James Day examines some of the UK’s best coach-friendly destinations.
Mellerstain House And Gardens
Mellerstain House in Berwickshire, Scotland, is a grand stately home with a fascinating history and has a unique architectural interest, which was the result of a fruitful collaboration between the Baillie family and famous architects William and Robert Adam.
The house has been open to the public for over 50 years. It features fabulous paintings, embroidery, china and furniture collections, where guests will have the opportunity to admire Robert Adam’s architecture and interior decoration. Mellerstain House and Gardens is a good setting for a day out, relaxing holiday, private functions or wedding ceremonies, and hosts a number of events each year, including its contemporary art gallery and concerts. Within the estate, Mellerstain also has its own natural burial site – Hundy Mundy. A house tour over four floors will take approximately one to one and a half hours. The venue suggests that organisers allow two and half to three hours for their visit, should they wish to include the gardens and coffee shop. Group visits can be self-led or by a guided tour when the house is open. Wheelchair access is available to the main floor via the main entrance and to the lower floor from the East car park – though this is not suitable for coaches. Mellerstain House offers discounted entry for groups of 15 or more, with free onsite parking for coaches. The coach driver and group organiser benefit from free entry.
Stradey Park Hotel
Tucked into the Welsh hillside overlooking the famous Gower and Carmarthenshire coastline, is the four-star Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli. The hotel prides itself on first class service and attention to detail. Stradey Park Hotel offers high-speed fibre optic broadband in both public areas and guest rooms, which is certainly useful for corporate events. The Alexander Suite is the most popular venue throughout the hotel to hold a conference event, due to its versatility. It can hold 400 guests theatre-style, and seat 200 guests comfortably for dinner. Staging can be incorporated if required. Accommodation rates include a full buffet breakfast.
Longleat Safari & Adventure Park
Longleat Safari & Adventure Park has been one of the UK’s best-loved attractions for over 60 years. It features an extensive Safari Park, is home to BBC Animal Park and CBBC Roar and also boasts over 20 attractions, including Penguin Island, The Jungle Cruise, Monkey Temple and Longleat House – a stunning stately home. The venue is well versed in catering for groups. It has won awards for it’s offering in the past and has worked with groups of over 4,500 people. Group benefits include generous discounts on entry for parties of 12 or more paying customers, a free organiser ticket if the group numbers more than 30, a free coach driver ticket and meal voucher for every coach operator booking alongside free coach parking, which is situated outside Longleat House. One complimentary Safari Park commentary CD is allocated per vehicle. A number of themed group tours are also available, with options to fill either a full-day or half-day visit. Tour operators bringing a coach to Longleat can get a 35% discount on standard day tickets. The venue offers free marketing support to promote the tours.
Burghley House continues to offer groups the opportunity to experience the Cecil family home in the heart of a 13,000acre working Lincolnshire Estate. Burghley House is open daily (except Fridays) from 1100hrs to 1700hrs, generally from March to November.
William Cecil’s ancestral home, the palatial Elizabethan prodigy house is still a much-loved family home, and groups are invited to explore its historic collection of paintings, ceramics and works of art – many of which still stand where they were first placed in 1688. Visitors are able to enjoy a guided or self-guided tour of Burghley House’s 18 dramatic State Rooms, surrounded by Capability Brown parkland, at the centre of this working traditional Estate. Coach drivers are entitled to complimentary admission to the House and Gardens, along with a £10 refreshment voucher.
Sabrina River Cruises
Sabrina is a triple deck, modern passenger boat based in Shrewsbury, capable of carrying 60 passengers in comfort, with retractable roof and sides on the top deck. It is an independent business, with local management onboard. Its aim is to provide a first class service to both day and evening passengers. Whether groups are interested in a relaxing boat trip during the day, or are embarking on an evening cruise – they are sure to receive a great welcome from the moment they step aboard. The popular 40-minute cruise departs from Victoria Quay near the Welsh Bridge, which gently sails to the English Bridge and back. A wide range of hot and cold drinks are available from the onboard bar, with table service provided.
Royal Navy Submarine Museum
The Royal Navy Submarine Museum (RNSM) in Portsmouth opened in 1963, housed above St Ambrose Church in HMS Dolphin. It was once difficult for the public to gain access due to security considerations and the fact that people were not aware the museum even existed. In 1978 the museum was moved outside HMS Dolphin’s confines, allowing full public access.
