Getting a bird’s eye view of the coast or a city is a unique experience, and offers some
fantastic photo opportunities and memorable days out. Naomi MacKay rounds up a
selection of towers and high-up places that give visitors fabulous views.
BRITISH AIRWAYS I360, BRIGHTON Along with its beaches, fabulous restaurants and quirky shopping, there’s yet another reason to visit Brighton as the new British Airways i360 – the world’s tallest moving observation experience – opens for business this summer. Created by the same architects responsible for the Coca-Cola London Eye, this is the highest viewing tower in the UK outside of London. Visitors take a slow glide up in a glassviewing pod to 137-metre (450-feet), where they will be able to enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of the Regency city and surrounding South Downs and Sussex coastline, from Bexhill-on-Sea to Chichester.
Up to 200 visitors at a time can travel in the pod, which will be air-conditioned in summer and heated in winter. There’s bench seating in the centre and it is accessible for wheelchairs. Included is a handheld multimedia tour, which tells guests more about how the tower was built and the history of the impressive landscape around them. There will also be a host on board the pod who can answer questions. If you’re peckish after your ride, the beach building at the foot of the tower will house a 400-seat brasserie for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, an outside beachside terrace, plus heritage tea rooms in an original 1866 West Pier toll booth.
The building will also be home to an exhibition, shop, indoor kids’ soft play area, and hospitality rooms. Pre-booked group visitors will have priority entry and discounts and/or free places. Visits are expected to last around an hour (longer if you book a meal package) – perfect to combine this with a visit to the Brighton Pavilion for example. Evening visitors will be able to see the city lights from the top, while enjoying a drink from the Sky Bar. These flights can be combined with dinner in the Belle Vue brasserie or a show at the Brighton Centre or Theatre Royal. Details and bookings are available, email email@example.com www.britishairwaysi360.com ARCELORMITTAL ORBIT, LONDON New for this year is an addition to the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. One of the drawbacks of these high-up attractions can be the number of stairs you have to tackle. Well, here’s a quicker and easier way down – how about travelling at 15mph down the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide – all 178-metres of it! Visitors will be able to watch the London sky scape zoom by as they whizz past specially constructed transparent panels.
The giant slide was created by Belgian artist Carsten Höller at the invitation of Anish Kapoor, the sculptor behind the landmark, making a unique collaboration between two of the world’s leading artists. If you don’t fancy the slide, then never fear, you can always take the lift down! The ArcelorMittal Orbit is Britain’s largest sculpture and 60 per cent of it is made from recycled steel, including washing machines and cars. It offers views across the capital of up to 20miles on a clear day – look out for the O2, Canary Wharf, the Gherkin, St Paul’s Cathedral and the unmistakable arch of Wembley Stadium.
Groups of 15 are eligible for a number of offers and special arts or sports packages – call 0333 800 8099 for more information. Refreshments can be provided at the EastTwenty Bar & Kitchen, and visitors can combine a visit to the ArcelorMittal Orbit with an exploration of the gardens in the park and shopping at Westfield Stratford Shopping Centre. Coach parking is available – to make bookings call 020 8536 2721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org www.arcelormittalorbit.com JURASSIC SKYLINE, WEYMOUTH Enjoy coastal views aboard the Jurassic Skyline at the Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park in Dorset.
The Jurassic Coast, which is rich in fossils, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the viewing capsule offers a spectacular 360-degree view of the area. The capsule takes visitors up to 53-metres (174-feet), which allows them to take in all the views that stretch up to 26-km away to Portland and Lulworth – and possiblyeven further. Groups can combine a visit to the park and tower with a VIP tour by a Sea Life expert, which takes around 45 minutes. Groups receive discounts, and free downloadable activity packs if you have younger visitors. Entry is £12.50 for both adults and children with a group discount (£3 extra for the VIP tour). Free assessment visits are available. To book call 0871 222 6938.
www.sealifeweymouth.com/explore/ jurassic-skyline.aspx SPINNAKER TOWER, PORTSMOUTH Another coast, and another tower – this time in Hampshire. Sitting 170 metres above the Solent and Portsmouth Harbour, the Emirates Spinnaker Tower is taller than the London Eye, Blackpool Tower and Big Ben. An express lift takes you to the first of three viewing decks, offering a 37-km-plus (23 mile) view over the coast, city and countryside. You can find out more about the landscape and its history with i-View touch screens and audio guides. The brave among the group can step out onto the Glass Sky Walk,100-metres above sea level.
