A second New Forest attraction has been hailed as one of the nation’s best attractions. The Beaulieu attraction, home of Lord Montagu and the National Motor Museum, has been given top marks from VisitEngland which praised it for giving a full day’s visit of educational as well as entertainment value offered in an attractive historic setting which is maintained to an exceptionally high standard.
The gold accolade was awarded to Beaulieu as a result of the most recent Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme audit in August. Its report concluded that Beaulieu is an outstanding visitor attraction with the many elements to its offering being individually interesting, fun and well presented; collectively adding up to a full and satisfying day out for visitors.
The range of content far exceeded expectation both in variety and sheer scale, from stately home to a Top Gear experience, from an enormous car and motorbike display to an exhibition on Beaulieu’s secret role in the Second World War.
Commercial Director, Stephen Munn, said: “We are delighted to receive further affirmation of the quality of the Beaulieu attraction and its staff and the level of customer care shown to our visitors, maintaining the standard that saw the attraction being given the top award in the large Visitor Attraction of the Year category at the 2013 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.
“It is a great accolade for the New Forest that two of its leading visitor attractions, Beaulieu and Paultons Park, have been awarded this premier standard, out of only ten so far awarded nationwide.”
Swishing along a sunny Californian coastal road, exploring backwater Atlantic Canada and leafy New England in a Winnebago; they’re all dream road trips we’ve tackled with our kids since they were tiny.
But a motorhome holiday in the soggy UK with two adult-sized teens? Could it work? We put it to the test, and the outcome might make you rethink that looming half-term break.
Compared with the 35ft monsters we rented in America, the swish Elddis Majestic, borrowed from the Durham centre of nationwide specialist dealer Marquis Motorhomes, was a titch. And yet at 24 feet it still dwarfed the largest people-carrier, squeezing in sleeping for six plus most of the creature comforts of its transatlantic cousins, including a highly serviceable kitchen, decent shower-room/toilet, dinner table for four, “proper” three-pin sockets, a generous “lounge”, posh fitted carpets, wind-out awning under which to sit on hot days, better central heating than my house and a kitchen sink.
It was a delight to drive, too. Motorhome technology has improved massively in recent years, and excellent powered steering, a nicely soundproofed 150bhp Peugeot engine with plenty of torque, a gearbox as light as any car’s plus great brakes, high build quality — and lofty window seats offering views over traffic — made touring fun. For keen motorists it’s the perfect holiday combo.
We headed for the jaw-droppingly beautiful Northumberland coast and, as we settled into our first campsite, the Railway Inn, Acklington, found that UK facilities have moved on, too. Pitches were nicely spaced and screened, and the landlady had impressive plans for revamped washrooms on this new site. Having a quiet pub on-site didn’t hurt either.
The disadvantage of motorhomes compared with caravans is that when you drive anywhere the entire vehicle goes as well. With the Majestic, however, ample storage space meant packing away was relatively painless.
Even parking presented few problems; in Northumberland there’s plenty of space to spare. But it always pays to have a passenger guide you into tight spots — just in case.
Our route took us up the stunning, sandy coast past brooding Alnwick and imperious Bamburgh Castles to a campsite almost within swimming distance of Lindisfarne.
Bright and early, we traversed the dramatic seaweed-strewn causeway to Holy Island, keeping a wary eye on tides, to explore the cosy converted fort and ruined priory.
The joy of touring Northumberland is that no one else is there. At least it seems that way to a Londoner and if you think the stunning tourist attractions are quiet, try the roads. You feel you’ve slipped unawares past a “road closed” sign as you’re the only one there. It’s motoring nirvana.
So was a sensational climbing lesson — it was a family road-trip after all — on proper rocks, with proper ropes, helmets, harnesses and proper climber Ollie Jay, at active4seasons.co.uk. We had an entire valley, complete with big vertigo-inducing climbs to ourselves.
Our route carried us high inland, with far-reaching, spectacular mountain views to rugged Northumberland National Park, home to serene Kielder Water and the inviting Boe Rigg campsite. They even encourage campfires.
The final treat was touring cross-country to Matfen, seemingly deep in the middle of nowhere but still, curiously, only 35 minutes’ drive from Newcastle, for teen-friendly Go Ape high-rise fun.
We were the envy of all when — after three hours in the treetops — we strolled to our wagon, put the kettle on, pulled out the picnic chairs, sat under our awning and reflected on a road trip with a difference.
British motoring holidays don’t get much better than this.
GET AWAY AT THE DROP OF A HAT
Buying your own motorhome means you can escape at the drop of a hat. The posh Elddis Majestic (£46,495) from Marquis (marquisleisure.co.uk) is ideal for big families and longer trips, although if you’re driving in London, choose something smaller from their vast range.
Ideally, try renting first to see which van style you prefer. Outlets specialising include justgo.co.uk; motorhomesuk.co.uk; motorhomegroup.com; winnebagohire.co.uk; nomadliving.co.uk (classic VW camper vans).
Renting a motorhome is much more costly than camping with a tent, but generally cheaper than staying in a hotel, at least off-peak when prices start at around £50 a day for a small two-berth vehicle. During summer, prices rise to over £100 depending on size. Budget for fuel, too. Campsite fees vary depending on facilities, from around £10 to £25 a night.
Visitor information at http://visitnorthumberland.com
Follow David Williams, Motoring Correspondent, Evening Standard, on Twitter at @djrwilliams
Overheard whilst walking round: “Worst thing Mum and Dad ever did their entire marriage was selling the caravan.”
Am back again on Saturday morning. Anyone up for a coffee?
When we didn’t think it couldn’t get any better, it looks like the Motorhome & Caravan Show 2014 just did, with the announcement of the new Encore motorhome range from Elddis.
The Elddis Encore looks a sight to behold in more ways than one and, with all the additional extras you can shake a stick at thrown in as standard, it certainly looks like the Encore is set to impress.
Coming in two layouts for 2015, the four-berth Encore 255 and two-berth Encore 275, both of which are built on a Peugeot Tempo Libero low-line wide-track chassis providing a sporty look and improved road handling, personify luxury.
The 255, featuring a fixed 6’6″ bed with OZIO Coolsoft luxury mattress to the rear, features Reno Walnut craftsman built cabinetry throughout.
Moving away from the bedroom, the central kitchen includes a 189-litre fridge freezer and 800W microwave amongst other smart features expected with the level of luxury Elddis has gone for, whilst the fully-lined separate shower cubicle features an exclusive Eco Camel Orbit water-saving Halo shower head with built-in Aircore technology.
The Caravan Club has been announced as a winner in the UK Heart Safe Awards 2014 in association with Physio Control, which took place at the Radisson Edwardian Blu, Manchester. The Club was one of six organisations in the Heart Safe Sports, Leisure & Tourism Business category.
The Caravan Club is Europe’s largest touring organisation and represents over one million caravanners, motorhomers and trailer-tenters. The Club took the decision to introduce Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and training into the business in June 2012, with a total of 168 AEDs now held across its head office site and UK campsite network.
Neil Windeatt, Head of Sites Operations for The Caravan Club, says, “The Caravan Club is a members organisation that see’s hundreds of thousands of visitors to its UK sites network each year, it also has around 1000 staff in total at its head office and on its sites network. As both a responsible organisation and employer, the decision to introduce AEDs was both an obvious and simple one and The Club is delighted to have been recognised.”
Of the judging criteria, the Hand on Heart charity, that run the annual awards say, “The judges look for organisations or individuals that go above and beyond health, safety and medical requirements to deliver lifesaving equipment in their work place or leisure environment and organisations and that invest in training their employees to conduct lifesaving procedures should the situation arise.”