It was at this time that the Royal Navy’s Training and Static Display submarine, HMS Alliance was donated to the museum. The complex that is now recognised as the RNSM opened in August 1981, with HMS Alliance as the principal exhibit. Groups can walk through HMS Alliance with one of the museum’s ex submariner guides to hear their stories about living beneath the waves. Only 10 people are required to make up a group, saving 20% on standard prices at any time of the year. The museum provides free entry for the coach driver, free parking for the coach, a lunch voucher and a guide book. Prebooked groups can arrange a welcome talk on arrival.
Boundary Mills – Combine Shopping With A Day Trip
Groups planning a visit to one of Boundary Mill’s stores could easily hop off at other local attractions in the area to make the most of the day. Each venue has chosen an array of local activities to complement a shopping trip including; historical and culture tours, canal cruises, museums and parks, with all of the stores (Colne, Grantham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Walsall) welcoming group visits. All tours can be arranged by speaking to the Coach Coordinator at the relevant store.
QUEEN STREET MILL TOUR – The world’s only surviving 19th century steam powered weaving mill located on the outskirts of Burnley, a town once dominated by the textile industry.
CHOCOLATE HOUSE – A small firm known for its handmade chocolates, truffles, fudge and speciality treats.
CANAL CRUISE – A tour along a section of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The route starts and ends in the attractive village of Foulridge, 15 minutes from Colne.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS – Where groups can see many of the stunning landscapes that inspired the Brontë Sisters.
PENDLE WITCHES – Groups can visit Barrowford, Gisburn, Chatburn, Downham and Sabden to the hear the tale of those who were accused, tried and found guilty of witchcraft. Also, see the newly erected statue of ‘Alice,’ commemorating Alice Nutter.
HARLAXTON MANOR – Built in the 1830s and designed using a mixture of Gothic, Jacobean and Baroque styles. It is currently used as a thriving university campus.
NEWARK RIVER CRUISE – Daily afternoon cruises run from Easter to October, from Cuckstool Wharf and Castlegate, through Town Lock and past the villages of Farndon, East Stoke and Fiskerton.
PURELAND JAPANESE GARDENS – One of the AA’s inspirational gardens in the world, home to carp, bridges, bamboo, evergreens, maples, cherries and stone lanterns.
GRIMSTHORPE CASTLE – A country house located four miles North West of Bourne, with a 3,000acre park featuring rolling pastures, lakes and woodland, landscaped by Capability Brown.
QUAYSIDE & SEASIDE – A tour following the North Tyneside coastline, visiting St Mary’s Island, Whitley Bay Promenade, the fishing village of Cullercoats, and the beautiful beaches of King Edward’s Bay and Longsands, famed worldwide for its surfing activities.
TANFIELD STEAM RAILWAY – The North East’s biggest and most popular steam railway. Less than half an hour from Newcastle, steam trains run every Sunday and Bank Holiday, taking visitors on a picturesque six mile round trip.
CROOK HALL & GARDENS – A 13th century Grade I listed medieval hall, providing a spectacular backdrop to the gardens. It is a rare example of three eras of English domestic architecture.
CATHERINE COOKSON – A tour south of the River Tyne, to the area made famous by the stories of Catherine Cookson, one of the North East’s best-known authors.
A & G PASSENGER BOATS – A cruise on the historic Sheffield & Tinsley canal on a heritage boat trip – opt for a longer dining experience or group cruise.
SHEFFIELD BOTANICAL GARDENS –19acres of gardens, which were first opened in 1836. Originally designed by Robert Marnock, the site now has 15 different garden areas featuring collections of plants from all over the world.
ELSECAR ANTIQUES CENTRE – The Antiques Centre at Elsecar houses large cabinets and floor-based displays from over 100 individual dealers.
KELHAM ISLAND MUSEUM –Houses the objects, pictures and archive material showcasing Sheffield’s industrial story.
CANNON HALL MUSEUM – A country house museum set in 70acres of historic parkland and houses ‘Charge,’ the Regimental Museum of the 13th/18th Royal Hussars, Queen Mary’s Own and the Light Dragoons.