Whether it's enjoying a riverside picnic, exploring the charming High Street or visiting the incredible motor museum, the village of Beaulieu provides a great day out.
Situated at the head of the tidal Beaulieu River, the village dates back to the 13th century.
The village of Beaulieu initially grew up around the abbey which was founded in 1204 by Cistercian monks on land given to them by King John, who had a royal hunting lodge at Beaulieu. It was given the name of ‘Bellus Locus Regis’, or the beautiful place of the King. King John had quarrelled with the Cistercian Order early in his reign and decided to establish an Abbey to atone for his past oppressions. This generosity made him the subject of prayers in every Cistercian monastery.
For centuries, Beaulieu flourished as the monks traded goods and tended medicinal gardens (which can still be seen to this day at the Abbey).
The turning point of the Abbey came following Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. The Abbey and surrounding estate were sold to the 1st Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley, in 1538 for the sum of £1,340. As religious buildings were being destroyed or defaced across the country, Beaulieu was also to be victim to this and the Abbey church, cloister and chapter house were destroyed. The refectory, domus and two of the gatehouses remained under the proviso that they were not to be used for religious purposes. The refectory is now known as Beaulieu Parish Church.
The Earl of Southampton was one of the present Lord Montagu's ancestors and the estate has remained with the family ever since. Wriothesley converted the former Great Gatehouse into a modest manor house. The estate developed over subsequent generations and included the development of Buckler’s Hard in the 1720s.
Things to do in Beaulieu
There are plenty of things to do in Beaulieu, from kayaking to some of our top museums, check out below to find your perfect way to spend your days in Beaulieu.
Beaulieu is probably best known as the home of the world-famous National Motor Museum. The museum houses more than 280 vehicles and includes legendary motor vehicles from all over the world, including the record-braking Bluebird. Permanent and temporary exhibitions add to your visit including the World of Top Gear, featuring vehicles from the popular BBC show.
Entry to the Motor Museum also gives you access to Beaulieu Abbey, where you can step back in history to the times of the monks and not forgetting Palace House, the home of the Montagu family. Here, costumed guides are on hand to give you the flavour of what life was like in Victorian times. Make sure you allow time to wander through the gardens and grounds including the colourful Victorian Kitchen Garden.
If you enjoy walking then why not follow the Beaulieu River path from the village down to Buckler’s Hard, you may even be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher on the way! This two mile walk (each way) takes in some of the tranquil scenery and wooded glades along the way. Buckler’s Hard is a pretty shipbuilding village which is well worth a visit in its own right. In the village you will find a pub, Maritime Museum and seasonal boat trips along the Beaulieu River.
Get active by participating in some exciting water sports along the Beaulieu River with New Forest Activities. Whether it be canoeing or kayaking or perhaps taking on the nearby high ropes course, there are lots of activities for all ages and abilities.
Head to Fairweathers Garden Centre, where you will find a beautiful array of flowers and find out which fruit, vegetables and herbs they are growing! After a wander around, enjoy a cup of tea or some delicious home cooked food in Steff’s Kitchen Cafe.
Explore Beaulieu and the surrounding New Forest area in style with New Forest Classic Car Hire. Hire one of their spectacular classic cars and head out into the forest for a wonderful ride through woodlands and heathlands.
The village of Beaulieu, although not large, has an interesting variety of village stores, ranging from specialist gift shops including the popular Beaulieu Chocolate Shop to arts and crafts.
Or why not make the short trip to Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway, home to the Rothschild Collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias?
Events in Beaulieu
Lots of fantastic events take place throughout the year in Beaulieu. The Beaulieu National Motor Museum, and its associated attractions stage many of these events including car meets, autojumbles, living history days, theatrical performances and family fun. Look out for themed events during the school summer holidays and over Christmas too.
Elsewhere, New Forest Activities offer a variety of dates for hands-on days including bush craft or afternoon tea paddles. For more sedate activities, why not look at the Montagu Arms’ calendar of events which ranges from floristry workshops to pamper days.
Keep an eye on our what’s on pages for details of up and coming events in and around Beaulieu.
Places to stay in Beaulieu
Beaulieu is home to some great places to stay, such as beautiful hotels and other types of accommodation too...
Right in the heart of the village of Beaulieu you will find the Montagu Arms Hotel. The hotel offers log fires and plenty of charm. It is also home to a three AA rosette restaurant where you can enjoy fine dining in a picturesque location.
A couple of miles down the road at Buckler’s Hard you can stay right in the heart of the village at The Master Builder’s House Hotel, offering guests affordable luxury.
Use the search box on this page to find your ideal accommodation based on dates, accommodation type and facilities that you require.
Where to eat and drink in Beaulieu
There are some amazing places to eat in and around the village including tea rooms, restaurants and inns. Monty’s Inn is a wonderful pub to head to, or go next door to The Montagu Arms, where you can dine in the restaurant or relax in their beautiful garden. There are other delicious pubs located just outside of Beaulieu too, such as The Royal Oak.
Getting to Beaulieu
Beaulieu is a short drive from nearby Southampton and is easily accessed from the M27 and A35.
The nearest mainline train station to Beaulieu is at Brockenhurst. There are regular trains from London Waterloo. Alternatively, there is a limited bus service between Hythe and Lymington which stops at either the entrance to the Beaulieu National Motor Museum or in the village.