If you feel lightheaded at the thought of being up high then look away now, as Elissa Hill explores the UK’s most towering places to eat, drink, hang out and simply admire the view.

 

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Towering attractions are cropping up all over the country and visitors are flocking to see them. Captivating to observe as well as to climb, famous architects are clambering over each other to design the next iconic gangly, gravitydefying structure. London being London, it has a sprinkling of tall buildings, but Britain’s coastline also houses its fair share of amazing towers, with wonderful seascapes to enjoy, along with breathtaking inland scenery. What makes these attractions worthy of a visit is the fact there’s as much to do on the ground as there is up high. Many of these attractions have restaurants, shops and even 4D cinemas. So let’s shed our vertigo and head into the clouds for a tour of the UK’s best attractions in the air.

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Spinnaker Tower

TOWERING ABOVE THE REST –  Stretching up 110metres, the Spinnaker Tower on Portsmouth’s Docklands was named by the people who live around it. It was constructed in 2005 and has been a remarkable success since opening. With three viewing decks available, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to activities above Portsmouth’s streets. On ground level, there’s plenty to keep visitors entertained, with a gift shop and cafe. At 100 metres, visitors can try out the i-view interactive interpretation on Viewing Deck One. No more 20ps in the binoculars here. These brilliant viewing touch screens allow visitors to switch from day to night and from cloudy to clear, with an additional zoom function that enables the voyeur to explore a particular area on the map in more detail if desired. Braver members of the group could experience walking on air by taking a skywalk over glass. Also available on Viewing Deck One are audio guides, a ship finder and even a view deck host. Viewing Deck Two is home to Cafe in the Clouds, which offers a selection of drinks and cakes, with group discounts on high teas, ploughman lunches and the like. Finally, the third and highest deck at a lofty 110 metres is an open-air viewing platform that gives visitors a real sense of height. It’s open daily from 1000hrs until 1700hrs, except in August when opening hours are extended half an hour either side. 2015 is a great time to take a group to the Spinnaker Tower, as it’s the attraction’s 10th anniversary and to celebrate, it has reduced the qualifying group discount to 10 people. For more information about group bookings, visit the group section of the website at www.spinnakertower.co.uk

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Brighton I360

Further along the British coastline from the Spinnaker Tower, a new attraction is currently under construction. From the designers of The London Eye, Brighton brings you the anticipated Brighton i360. Edging the beach on Regency Square, the futuristic structure will accompany the Brighton Wheel on Madeira Drive. Set to open in 2016, the Brighton i360 is a super lift pod that can contain up to 200 people, whilst climbing slowly to 138 metres. At night, the pod will be transformed into the sophisticated and aptly named Sky Bar, where visitors will be able to enjoy a 30-minute vertical ride sipping drinks and enjoying the nighttime skyline. At the base of the Brighton i360 will be a 400-seat restaurant and exhibition centre, which will play host to numerous special events and private parties. The pod will be fully wheelchair accessible. Tickets are not yet available. Visit the Brighton i360 website for the latest news (www.brightoni360.co.uk).

BLACKPOOL’S FINEST Travel north to the original seaside tower in Blackpool. It’s retro, it’s iconic, it’s a tiny bit glitzy and it’s a far cry from its modern counterparts. That said, there is nothing ‘has been’ about Blackpool Tower, which functions as a huge entertainment complex. Your group can visit the circus; take to the floor in the ballroom, venture down to the dungeon or watch a show at the 4D cinema. As with Spinnaker Tower, visitors can try the designated skywalk over glass. Northern England and the Irish Sea are set out in front, or below if you are brave enough to step out onto the glass. There are many group ticket options and discounts are available. Visit the website (www. blackpooltower.com) for more information.

