Group visits to more than 80 of English Heritage’s historic attractions countrywide will once again be possible from 17 May, provided the country successfully passes each milestone on the government’s roadmap.
They include Tintagel Castle (pictured here), Stonehenge and other popular group-friendly day-trip destinations, such as Whitby Abbey; Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens in Northumberland; Wrest Park in Bedfordshire; Audley End House and Gardens in Essex; Eltham Palace and Gardens and Osborne on the Isle of Wight.
Subject to government guidance, the charity expects interior spaces and cafes to be open by this date. Any social distancing rules in force at that time will be applied to group visits.
At Stonehenge, group visitors will benefit from a makeover to the café, which has increased seating capacity by almost 100. Together with the addition of more till points and coffee machines, plus twice as many hot and cold food displays, the transformation will help to reduce queues and improve the speed of service. The café has also been given a fresh new look and zoned seating areas will make it easier for those pressed for time to grab and go, while others can stay longer to enjoy a hot meal from a newly extended menu.
Group members visiting Stonehenge will also be able to download a free audio guide app, available in 12 languages onto their phones. Extra content on the guide allows users to delve deeper into the history and topics that interest them as they tour the stone circle, the wider landscape and the exhibition.
Groups looking for a day out in the West Midlands should head to Boscobel House and the Royal Oak, where in 1651 King Charles II took refuge from Cromwell’s armies after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester. He famously hid in an oak tree before spending the night in a priest hole inside the timber-framed house. It later became a working farm and its Victorian farm buildings and machinery still remain.
A recently-completed £950k re-interpretation project has breathed new life into both of these important stages in Boscobel’s history with the introduction of rare and local breed farm animals, the replanting of the woodland that once surrounded the Royal Oak and the recreation of the 17th-century gardens where Charles II is said to have relaxed after the soldiers departed. There’s also new interpretation inside the house, plus an improved café, shop and toilets.
Full lists of English Heritage historic properties open for group visits from 17 May can be found at www.english-heritage.org.uk/traveltrade. To book visits up to the end of March 2022, email firstname.lastname@example.org (for Stonehenge bookings, email email@example.com). English Heritage gives a generous 15% discount on published admission prices (10% at Stonehenge) for groups of 11 or more, with one tour leader and one coach driver admitted free with each group of 11-plus.