From spacious shopping centres to mini market stalls, groups can browse to their hearts content, with a vast selection of tourist friendly destinations made readily available throughout the UK, writes Amy Moore
Those looking to rub shoulders with the more sophisticated side of the capital should look no further than Chic Outlet Shopping in Bicester Village, inviting the opportunity for guests to dabble amidst 900 unique boutiques, selling a wide range of top quality designer brands. Since its launch in 1992, the outdoor village has looked to entice groups into a luxury shopping experience, made easily accessible through a specialised coach and chauffeur service direct from central London. Shopping packages are available to book online and can be specifically tailored to suit groups of all abilities. Hands-free service is the ideal application for those looking to visit for leisure, and for ultimate relaxation, why not opt for a two course lunch or dinner at three of the attraction’s finest restaurants? Other personal touches include a children’s play area situated opposite the Villandry Grand Café, ma king it the perfect spot for families seeking a relaxing day out. Perks for groups include a visitor centre, which aims to provide key information regarding accommodation, facilities and other local attractions, so guests shouldn’t fall short on what this high ranking attraction has to offer.
Affordable fashion and homeware is all the range at the Trafford Centre in Manchester, offering late night shopping every weekday until 2200hrs. Sport and leisure brands are inclusive to the top quality shopping experience provided, which does well to add a spark that sets the venue apart from its competitors. Located five miles from the city centre, groups could choose to travel via coach, train, bus, tram, or even air to get to their destination, as transport links available can accommodate larger groups in particular. Perhaps make the visit memorable with a trip to the second floor of the building, which plays host to Laser Quest and Adventure Golf. Two generously seated cinemas offer visitors a chance to relax amidst the bustling atmosphere of the shopping centre itself. Costa Coffee is also located nearby, with a main café downstairs welcoming the chance to unwind after a long day. The venue entertains a range of consumer friendly events throughout the year, including fashion and home shows, more of which can be viewed on their Pinterest page.
At Lakeside Village Outlet in Essex, the philosophy is to allow for comfort and convenience by offering good quality products at bargain prices. Anyone who chooses to visit will find it almost impossible not to revel in cheerfully cheap purchases courtesy of the 45 well known outlets provided, currently boasting up to 60% off in selected stores and late night shopping on a Thursday. The complex itself is conveniently close at hand to various other attractions that can comfortably accommodate groups, with a Premier Inn nearby for those seeking a longer stay. Groups travelling by coach are welcomed by a designated drop off point and ample parking upon request. Free wheelchair hire is available upon disembarkation for any visitors who require it and guide dogs are permitted throughout the centre. Coach drivers especially can enjoy a number of perks including a £5 gift voucher to spend if they cater for 20 passengers or more. A free coach information pack is graciously provided for those who book in advance.
Glass panels dominate the open plan structure of Westfield Stratford City, home to around 250 stores and conveniently located close to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. All day parking is available at a reduced rate until the end of June and those choosing to travel by foot can enjoy a highly pedestrianised route direct from Stratford City Centre. The venue is wheelchair friendly and offers mobility scooter hire at an affordable price. A 20-bay coach park has been installed to accommodate larger groups and parties must be booked at least 24 hours in advance. A specialised concierge service offers bag storage for those looking to travel light and a personalised welcome is available upon disembarkation. Welcome packs are provided, complete with mall directory, and a guided tour is ideal for those looking to make the most of their indoor shopping experience. Those looking to expand their palette have the deluxe choice of 70 places to dine, including a unique international fine dining experience at the World Food Court. In regards to leisure, the building is home to one of the UK’s first super casinos, open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A highly accessible unique shopping experience under one roof, The Mill Outlet in Batley is named as the UK’s biggest retail mill; housing over 40 brand and high street stores. Customers are welcomed with savings of up to 70% on selected
