01 September 2015
Alex and I had a lazy day today, but spent the afternoon back at Beaulieu where we saw the rest of the estate. We had a lovely dinner at The Rose & Thistle which involved a terrifying drive home in the dark!
This morning we had breakfast at the hotel which was very nice. I had some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs while Alex opted for some bacon sandwiches. Very attentive staff once again, and also a great range of pastries, cereals and some fruit salad options too! Coffee is not the Nespresso capsules for breakfast, but was served in a french press instead; a positive or negative depending on your view of Nespresso!
Despite the rain we ventured back to Beaulieu as subsequent days were included in the ticket, and we didn’t see anything other than the motor museum yesterday. The Beaulieu website strap line is ‘Much More than a Motor Museum’ and this is certainly the case. The site contains an old abbey, parish church, a museum about WWII and a lovely home, still the main residence of the Montagu family who own the estate but open to visitors.
The home is beautiful and well worth a visit. The owner of the estate, Lord Montagu, sadly died this morning at the age of 88. The staff did not plan to open, but the family insisted on it as the visitor attractions were something Lord Montagu cared deeply about. The home had a small memorial at the entrance, but as many of the signs notices were written from Lord Montagu’s perspective there was a rather somber feeling today.
After the house we took a ride on the monorail, which is a little primitive by monorail standards but still an impressive addition to the site, offering elevated views of the gardens and grounds.
We were lucky to catch the start of a tour of the Abbey which was led by a staff member dressed as a monk. The tour was included in admission and was both interesting and humorous; well worth the time if you get the chance to go!
Top Gear have an area specially set up for Beaulieu, with a video presentation on a Top Gear soundstage mockup and an exhibition of crazy Top Gear challenge cars! It was great fun to see all of these wacky machines so this is a must visit for any Top Gear fan.
We did stop for lunch at Beaulieu and cannot fully recommend it. Organisation was fairly poor with something between 1 and 3 queues (I’m still not entirely sure) and lots of confusion and frustration when queues weren’t moving. We only opted for sandwiches and while my tuna sandwich was quite tasty, Alex’s salami panini was soggy and horrible. The date sticker implied they’d been made the day before which is a terrible idea for a sandwich with fresh tomato in it – sogginess is guaranteed! Other hot foods looked OK though, so buyer beware; you may be better to take a packed lunch if at all possible.
We spent some time relaxing in the afternoon before deciding to visit the Rose and Thistle pub for dinner. This is a gorgeous, 16th century thatched roofed pub. Internally it feels so traditional and cosy, but the food is excellent and the service really friendly. New Forest hospitality is really setting a high standard so far! I had a lovely steak and kidney suet pudding, while Alex opted for pork. The cheese soufflé I had to start was also tasty, as was the dessert. Another highly recommended eatery, albeit a bit out of the way for us!
The problem with the New Forest is that route planning is quite tricky. Google Maps, Apple Maps, and our car’s Sat-Nav all gave wildly different time estimates (from about 28 minutes to almost an hour). The fact that traffic can slow significantly with animals on the road makes the estimates a bit tricky! All worth it though for the wonderful scenery you get to drive though…
… except on the way home! Driving back in the dark was terrifying and you don’t even get the scenery to enjoy! I’ve never driven so slowly in my life. Passing other cars is blinding, and you really must slow to a crawl because you know animals are lurking in the shadows at the side of the road. You have to be on high alert the whole time. Signs warn of animals on the road and apparently 49 have been killed this year so far. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the vast majority of these were at night.
Back at the hotel I had a whisky to relax and now it’s bed time! We board Anthem of the Seas tomorrow, and I can’t wait!