A classic car caper: Pottering through the New Forest in a revered old motor 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 the Montagu Arms
  • The deal involves dinner, bed, breakfast and classic car rental for the day  

Flashy cars have never made much sense to me. Perhaps it’s the loud engines, the preoccupation with being seen, the price tags. Driving is just a way to get from A to B, isn’t it?

But zipping through the New Forest in a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III convertible, I’m starting to see the attraction.

The sport classic costs upwards of £60,000. Sadly though, I haven’t won the lottery — this is a partnership between the Beaulieu Garage and the Montagu Arms, involving dinner, bed, breakfast and classic car rental for the day. And, I have to say, I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Old-fashioned charms: Hugo with his 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III convertible outside the Montagu Arms. The hotel has teamed up with Beaulieu Garage to offer a new deal that includes dinner, bed, breakfast and classic car rental for the day

Every so often we are passed by another driver in a vintage vehicle, duly returning our waves and both honking horns.

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

There is plenty going on for families and vehicle enthusiasts alike, including an exhibit featuring cars from the latest Bond film. Plus, there are lots of historic cars.

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

In the Austin-Healey, my friend Abigail and I swap theories as to how people might think we have acquired it. (Trust fund? A generous departed relative?) The garage also has a 1966 E-type Jaguar and an AC Cobra which 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 Hampshire village of Beaulieu is home to the National Motor Museum. Above is a gleaming Rolls-Royce at the museum


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

Just a short walk from the garage is the Montagu Arms, which has a reassuringly classic air, with a legion of staff, a distinguished maitre d’ and a sommelier who always appears just as our glasses are close to empty.

The food is delicate and inventive — we enjoy courgettes and nasturtium leaves from the kitchen garden — while three new courtyard rooms are an attractive addition.

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

We sit by the water in the sunshine, occasionally shooing away inquisitive wild ponies that have spotted our apples. And there’s plenty going on in the area: Lymington is nearby, there are lots of wonderful pubs and Calshot beach has watersports for families.

As we pull into the garage, I linger — and later find myself Googling classic cars. Perhaps I’d better start buying those lottery tickets.

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