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Cloud 23

HEAD IN THE CLOUDS – Travelling inland into Manchester, groups can visit Cloud 23, a superior champagne and cocktail bar in the clouds. Completing part of the Hilton Hotel, your group are assured a high quality experience, with an irresistible drink and nibble menu, and group discounts including cocktail master classes starting at £30 per person. Email cloud23.manchester@hilton. co.uk for more details regarding group experiences. Further north over the Scottish border is the Glasgow Tower at the city’s Science Park, which holds the Guinness Book of Records title for the tallest fully rotating freestanding building in the world. At 127 metres, it’s an engineering triumph. It takes two-and-a-half minutes to travel up to the cabin and once there, the views of the city, the Clyde and the beautiful Scottish scenery are simply breathtaking. The Science Park has plenty to offer in addition to the Tower, which completes a full day out. It’s open daily in the summer between 1000hrs to 1700hrs and offers a 20% discount for groups of 10 plus, with free admission and a complimentary drink for coach drivers and recognised guides.

VIEW FROM THE SHARD Back in the capital, if you fancy a decent view from above, you obviously need to climb the uber stylish Shard. A View From The Shard group ticket costs £22.46 per person and once there, you are under no time restrictions. At a mind-blowing 244 metres, it’s the tallest building in the EU and the views certainly match up to its height. Visitors ascend in high speed ‘kaleidoscope’ lifts, transporting them to Level 68, where they can browse the highest shops in London. Further up to Level 69 – the first viewing gallery houses electronic telescopes and detailed audio information. Ascend to Level 72 and visitors are treated to astounding views of London. The attraction also offers a handy weather guarantee, meaning that if it’s cloudy and there’s no view, visitors will receive free tickets for attendance another time. Opening times are April to October 2015, 1000hrs to 2200hrs. During the winter months, the View From The Shard closes at 1900hrs on Monday to Wednesday. For further information or to book, email reservations@ theviewfromtheshard.com

ARCELORMITTAL ORBIT Comparable to the View From The Shard, within London’s East End stands the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which remains a distinctive emblem of the 2012 London Olympics. The highest viewing platform at the ArcelorMittal Orbit reaches 80 metres and boasts pretty panoramic views spanning 20 miles from its base at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Ascending 455 steps through the attraction’s air tunnel, visitors can immerse themselves in the authentic sounds of London and once they’ve reached the top, they will be able to observe many of London’s most iconic structures including the View From The Shard, the BT Tower, The Gherkin, Big Ben, Canary Wharf, the O2 Arena and the Emirates Airline. 80 metres up, i-view interactives use advanced gigapixel technology to interpret the landscape, with fun sized concave mirrors that flip your perspective of the horizon. Introduced in 2015, the ArcelorMittal Orbit boasts the UK’s highest freefall abseil, which can be booked exclusively for groups of 10 plus. For availability email events@arcelormittalorbit. com. The ArcelorMittal Orbit welcomes organised parties of 15 plus, with coach bookings subject to a minimal booking fee. It is advised that groups book at least 72 hours in advance. For more information call the Group Booking Line on 020 8221 9107 or visit www. arcelormittalorbit.com

LONDON’S ICONIC EYE The London Eye is the world’s largest observation wheel, stretching 133 metres high. Designed by the architects of the Brighton i360, it has since become the UK’s most popular paid for attraction. Rotating slowly to the top, London opens up in front of you, and visitors can see up to 25 miles once the attraction has reached its full height. The London Eye moves at a relaxing pace and takes 30 minutes for a full rotation. The London Eye is open daily between 1000hrs and 2030hrs
and group ticket prices are £18.27 for an adult and £13.17 for a child. There are also options to have exclusive use of a ‘capsule,’ enjoy a glass of champagne or have a guide accompany you. All tickets allow access to the 4D cinema experience offered at the base of The London Eye. Don’t miss the London Eye’s ‘Summer Lates,’ which offer touring groups a scrumptious Summer Cocktail Experience. From July 3-August 21, the London Eye will remain open until midnight every Friday, with the Summer Cocktail Experience available at 1830hrs and 2030hrs on Friday and Saturday, with an additional slot on Friday at 1030hrs. During the event, the London Eye will embark on a special double rotation that lasts around an hour, whereby a personal host will serve deliciously refreshing summer cocktails and savory nibbles. Guests will also have the opportunity to combine their visit with the Pommery Champagne Bar. For more information call 0207 907 7130 or email londoneyeteam@exposure.net. For more information visit www.londoneye.com