There is also an open sky deck. Groups receive a discount, fast-track admission and free entry for the group leader and coach driver, along with a meet and greet service and coach parking vouchers. Portsmouth is a fascinating place with lots to do, and packages are available to combine the Spinnaker Tower with joint visits to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, laser quest, walking tours, sightseeing treasure hunts or river cruises. Adult group tickets are £7.60. For details and bookings email groupbookings@ spinnakertower.co.uk or call 023 9285 7520 (opt 3).
www.spinnakertower.co.uk BLACKPOOL TOWER EYE Much further north, the Blackpool Tower Eye and solid-glass SkyWalk offer the best views across the North West of England. A visit starts with a stop at the 4D cinema, which brings to life the history of this iconic Tower, then head 116metres (380feet) up into the sky to the Tower’s top. If you dare, walk out onto the 5-cm thick glass-viewing deck – you can look out over the Irish Sea. Views from up here will take in Bowland up to the Lake District, and if it’s a clear day you can see down to Liverpool and across to the Isle of Man. A trip later in the year could see your group enjoying the famous Blackpool Illuminations from the SkyWalk. There’s plenty more to do at the Tower, aside from the views. Packages can include the Blackpool Tower Eye and the gory Blackpool Tower Dungeon, the Blackpool Tower Circus, or afternoon tea in the Tower Ballroom.
www.theblackpooltower.com SIR JOHN BARROW MONUMENT, ULVERSTON Heading north again to Cumbria, the Sir John Barrow Monument remembers a naval explorer and Second Secretary to the Admiralty. Built in 1850, it is a replica of an early version of the Eddystone Lighthouse. It is open to the public on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from 1pm to 5pm, from Easter to the end of October, when the flag on the hill is flying. Climb the 122 steps for breathtaking views. The attraction is perfect as an add-on to a visit to the Laurel & Hardy Museum in Ulverston (www.laurel-and-hardy.co.uk). www.ulverstoncouncil.org.uk/john-barrowmonument/ john-barrow-monument Of course, the coast doesn’t have the monopoly on viewing towers, and our last final three fabulous attractions offer breathtaking experiences, with views across beautiful Uk cities. UP AT THE O2, LONDON If you’re feeling adventurous, then this is the view for you. This experience takes you up onto the roof of the O2 Arena in London.
Decked out in a climbing suit, boots and harnesses, your group will look like a determined bunch of explorers as they climb out onto the roof of this iconic structure to enjoy great views across Greenwich, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Canary Wharf. The experience can be booked at all times from sunrise to night-time and it is possible to book a private climb for groups of up to 30, with your own personal guide. The 90-minute experience has been compared to walking across Sydney Harbour Bridge, and visitors can enjoy a sense of achievement when they reach the top of the viewing platform – 52metres from ground level. Children must be aged 10 or over. To book call 020 8463 2680 or email email@example.com www.theo2.co.uk/upattheo2 UNIVERSITY CHURCH ST MARY’S, OXFORD Along with spectacular views over the city of dreaming spires, visit University Church with a tour guide and you’ll discover more about its fascinating history and stories from the past. This is where Oxford students learned Latin, got their degrees and sat trial at the Chancellor’s Court. It has seen the trials of the Oxford Martyrs, the burial of Royalist soldiers, and the establishment of Oxfam. Guided tours for up to 50 people can be booked. They last 45 minutes and cost £3 per adult. You can also add a cream tea in the Vaults and Garden Café for an additional £7.50. The church’s tower boasts the finest view of Oxford’s famous skyline. It dates from 1280 and is home to all kinds of beautifully carved gargoyles and grotesques. There are 127 steps up to the top – unfortunately, because access is via a medieval spiral staircase, there is no disabled access. Call 01865 279111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. www.universitychurch.ox.ac.uk
SKY GARDEN, LONDON The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, London, is a public space that is free to enter and offers 360-degree uninterrupted views across the City of London. Stroll around the beautiful landscaped gardens, look out from the observation decks and catch some air on the open-air terrace at London’s highest public garden. The gardens feature a series of richly planted terraces with many Mediterranean and South African species such as African Lily (Agapanthus), Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) and Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Reginae). Tickets are free, but must be booked in advance, three weeks ahead. They are only valid for the date and time on the ticket and for an hour. Booking can also be made for the two restaurants and bars, including the Darwin Brasserie, which overlooks the River Thames. Group menus are available. To make enquiries and bookings call 0333 772 0020 or email restaurants@ skygarden.london www.skygarden.london/sky-garden ■