With the festive season just months away, now’s the time to plan how your group will be celebrating

Tatton Park

As the sun shines and the summer holidays loom, it’s hard to imagine the frosty days of winter, but as this issue of GTW went to press there were just 180-or-so shopping days left to Christmas, and it won’t be long before groups’ thoughts turn to present buying, mulled wine sampling and all things festive. Luckily, the UK’s finest group-friendly attractions are well practised in the art of keeping the Christmas spirit alive, with Father Christmas-themed events, festive exhibitions, gift fairs and more. Whether you’re taking a group on a present buying mission, searching for a more unusual day out, or would prefer to celebrate the nostalgia of Christmases past, there’s something to keep groups of all ages and tastes entertained.

Tatton

Tatton Park

CELEBRATING FESTIVE TRADITIONS Tatton Park in Cheshire throws open its doors to groups this winter, launching its festive celebrations with its Father Christmas at the Farm, Alpine Ball and A Victorian Country House Kitchen. And if that’s not enough to get your group in the festive mood, the attraction is also hosting a Christmas Wreath Making Workshop, Stableyard Carols and a Deer Feed and Trailer Ride, giving younger visitors the chance to fill Rudolf up on treats before his busy night. The house will also showcase the nation’s favourite Christmas carols in its Ding Dong Merrily Mansion from Monday, November 23 to Sunday, December 20, 2015, as Tatton’s staterooms are decorated with fresh foliage and greenery from the estate, with classical music playing in the background. Groups can enjoy demonstrations on how to make the pomanders and garlands displayed throughout the mansion, and costumed guides will be baking traditional festive delicacies. All group visitors to the mansion qualify for free admission to the gardens in their winter colours, there’s a meet and greet service and coaches can park for free. Group rates are available for parties of 15 or more, and there’s a complimentary meal for the coach driver if you book in advance. To find out more about all the Christmas events held at Tatton Park, visit events.tattonpark.org.uk, call 01625 374416 or email tatton@cheshireeast.gov. uk Also bringing a sense of tradition to the festive season is the 19th century National Trust property Waddesdon Manor. The Buckinghamshire country house is set to host a Christmas Cookery School on November 6, 2015, and a Christmas Fair, which runs throughout November and December 2015 – see the website for full details at www.waddesdon.org.uk All pre-booked groups who arrive by coach will be sent a pack that includes the attraction’s ‘Welcome to Waddesdon’ information leaflets to help them make the most of their day. Special group discounts are available and the catering options are many and varied. Check the website for more information, or call the group bookings team on 01296 653226.

PIC 1 - Porcelain Pagoda Longleat

Porcelain Pagoda Longleat

SEE THE LIGHT THIS CHRISTMAS Set to be one of the biggest and most spectacular Christmas events of 2015, Longleat’s Festival of Light will throw a spotlight on the Wiltshire safari park’s upcoming 50th birthday celebrations, which it will mark in 2016. Starting on November 13, 2015 and running through to January 3, 2016, this sparkly Christmas spectacular will take the age-old tradition of the Chinese lantern and transform it for a modern audience, as the park promises something bigger, better and more magical than ever before. The Festival of Light will be centred around two Chinese dynasties – the Qin dynasty, (when the first emperor of China ruled and united the country) and the Tang dynasty, (which was ancient China’s most prosperous). Large displays will light up Longleat’s landscaped grounds, featuring temples, Terracotta Army warriors, a huge dragon boat floating on Longleat’s lake starring ‘The Monkey King, which links Longleat’s famous residents to an equally famous Chinese character. The event will run alongside Longleat’s traditional Christmas celebrations, which include the Santa train, a giant musical Christmas tree, pantomime characters and an outdoor ice skating rink. Longleat will be open over the Christmas period from Friday to Sunday between November 13 and December 6, 2015, and then daily from December 11, 2015 to January 3, 2016. The Festival of Light will also be available to visitors for three further weekends in January 2016. Group rates are available for parties of 12 or more, and Longleat also offers a complimentary organiser ticket for parties of 30 or more, as well as a free coach driver ticket, plus a meal voucher for every coach operator booking. To find out more, and organise your group trip, visit www.longleat.co.uk/ christmas

