 9,000-acre estate. 

A speciality tea shop in Beaulieu village in the New Forest, Hampshire - one of the cute places to eat in the village

As time has rolled on, the village has been sympathetically adapted to meet the needs of modern life. Along its streets are boutiques, world-class restaurants and fine art galleries, as well as a village shop and a chocolate studio. Oh, yes. Found on Beaulieu’s high street, the award-winning Beaulieu Chocolate Studio is a founding member of the UK Artisan Guild of Chocolatiers and also bears the New Forest Marque and Hampshire Fare badge. Producing small-scale artisan chocolate with ingredients from the local area wherever possible, this chocolatier is a must-visit. 

A street in Beaulieu in the New Forest, Hampshire, lined with red brick and historic houses

Situated in the New Forest, it is no surprise that there is an abundance of walks and trails to explore both inside and outside the village. Amble down towards the Beaulieu River and enjoy the wildlife and ancient trees on the way, before heading towards Beaulieu Estate with its beautiful millpond and extensive gardens. There’s also a great walk from Beaulieu to Bucklers Hard, an historic shipbuilding village. Or, if you fancy a different way of getting around, you can hop aboard a river cruise from Bucklers Hard harbour. 

Beaulieu Abbey and Palace House 

The village of Beaulieu was built around a Cistercian Abbey that was founded in 1204 on land gifted to monks by King John. It was given the name Bellus Locus Regis, or “the beautiful place of the king”, in a nod to the king’s offering. Apparently, King John had had a previously unsettled relationship with the Cistercian Order and wanted to settle the waters by donating the land on which to build the monastery. It certainly did the trick, as he swiftly became the subject of monks’ prayers throughout the country. 

A New Forest donkey grazing on some grass in front of a lake with Beaulieu Palace House in the background in Beaulieu in the New Forest, Hampshire

Over the next 300 years, the Abbey at Beaulieu flourished and was visited by monks from across England and France. The monks developed farming and wool industries from the abbey and grew medicinal gardens, cultivating a self-sufficient bubble from which to live, work and practice. As skilled herbalists, the monks meticulously maintained their gardens, and you can still visit them today within the estate’s grounds. You can also see the restored Victorian kitchen garden and its century-old vine house, which still provide the Palace House with seasonal vegetables, fruit and flowers.

A view of Beaulieu Palace House museum in Beaulieu in the New Forest, Hampshire - one of the area's family-friendly attractions

In the 1530s, the Abbey’s strength and success were crushed under the weight of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. In 1538, the Abbey and its estate were sold to the Earl of Southampton, the ancestor of the resident Montagu family, and the Abbey Church, Cloister and Chapter House were destroyed. Surviving the dissolution, the Refectory, Domus and two Gatehouses, as well as the gardens, were allowed to remain – and it is one of these gatehouses that you can visit today in the form of the Palace House.

A dining room with lots of period features inside Beaulieu Palace House in Beaulieu in the New Forest, Hampshire

If you visit today, you can still see the preserved remains of the Abbey Church, as well as explore the Domus and Monastic Life Exhibition, Beaulieu Church, Alice in Wonderland gardens, and of course the Palace House. One of the Treasure Houses of England, Beaulieu Palace House is part of a collection of the ten most prestigious and impressive stately homes open to the public in the country. Still boasting unique Victorian features such as its Victorian kitchen and the secret bookshelf door into Lord Montagu’s library, it makes for a superb family-family attraction. 

Beaulieu National Motor Museum

One of the most famous attractions in Hampshire and one of the biggest motoring museums in Europe, the National Motor Museum is one of the most popular features of the Beaulieu Estate. Here, nearly 300 vehicles and thousands of motoring collections are on display, providing a detailed look into the history of British motoring. From Britain’s earliest cars to world record breakers to celebrity motors to one-off wonders, the museum has one of the most extensive collections in existence. Needless to say, you’ll probably need more than one visit. 

A classic British car at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu in the New Forest, Hampshire

If you head over, you’ll certainly want to keep an eye out for the museum’s legendary F1 cars and land speed record breakers. Television and movie buffs may recognise Del Boy’s Reliant Regal from Only Fools and Horses, the Jaguar XKR from the Bond film Die Another Day, the famous flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and more. Meanwhile, Top Gear fans will also enjoy a ‘Enormodrome’ studio experience and a wide collection of vehicles that have appeared on the show, created by presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

One of the vehicles on show in the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu in the New Forest, Hampshire

As well as the cars itself, visitors also have access to a wide range of interactive experiences, exhibits and displays. Kids will particularly enjoy the Jack Tucker’s Garage which recreates the sights, sounds and even smells of a working garage from the 1930s, followed by a trip on the museum’s mile-long monorail. The oldest of its kind in England, the monorail leads visitors on a relaxed aerial tour of the attraction, passing right through the roof of the museum before heading outside and affording beautiful views of the grounds.

Tickets

With so much to do and discover at this splendid New Forest village, it is no wonder it is one of South England’s best and most popular attraction. Tickets are required to enter Beaulieu Estate’s attractions, and these can be purchased on the day or online. Tickets allow entry into all the mentioned attractions plus many more.

Feeling inspired? Have a look through our luxury cottages in The New Forest here.

Beaulieu, New Forest, Hampshire, SO42 7ZN | 01590 612345 | www.beaulieu.co.uk

A view over a lake of Beaulieu village in the New Forest, Hampshire, with period houses in the background

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