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Volume 14 Issue 4 2021

Great y Wa West ment


e Suppl

Groups Always Welcome Christmas Supplement

Cathedrals Churches & Abbeys Heritage Railways Grand Day’s Out

Plus Johnsons Journal, news and the return of BTTS 2021

shutterstock Zamurovic Brothers

Travel Group

Comment Hello there, it’s been a while since we last communicated so I hope you and yours are well, despite these challenging times. An awful lot has happened over the past 12 months but it appears that at last we are seeing more and more light at the end of this long tunnel. As such, with a fair wind behind us, I am sure we can look to the future with renewed confidence and optimism. One organisation doing its best to ensure that we retain an air of confidence is the Coach Tourism Association, and as so many of you travel by coach, it’s reassuring to be told by coach operators that ‘We’re Good to Go’. This message comes from the We love Coaches campaign as coach operators have implemented rigorous new Covid systems with enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures. GTOs will notice many changes including hand sanitiser stations on coaches, although, you are encouraged to bring hand sanitiser gel for use during your journey. The ubiquitous face masks should be worn when travelling on board and when on the coach, the tour staff will explain their safe procedures for boarding and alighting - this may take a little longer than usual, so please be patient. There will also be enhanced cleaning with a range of processes being deployed by coach operators such as aerosol based disinfection, fogging with antiviral solutions and all key touch points including handrails, armrests, seat belts and toilets cleaned regularly using antiviral products. Toilets where supplied, will be cleaned regularly using fogging and antiviral solutions.

Group Travel Today

Contents News


be left vacant and on-board announcements may be made to explain the safety procedures – this may mean that the capacity on coaches is likely to be reduced.



Johnsons Journal


Grand Days Out


The so-called ‘staycation’ phenomenon shows no sign of abating, if my recent experience in Devon is anything to go by. The good lady and I spend time in North Devon every summer yet I have never seen it so busy as during our trip there this July. The attractions, hotels, pubs, restaurants and venues were packed and it was wonderful to see so many happy faces. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that every business owner I spoke with was delighted by the huge numbers of visitors and long may it continue.

Cathedrals, Churches & Abbeys


Groups Always Welcome


Christmas Supplement


Heritage Railways


Great West Way Supplement


Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that the British Tourism & Travel Show goes ahead at the N.E.C. in Birmingham on 22-23. By my reckoning this is their third, perhaps fourth attempt at putting the show on. Please do your best to attend and who knows, you might find some new ideas for your group’s tour programme in 2022 and beyond. Group Travel Today will be at the show, so do come and see us for a chat. I think that’s about from me for this edition, so keep well and I hope to see you soon

With the current Covid 19 pandemic evolving situation please check with attractions to confirm if any restriction will apply


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Many coaches now have additional air filtering to help tackle airborne particulates and improve air quality on board even further. Social distancing as always, is key and there should be a safe social distance between members of your group, the tour driver / staff and other passengers. People from the same household may be able to sit together and signage on board will clearly mark any seats which should

Tel: 0121 445 6961 Fax: 0121 445 4436 email: Sales: Emma L Middleton Brett James Kirby Tel: 0121 445 6961 Contributors: Pauline Johnson, Simon Walton Design: Alexina Whittaker & Paul Hemsley Production: Laura Collins Publishing Director: Hugh Cairns Managing Director: Nigel Whittaker



Group Travel Today

The Great British Staycation

RHS, Tourism Ireland, VisitBritain, Visit Wales and West Midlands Safari & Leisure Park and more. See the full exhibitor list online at https://exhibitormanual.touris Topical and engaging keynotes

The British Tourism & Travel Show returns to the NEC, Birmingham on 22-23 September 2021. Expect an atmosphere of positivity and determination as the UK travel trade welcomes the return of domestic group tourism.

Tourism & Travel Show (BTTS).

The sector has undoubtably been one of the most significantly impacted by the pandemic. However, the appetite for group tourism has not gone away. The industry will bounce back redefined to meet pent-up demand and deliver the needs of a post-pandemic world.

Demand is anticipated in equal measure for coastal and country destinations, and for city breaks, as cultural attractions and events return. Says Event Manager Lloyd Jones, “The domestic tourism sector is ready to meet this incredible boom, and we are delighted to be part of the growing momentum as we bring the industry together once again. If you’re in the business of planning group tours, you simply must visit BTTS this September, as we collectively welcome the sector’s revival!”

