Cruising through the New Forest in a revered old engine is a joy at every turn

  • Hugo Brown sets off from the village of Beaulieu in an Austin-Healey convertible
  • The drive is part of a new offering from Beaulieu Garage and Montagu Arms
  • Offer includes dinner, bed, breakfast and classic car rental for the day



Flashy cars never made much sense to me. Maybe it’s the noisy engines, the preoccupation with being seen, the price tags. The car is just a way to get from point A to point B, right?

But driving through the New Forest in a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III convertible, I begin to see the attraction.

The classic sport costs over £60,000. Unfortunately I didn’t win the lottery – it’s a partnership between the Beaulieu garage and the Montagu Arms, including dinner, bed, breakfast and classic car rental for the daytime. And I must say that I take full advantage of it.

Old-Fashioned Charms: Hugo with his 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III convertible outside the Montagu Arms. The hotel has partnered with Beaulieu Garage to offer a new offer including dinner, room, breakfast and rental of a classic car for the day.

Occasionally we are passed by another driver in a vintage vehicle, duly giving back our waves and both horns.

The Hampshire village of Beaulieu is home to the National Motor Museum and Palace House, where the Montagu family have lived since the 16th century. The museum was founded by Edward, 3rd Baron Montagu, and celebrates its 50th anniversary this month with an exhibition showcasing automotive history through 50 objects.

There’s plenty to do for families and vehicle enthusiasts, including an exhibition featuring cars from the latest Bond film. In addition, there are many historic cars.

The museum is dedicated to the 2nd Baron Montagu (Edward’s father, John), who made motoring history when in 1909 he commissioned a sculptor friend to design a figure for the bonnet of his Rolls- Royce. The design has been changed to the Spirit of Ecstasy, which now adorns each of these beautiful vehicles.

In Austin-Healey, my friend Abigail and I swap theories about how people might think we acquired it. (Trust? A generous deceased relative?) The garage also has a 1966 E-Type Jaguar and an AC Cobra that can be rented for a day, evening or weekend. The process is simple and “if you scratch it, don’t worry, we have a paint shop and can sort it for free,” I’m told.

The village of Beaulieu in Hampshire is home to the zNational Motor Museum

TRAVEL INFORMATION

Montagu’s Arms (montaguarmshotel.co.uk) The Classic Car package includes the rental of a car for the day (beaulieugarage.co.uk), Beaulieu Motor Museum tickets, plus dinner, bed and breakfast from £500 pp.

A few steps from the garage is the Montagu Arms, which has a reassuringly classic air, with a legion of staff, a distinguished butler and a sommelier who always appears while our glasses are almost empty.

The cuisine is fine and inventive – we enjoy zucchini and nasturtium leaves from the vegetable garden – while three new rooms overlooking the courtyard round off the whole thing nicely.

The village is set around a large pond, with views of Palace House and some lovely cafes.

We sit by the water in the sun, occasionally chasing the curious wild ponies that have spotted our apples. And there’s plenty going on in the area: Lymington is nearby, there are plenty of wonderful pubs and Calshot Beach offers watersports for families.

As we walk into the garage, I linger – and later find myself googling classic cars. Maybe I better start buying those lottery tickets.

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