fashion, homeware and gift items, with suggested group favourites including Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Cotton Traders and The Sweet Emporium. There is even a butcher’s shop, hair salon and a garden centre thrown into the mix for ultimate comfort and convenience. Four diverse eateries serve the likes of stone-baked pizza through to traditional tea room fare. Independently occupied restaurants are also on the menu and invariably deliver top quality service. It is recommended that bookings are made well in advance to the restaurant of choice. Passengers on coach trips in particular are more inclined to receive discounted vouchers that can be used upon arrival, as well as 20% off food at any of the four deluxe restaurants available. Coach drivers receive a free meal and a £15 cash payout for their trouble. Guests wishing to visit can download a ‘Group Visitor Guide’ from the shopping centre’s website. Fam visits are also welcome. T: For group visits contact Paula Hammerton on 01924 423172 E: Or alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.themillbatley.com
Currently celebrating 15 years of retail since its opening in 1999, Bluewater in Kent effortlessly combines bags of designer boutiques, the tantalising taste of exquisite cuisine and a vast array of indoor and outdoor activities guaranteed to keep groups entertained. Those visiting may be interested in the history of the iconic structure, which was once a chalk quarry, is actually the height of 10 double-decker buses. It now remains a hub of hustle and bustle, welcomed by 330 high street stores and 55 places to dine, meaning the 28.1 million visiting each year are undoubtedly spoilt for choice. The venue’s heightened appeal can also be reflected in its commitment to retail sustainability in which it won a Green Apple Award in 2012. A spacious events suite plays host to a number of inspiring conventions, making it a must visit venue for any group. International tourists in particular, can enjoy tax-free shopping, as well as a number of bureau de change sites dotted throughout the building. Those seeking a mini-break especially could choose to venture out onto the boating lake nearby, or perhaps even relax with a sit down picnic amidst acres of sublime woodland scenery.
T: 01322 475475 E: See website for details W: www.bluewater.co.uk
Model fashion, extravagant displays and celebrity appearances can all be found at Victoria Square in Belfast, now offering late night opening between Wednesday and Friday until 2100hrs. Getting there is easy, as the building is situated at the heart of Belfast city centre and boasts an on-site car park for anyone travelling by road. The venue can also be accessed by public transport. 24-hour access is granted to those who require shop mobility, those with special needs and parent and baby priority, meaning guests are rarely in a rush to leave. 70 deluxe stores and restaurants are on hand to those visiting and students that sign up online can enjoy discounts of up to 10% on selected stores, ideal for those on a tight budget. The destination itself aims to sit right on trend, dazzling with that added personal touch when it comes to shopping for a special occasion. A personal stylist is also available to book if required. Further events are held throughout the year for kids and adults alike, including its standing as the local venue for this year’s X Factor auditions.
Though it’s often considered a regular hot spot for students, WestQuay in Southampton resides over 100 shops tailored to the likes of sport, travel and fashion. ‘Inside Out Art’ located in the Upper Mall is a recommended must see for anyone looking to purchase a memento of their trip to the south. A separate dining level is available in the mall itself, catering to an array of international palettes including the likes of Yo! Sushi and Wagamama. Visitors would be intrigued to discover that WestQuay is the first location to have been awarded the Sustainable Standard Award by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). A mere five minute walk from Southampton Central train station means it’s almost impossible to miss. Alternatively a shuttle bus runs every 10 minutes direct to the shopping centre itself. Ferry link “Red Funnel” have a specialised route constructed between Cowes and Southampton Docks, perfect for those looking to transport vehicles, with an average of 55 minutes crossing time. Once arrived, a dedicated drop off point is available on the Lower Shopping Level, flaunting first class access. Visitors looking to get a taste of those renowned Swedish meatballs could choose to pop to Ikea which is located directly opposite.
Churchill Square’s dominating exterior does little to conceal the fact that it stands mere minutes away from Brighton Seafront and boasts direct connections to the North and South Laines. An approximate 10 minute walk from the city’s main rail station, it is often recommended that guests turn right by the clock tower to find themselves immersed in the liveliness of the city. Those driving are welcomed by an inexpensive car park that can house around 1,600 cars at a time. ‘Spud U Like’ is a definite must for those looking to stop off for something cheap and cheerful to eat, or alternatively venture out to ‘Foodilic,’ which GTW would highly recommend to boost any itinerary, offering a buffet with the likes of spinach leaves doused in garlic and a finely chopped vegetable cous cous. More fresh produce is provided to those through the Local Farmer’s Market held every Wednesday at The Piazza. Brighton Open Market is set to open in May 2014 with plans to run from Monday to Saturday. Entry is free of charge, with pop up stalls selling a range of unique market products.