Beaulieu has a nice carmuseum for James Bondcars and cars with global speedrecords like the bluebird and so plus many vintagecars of last century. It is a nice castle and park also. Maybe 2-3 hours from London, it is close to Southhampton.
For one of the Christmas specials, the Top Gear team is given the challenge of covering 1,000 miles from the south of Vietnam to the North - in 10 days. And they are given millions of local currency to buy themselves some wheels. The problem is... The millions turn out to be only USD 1,500 per person - nowhere near enough to buy any car.
There was only one way to resolve the problem - buy second-hand motorcycles and try to complete the challenge using them (and, should one of them fail, a 'Made in the USA' bike which was really inappropriate given historical context - and, thus, offered a great incentive to keep the old bikes working). The Top Gear show features the 3 bikes - Jeremy Clarkson's scooter, Richard Hammond's Minsk, and James May's Honda.
Clarkson, Hammond and May - the modern-day 'three wise men' - have to follow in the footsteps of the original Three Wise Men, getting from by northern Iraq to a stable in Bethlehem, using second-hand two-seater convertibles bought for 3,500 pounds - supposedly carrying the gifts for baby Jesus (including a Nintendo console).
They drive through the Kurdish part of Iraq (after they were not allowed into Iran), through Turkey, Syria, Jordan and finally into Israel - all that to find... a baby Stig in a manger.
The three cars from the special, still with their original features (the tent, 'the paint of many colours, the bullet hole from the failed sand shot-blocking system): Clarkson's Mazda MX-5, Hammond's Fiat Barchetta and May's BMW Z3.
This is the car used on the show in an attempt by Clarkson and May to be the first to drive a motor vehicle to the 1996 location of the Magnetic North Pole, racing Hammond going to the Pole on a dog sledge.
Starting from Resolute, in Canada, the car crew won - although not but such a huge margin as one might imagine - getting through ice boulder fields, cracking ice, meeting polar bears, and just having some fun (and possibly showing a little less political correctness than usual!) along the way
The car is heavily modified, having been fitted - among other things - with an extra fuel tank (very useful), huge lamps (pointless - as it was light throughout) and a gun. With an outside toilet seat having been fitted along the way
Clarkson gets the challenge envelope and flinches
May: Is it bad?
Clarkson: Yes. No, REALLY bad. You will now drive to Dover.
Clarkson: And then you will cross the Channel to France
The actual cars used by the presenters to try and cross the Channel - which were actually upgrades to a similar challenge, but on a lake. Clarkson created an amphibious Nissan pickup (the "Nissank"); Hammond used a new Volkswagen Transporter; May upgraded and used the same Triumph Herald he had used in the original challenge.
The outcome? Clarkson made it, with Hammond and May as passengers.
Buckler's Hard is about two miles outside Beaulieu, and I really recommend a visit. I actually preferred it to the more famous attractions of the Palace and the Motor Museum in the village itself.
Buckler's Hard is an 18th century village famed for its ship-building. Most famously, the ships for Nelson's fleet were bulit here, and there is an interesting museum where you can find out more about this.
There are wonderful recreations of what the village would have been like in Nelson's time, and you can walk through the village pub, a labourer's cottage and a more well-to-do shipwright's cottage.
Entry to the village museum and cottages is around £5. You an also enter the village from Beaulieu by walking the well-signed riverside walk. This is about 2 - 2.5 miles long, and is a really lovely walk (if a little muddy in places!). You will have earned your pint at the Master Builder's Hotel in Buckler's Hard when you get to the end! If you come to Buckler's Hard this way, you will be able to get to the village street and see where the ships were built, but not the museum or cottages.
I think this was probably my favourite part of my visit to Beaulieu. It was a beautiful, sunny Easter day, and sitting in the cloisters provided a serene contrast to the bustle of the rest of the site. And I didn't notice any of the ghosts that are reputed to haunt the ruins! The abbey was founded in the early 12th century by Cistercian monks - a fictionalised account of its history can be read in Edward Rutherford's book 'The Forest'.
Entry to the Abbey is included in the overall cost of the Beaulieu ticket (approximately £15)
The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is probably the most popular attraction. It has been put together over several decades by the Montagu family, and the collection of over 250 vehicles provides an fascinating account of the development of the car and motorcycle over the past 100 or so years. There are specialist collections, including one of James Bond's cars - do you remember this one from 'Live and Let Die'? You can't ride in the cars, but there is an old-fashioned bus which you can take a short trip in.
Entry to the museum is included in the Beaulieu price of around £15 per adult, which also allows access to the Palace and the Abbey.
Entrance to the Palace is included in the (rather expensive!) cost of the ticket price to Beaulieu. It remains the home of Lord Montagu and as such only a few rooms are open to the public. They are lovely to see, but I did leave the Palace wishing I could have viewed more. The Palace dates back to the 14th century, but the present interior reflects more what it is like to live as a member of the aristocracy in the early 21st century.