James Day reveals some of the best group travel destinations and attractions to visit in the New Year. What follows, in no particular order, are 10 attractions which stand out as providing something special for groups in 2015.
The rugby fortress of Murrayfield in Edinburgh is one venue which was missing from GTW’s rugby feature last month, since it is not hosting a World Cup match. However, it still has to be one of the most iconic and impressive stadiums in the UK and is well worth a visit.
The stadium is currently installing a hybrid pitch, which should be ready for next season. The venue has also installed a new WiFi service, which is excellent for conferences and events.
Tours are available from Monday to Saturday at a set time of 1100hrs. A guided tour lasts 1.5 hours and is subject to availability. At £6 per adult and £3 per child, student or senior, the tours are great value. The venue recommends one guide per 25-30 people.
View things differently from Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower. Standing 170 metres over Portsmouth Harbour, the Spinnaker Tower is a must see attraction for groups and a fantastic way to start your visit to the South Coast. The experience includes three viewing decks to enjoy, offering stunning views stretching up to 23 miles and encompassing over 1,700 years of history. Groups can explore one of the most fascinating landscapes with i-VIEW interactive touch screens and free audio guides. Visit again for free the same day and see the ever changing views.
On View Deck 2, visitors can enjoy coffee and cakes in the Café in Clouds, or bring their group for high tea at 105 metres. Groups of 15 or more visiting the Spinnaker Tower can benefit from priority access, discounted admission, free entry for the GTO and an array of joint ticket options including the Mary Rose, D-Day Museum and the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.
THE WEST END; BACK TO THE FUTURE
Looking for a West End musical with a difference in 2015? What about a stage adaptation of one of the best loved 80s film trilogies? Back to the Future the Musical, directed by Jamie Lloyd, is due to appear in the West End some time in 2015 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the first film in the franchise. The film, starring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Dr Emmett Brown, took $360.6m at the box office. It really is a fantastic franchise, so hopefully the stage production can live up to it and isn’t another high-profile West End flop.
Information on the production is in short supply at the moment, but the hype is sure to build up before tickets go on sale. Keep your eyes open for this one.
ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
If you’re looking for something more traditional on the stage, it might be worth travelling to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company. If you don’t have time to see a performance, Theatre Tours are on offer, along with a number of free exibitions and the opportunity to view the area from the top of the tower. Group Tour Packages start at £180 for a group of 20. For theatre tickets, groups get £5 off premium seats and top price seats, plus one half price ticket for the group organiser. These rates are available for Monday to Friday performances for groups of eight or more adults. If you’re interested in staying nearby, the Royal Shakespeare Company recommends the Arden Hotel, situated directly opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It is an elegant and sophisticated 45-bedroom boutique-style hotel.
HMS Victory is the Royal Navy’s most famous warship. Best known for her role in the Battle of Trafalgar, the Victory currently has a dual role as the Flagship of the First Sea Lord and as a living museum to the Georgian Navy.
The warship is currently undergoing a period of restoration, which should be completed by 2015. This involves taking down the topmasts and rigging and investigating the planking. This is nothing unusual, as wooden ships like Victory need constant attention from the day they were launched.
Discounts of up to 25% are available for groups of 15 or more people. Also, for those interested in the wider Historic Dockyard, attraction tickets give entry to all of the attractions for a year.
As well as HMS Victory, this includes: The new Mary Rose Museum; HMS Warrior 1860; The new HMS Alliance at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, plus the Royal Marines Museum and Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower; The National Museum Royal Navy Portsmouth; and Harbour Tours.
Stonehenge is one of the UK’s most famous tourist attractions. The new visitor centre is a 20 minute round trip from the Stone Circle and has been received quite negatively, though groups are well catered for.
The visitor centre itself does have many improved facilities, with museum quality exhibitions and a spacious shop and café. It might mean a visit to the monument takes longer than it used to, but this isn’t without merit. Groups can access pre-booked timed tickets, helping them to avoid queues for the land train. A 10% discount is available for groups of 11 or more visitors paying together. Free entry is provided for the coach driver and tour leader, with free coach parking on site. The attraction recommends a two hour visit. This provides sufficient time to explore the visitor centre, with its internal and external exhibitions, and to take the round-trip journey to and from the Stone Circle.
Burghley House continues to offer groups the opportunity to experience the Cecil family home in the heart of its 13,000 acre working Lincolnshire Estate, most famous for hosting the Burghley Horse Trials. The House generally opens from mid-March until early November, on all days except Fridays, from 1100 to 1700hrs. Visitors are able to enjoy a guided or self guided tour of Burghley’s 18 dramatic state rooms, surrounded by Capability Brown parkland.
A wide range of different talks and tours are available to suit all needs and budgets. Group catering is also available. The attraction is particularly friendly towards coach groups. Plenty of coach parking is available on site, with trade discounts available for operators booking five or more group visits in a year. Group leaders and coach drivers both get complimentary admission, with the driver also being given a £10 refreshment voucher for the Orangery Restaurant.
Based at the heart of the redeveloped Salford Quays in Manchester, The Lowry combines a wide variety of performing and visual arts under one roof.
The Lowry houses two main theatres and studio space for performing arts (1,730,466 and 180 seats respectively) presenting a full range of drama, opera, ballet, dance, musicals, children’s shows, popular music, jazz, folk and comedy. The venue also has gallery spaces (1,610 metres of floor space); showing the works of LS Lowry alongside contemporary exhibitions. Groups of 10 or more can take advantage of discounts to the majority of the venue’s shows, a convenient coach drop off point and long reservation periods, amongst other benefits. Tours for groups are also available, with 30 minute tours of the galleries available for as little as £2 per person.
BANK OF ENGLAND MUSEUM
The newly refurbished Bank of England Museum is the place to go for groups looking for a unique experience in London. Proudly situated within the impressive walls of the Bank of England, the fascinating Museum takes guests through the history of the bank since its foundation in 1694, to its current role at the centre of the economy.
Following a three month closure, a brand new range of exhibits and displays have been added to the Museum, including an interactive timeline which navigates through the history of financial storms, and a virtual boat game that allows visitors to set monetary policy to keep inflation stable.
Until the spring of 2015, the exhibition ‘The First World War and the Bank of England’ will mark the centenary of the outbreak of The Great War, examining its impact on the economy and its effects on the bank and its staff. The exhibition will show how the bank commemorated staff that fought in the battlefields at the end of the war and how it continues to remember them today.
The Museum offers a variety of talks and presentations for groups between 15 and 50 visitors of all ages. For visitors with a general interest in the Bank, the presentation ‘The Bank of England, past and present’ is an audio-visual journey through the history of the Bank, its architecture and its work today. While all presentations are free of charge, they must be booked in advance.
The FIA’s brand new electric racing series comes to the UK next year. While the course has yet to be finalised, London is set to host the 10th and final race of the new Formula E racing series on June 27, 2015 on the city streets. Experiencing the new racing cars travelling past famous London landmarks at break-neck speed, is something which has never been seen before. This piece of racing history has to be worth travelling to the capital to see, and with it being the final race of the season, has the potential to be the most dramatic of all.