Full steam ahead One of Kent’s leading all-weather attractions, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR) will be steaming along the tracks throughout November and December in a bid to add some festive cheer to the region’s ‘turkey and tinsel’ tours. Operating every Thursday, from November 12 to December 10, 2015 – for a minimum group of 40 – HR&DR ‘Christmas Special’ is the ideal half-day outing to slot into your group’s festive itinerary. Included in the admission price of £25.50 per person is a 45-minute journey by steam train across Romney Marsh, a short presentation on the RH&DR and its role in the Second World War, lunch and a drink, entry to the railway’s Model Railway Exhibition and a visit from Santa, complete with a sackload of gifts. To reserve your group’s seats, call 01797 362353 or email groups@rhdr.org

THE SHOW MUST GO ON… Wicksteed Park Pavilion – Northamptonshire’s popular group travel show venue – is now taking bookings for its daytime Swinging into Christmas show, which offers West End-quality entertainment alongside lunch and afternoon tea in the park’s Edwardian Pavilion. The show, which will premiere on November 1, 2015, is set in the golden age of swing; paying tribute to as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Matt Monro, Eartha Kitt and many more. The show features an outstanding cast of singers and dancers, with an iconic soundtrack including Santa Baby, White Christmas, Come Fly with Me, My Way and Baby It’s Cold Outside. Swinging into Christmas runs throughout November and December 2015 see www. wicksteedpark.org for full details. Prices are £15.50 (show only), £25 (show with lunch and afternoon tea) and £23 (for groups of 23 or more). Plus, GTOs will receive one extra free ticket when they book a trip for a group of 23 or more, three extra tickets when they take a group of 45 or more, and six extra tickets when they take a group of 90 or more. The venue has dedicated coach parking for up to 30 coaches, with overflow parking available. A welcome host is also provided on request. Group bookings can be made by contacting Flo Florea on 01536 512475.

Offering groups a festive mix of singers, dancers, musicians and fairground rides, Thursford’s famous Christmas Spectacular is hailed as the largest Christmas show in the country. With a cast of 130 professional singers, dancers and musicians – many of whom are West End performers – the three-hour performance delivers a non-stop singing, dancing, music, humour and variety. It’s a fast moving celebration of the festive season, featuring an eclectic mix of both seasonal and year-round favourites, with famous and much-loved chart toppers sung alongside traditional Chistmas carols. Generally recognised as being the largest show of its kind in the country, last year up to 50 coaches per day travelled from all over the UK to the Norfolk-based attraction, with many groups visiting year on year. Turn the trip into a mini holiday by staying in one of the county’s many hotels, guest houses and holiday cottages. Thursford’s not far from the stunning north Norfolk coast. All the details GTOs need can be found on the website – see www.thursford.com/ christmas-spectacular.aspx

The Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia

A NAUTICAL FESTIVE CELEBRATION Climb aboard the hugely popular Royal Yacht Britannia this December as the historic vessel, which is moored in Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal, hosts the Britannia’s Christmas Weekend. From December 5-6, 2015, visitors can enjoy festive cheer in the Officers’ Mess, with complimentary mulled wine and shortbread. If your group can’t make that particular weekend, the ship will be all decked out for Christmas throughout December, with festive touches including garlands and special ornaments adorning the State Apartments. The Royal Yacht Britannia’s dedicated groups team offer a flexible, friendly service with no cancellation fee or deposit required. It welcomes travel trade partners, group organisers and educational parties, and is fully accessible, with an audio tour available in 27 languages. A special children’s tour, a British sign language tablet and braille script is available. Call 0131 555 8800 to find out more, email groups@tryb.co.uk or visit www. royalyachtbritannia.co.uk

Castle Howard

Castle Howard

CHRISTMAS AT THE CASTLE Enjoy a truly magical Christmas with a visit to Castle Howard, – Yorkshire’s finest stately home – this festive season from Saturday, November 21 to Wednesday, December 23. The 300-year-old home will flicker with light from hundreds of candles and roaring log fires, while glittering trees and traditional twigs glisten with hanging baubles. Groups can indulge in the cafes’ festive menus, or pre-book a private dining experience before browsing the gift shops, farm shop and garden centre. Group rates are available – contact Castle Howard’s groups team for details via groups@castlehoward.co.uk or call 01653. For more information visit www. castlehoward.co.uk ■