Nicola here. Every year as Christmas approaches, I try to visit one of my favourite stately homes to see it “dressed” for Christmas. This is an official term, apparently, and involves a lot of decorating which puts my own Christmas tree and lights to shame! (For a start, I don't have four model trumpeters outside my house to welcome visitors!) It hasn’t been possible to keep this visiting tradition going during the pandemic, so this year it was a real treat to be able to go to Beaulieu in the New Forest and enjoy some spectacular decorations that totally put me in the Christmas mood.
Beaulieu is probably best known for its famous Motor Museum and whilst I did pop in to have a look at an Aston Martin or two (there was a James Bond exhibition on) my main interest was in the ruins of the abbey and Beaulieu Palace itself.
There isn’t much left of the abbey, once the largest Cistercian building in England. The ruins are rather atmospheric though. Like so many other monastic buildings, the abbey’s downfall came in 1538 with Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries when it was sold into private hands and much of the stone was taken away and used for other building projects. It’s still possible to see the scale of the whole estate and imagine it surrounded by a 12 foot high wall that stretched for a mile, with the great gatehouse (which still stands) and the river and quay where boats would unload their supplies.