Even if you don’t own a classic car you can act like you do while you stay at the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu, a charming chocolate-box village in the heart of the ancient woodlands.
THE WEEKEND Even if you aren’t a natural motorhead there is something bone-achingly cool about driving a red 1966 vintage Jaguar E-type. Shooting through the quiet countryside village of Beaulieu, I was feeling like a cross between the Lady of the Manor and an international spy, waving at the locals as if this was my regular life and wishing I had a vintage headscarf a la Bridget Jones. Then I was speeding down the winding countryside roads of the New Forest (within reason, watch out for the free-roaming ponies) with the sunshine filtering through the trees. It felt glorious. I had expected it to be noisy, clunky, a bit of a museum piece, but it was no such thing – despite its age this car offers the smoothest drive, making you feel like the original Bond.
They just don’t make cars like this anymore – and if you don’t own one, there’s an opportunity to drive one for the day with The Montagu Arms’ Luxury Car Weekend in partnership with Beaulieu Garage and the Beaulieu Motor Museum. Spend the weekend in the countryside, a day in a fabulous classic car, and the rest of the time mooching around a lovely hotel and visiting a fascinating car museum. What more could you want?
Pulling up in Beaulieu at the Motor Museum, there’s the world-class collection of vintage cars, another nod to Bond with an exhibition on the latest film, and gardens to get lost in where kitchen vegetables grow and children (ahem, adults too) play amongst Alice in Wonderland-style high hedges. We spent the afternoon here before heading to the Montagu Arms hotel to stay in the newly converted 1920s chauffeur garages.
WHERE? In beautiful Beaulieu, a charming chocolate-box village in the heart of the ancient woodlands and grasslands of the New Forest just a couple of hours’ drive from London. Do not be fooled by how deceptively petite the village is, there is an extraordinary selection of entertainments and beauty spots within a couple of minutes’ walk and the bounty of the New Forest on your doorstep.
THE STAY: The Montagu Arms is a cosily rustic hotel which feels a little like staying in a private home. The main house is low-lit, hung with oil paintings and as the fire crackles in the grate, it fills the air with the woodsmoke smell of English Autumn. Walk across the garden, dotted with little tables where people are enjoying their afternoon High Tea, to the newly renovated Courtyard suites. Once the Chauffeurs’ garage these spacious rooms come with a four poster bed, comfortable living area, free-standing roll top bath and private terrace. Bluetooth your music to the vintage-look radio as you pour the complimentary sloe gin from the decanter.
THE FOOD Chef Matthew Whitfield recently won 3 AA rosettes for the Montagu Arms’ Terrace restaurant where nightly he cooks up a seven-course tasting menu which, like any Chef worth their salt these days, focuses on local and seasonal produce. The Old Winchester Cheese Tartlet tasted, nostalgically, like the sauce from a Big Mac (and who doesn’t like that?) The roasted monkfish was an elegantly succulent bite of fish and the crispy duck egg with smoked bacon and Montagu chard was clearly the winning dish. Breakfast is served in the morning, overlooking the gardens.
TOP TIP Why stop at the E-type Jaguar? Ask Beaulieu Garage about their selection from the 1967 Austin Healey 3000 MK III Convertible to the Gardener Douglas 427 Cobra. Helpful and knowledgeable, they’ll even give you a private tour behind the scenes if you ask nicely….
NEED TO KNOW The Luxury Classic Car Break includes classic car hire, overnight accommodation, a wine-paired dinner, breakfast at the restaurant or served to your room, and a pass to Beaulieu Motor Museum which includes all the rest of the grounds. £500 per person. To book call 01590 624467.