James Day examines some of the more off-beat group travel destinations in the UK.
When you think about the bizarre and unusual, Ripley’s Believe It or Not is a standout attraction.
Located in Piccadilly Circus, London, visitors can marvel at an unbelievable collection of jaw dropping artefacts from across the globe – many of which were collected by the ultimate explorer Robert Ripley himself. With over 700 astonishing exhibits, galleries and interactive experiences spanning across six floors, Ripley’s Believe It or Not London celebrates the weird, wonderful and bizarre in all its forms. Exhibits include a representation of the world’s tallest man, a rare collection Amazonian shrunken heads and real fossilised dinosaur eggs. There is also Ripley’s Marvellous Mirror Maze and the Impossible LaseRace to experience. Groups of 10 or more can save up to 37% on entry, on top of a receiving a free ticket for every 10 paid tickets. Groups get fast-tracked entry into the attraction and can get a two-course meal at Planet Hollywood for £13, located a one-minute walk away.
For a more adrenaline fuelled experience, why not try airsoft against zombies in an abandoned shopping centre in Reading? Visitors are briefed by the ‘Police Special Zombie Bashing Unit’ on how to use airsoft weapons in a fully immersive experience as a zombie apocalypse unfolds around them. They then have to make their way through the shopping centre, fighting off zombies (actors) as a team to avoid being overcome. Up to 20 people can take part on one of the days, whether they are all in the same group or not. It is unknown how long the experience will be available, as the shopping centre is scheduled for demolition. Be sure to book while you still can. Unfortunately no group discounts are available. The event is apparently priced as low as it can be already at £139 per person, but it is nevertheless a great group day out.
The Clink Prison Museum is built upon the original site of The Clink Prison, which dates back to 1144 and was one of England’s oldest and most notorious prisons. Spanning for over 600 years, it witnessed a remarkable amount of social and political change in England, and thus housed a multitude of sinners throughout its existence, including debtors, heretics, drunkards, harlots, and later religious adversaries. Positioned in the heart of modern day Southwark, the prison was situated in an area that has long been associated with more raucous, vivacious and unruly behaviour. It was the ‘louder, ruder and wickeder’ neighbour to London, and a place where Londoners sought entertainment. Visitors will learn all about this scandalous truth of Old Bankside through a hands-on educational experience, with the opportunity to view archaeological artefacts, handle torture devices, and to view and hear all about the tales of torment and many misfortunes of the inmates. Groups of 10 or more can take advantage of a guided tour option, which can be tailored to their specific needs. Discounted entry is also available.
The Beaney is an art museum and library situated in the heart of the historic city of Canterbury. Following a £14m restoration project the revitalised Beaney re-opened its doors to the public in September 2012. Entry to the museum is free. The facility provides state-of-the-art exhibition galleries, a brand new and extended library, excellent educational facilities and a varied programme of interactive events for all ages. Until Sunday, July 27, the Beaney Museum in Canterbury is home to the ‘Teddy Bear Story’ exhibition, which celebrates the special toys that have been childhood companions to millions of people. The exhibition traces the history of teddy bears, and investigates the world-wide production and success of this favourite toy. Well-known bears feature, from folk and fairy stories to picture books, film and television, along with some teddies that have their own personal stories to tell. The Beaney offers an exciting programme of events and activities for schools and colleges designed to inspire young people and enrich learning. Special described tours of the museum are available for groups of blind and partially sighted people. Contact martin.crowther@ canterbury.gov.uk for further details.
Mercat Tours in Edinburgh offers a number of ghost tour experiences which are suitable for groups. Private tours grant the group to have an exclusive guide and allow the group to choose what they would like to hear. Options include ghostly tales and historical gems, medical misdoings and architectural treats, literary delights or a little bit of everything. Groups can choose where their tour will start and how long it will last. It can also be arranged to finish near the next point in your journey, whether that is a restaurant, hotel or pub. There is also an option to include the Blair Street underground vaults, though this is not for the faint of heart. Other extras include a ‘jumper-ooter’ or a foreign language guide. Options are available for schools, stag and hen tours, birthdays and work functions, all of which feature their own unique surprises. Mercat Tours is now providing coach guides for the first time, responding to increasing demand for city tour, multi-day coach guides and tour directors from agents and tour operators.
Now here’s something truly weird. Sunday August 24, 2014 sees the 29th World Bog Snorkelling Championships, held annually in Llanwrtyd Wells, part of the World Alternative Games. In 2013 the bog snorkellers included participants from France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Eire and Mali, making this a truly international world championship. As usual there were plenty of fancy dress entries, with the first prize for fancy dress going to two women dressed as the ‘Happy Flappers’, complete with feather boas. The event takes place at Waen Rhydd bog on the outskirts of the town, getting underway at around 1000hrs. The site is signposted from the town for those who don’t mind about a mile walk, and there is also a shuttle bus running from the town square to the bog and back. There are food and drink stalls, crafts, a bouncy castle, live music and a bar on the site, so it’s a great day out even if you don’t fancy taking the plunge. Online entries close seven days before the event, if any of you are interested in doing more than just watching.