There’s no place like home With social needs and wanderlust building to tipping point, organisers should expect a surge in demand in the near future, especially for the new holiday of choice: staycations. With hundreds of quality, group-ready staycation experiences lined up, there is no better place to find inspiration and start your planning for 2022 and beyond than at the British

Group ready and coach friendly attractions, destinations and hotels It has never been more challenging to find places to visit that cater for groups and coaches. Fortunately, the British Tourism & Travel Show brings them all together, giving you the opportunity to hear from exhibiting teams how your group will be welcomed and what measures will be in place to ensure your guests will be

kept safe in a postpandemic world. You can explore an eclectic mix of around 250 group and coach friendly attractions, venues, and destinations from across the British Isles in just two days. Some of the big names exhibiting in 2021 are Albatross Travel, Chatsworth House, Cotswold Tourism, Devon’s Top Attractions, Great Days Travel Group, Hilton Worldwide, Longleat,

The Keynote Theatre will once again host engaging and informative speakers to update you on the latest need-to-know industry developments, trends, and best practice. Speakers already confirmed include VisitEngland, the Confederation of Passenger Transport, the Tourism Alliance, and a panel discussion from the Association of Group Travel Organisers.

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and not only to discover new attractions or to have something exciting catch your eye, but also to meet fellow GTOs.

With lockdown resulting in group travel trade shows moving online, the industry has started to question whether the traditional face-to-face show has a future. Wendy HartleyScarff, chief executive of the Association of Group Travel Organisers, considers what might happen.

It is this social side of trade shows that I feel is often just as important as establishing new contacts. Talking with people you may not have seen for some time, or being introduced to new people, is another way to share experiences and forge new opportunities. So for those reasons, I’d be keen to see face-to-face shows continue. It seems that that might be what the industry wants as well, at least in the short term.

During lockdown we’ve seen several, wellproduced online trade shows, bringing together exhibitors and GTOs, and providing ideas and inspiration, and all from the comfort of your own home.

Of course, part of the reason for that is because four of them are shows postponed from 2020, and there’s a commercial imperative at work, with confirmations and bookings all carried forward.

It’s been good, but you know, it really isn’t the same.

I say four of them because the fifth is a new kid on the block. ‘London for Groups Live’ took place at the Strand Palace Hotel in central London on 31 August. Recognising that GTOs are only likely to

Wandering around a hall full of exhibitors gives you the opportunity not only to talk to them individually,

attend if they can maximise their time in the Capital, organisers limited the exhibition element to just three hours in the afternoon. This allows GTOs to take advantage of some special discounts being offered by London attractions. There was even a special accommodation offer at the Strand Palace making a one or two-night short break an option. It’s an appealing package and shows an alternative to the larger, one-size-fits-all approach. Our trade show summary reveals that apart from Excursions 2022, which moves from Alexandra Palace in north London to Twickenham Stadium in west London, little changes. The British Tourism & Travel Show (BTTS) remains the only two-day exhibition, and the only group travel trade event to be held at the NEC. In any normal year of course we would have had BTTS in the March, and the Group Leisure & Travel Show in the October, a sensible interval of six months between them. This year, thanks to lockdown and

postponements, there’s just two weeks. It will be interesting to see what this means in terms of exhibitor and visitor numbers. So does all of this give us an idea of what the group travel trade show landscape will look like in the years ahead? My own opinion is that we will see an increase in the number of smaller online shows, possibly focusing on specific geographic areas, and giving smaller attractions the opportunity to promote their group offers without the expense of taking part in traditional events. For larger exhibitions I think we will see a hybrid – face-toface, and virtual for those who are unable to attend. I also wonder if we might see the number of faceto-face shows reduce, perhaps to two main events a year, so really making it worthwhile for GTOs and exhibitors to participate. But then again, I rather liked Betamax!

Photograph courtesy of the BTTS


Group Travel Today





FREE Information Pack for Coach Operators & Group Organisers FREE Coach Driver’s lunch voucher Situated just off Junction 2 of the M66 Coach Drop Off/Pick Up Point adjacent to the market Disabled facilities FREE dedicated Coach Parking

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A Great Day Out

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Johnsons Journal

Group Travel Today

The continuing, amazing adventures of Pauline & Ken, on their travels

views of the river below. Our hotel was The Derwent Manor at Allensford, ideally placed for all our excursions. However the heavens opened with a vengeance just after we arrived so any thoughts of sitting outside for a drink before dinner were abandoned.

Group at Sonning Dining Theatre for Abba concert At long last, in the middle of June, we managed our first live theatre trip – in fact our first coach trip – for 16 months. Everyone was so happy to be going out again and meeting up with people they hadn’t seen for ages. The show was an ABBA tribute group with all the wellknown songs, plenty of arm swaying and hand clapping. The sheer joy and feeling of well-being that this one concert has had on those 32 people is immeasurable. The management at Sonning Mill theatre had taken a lot of trouble to make sure that all the COVID secure precautions are being taken both in the restaurant and the actual theatre. A great deal of thought had been put into making the auditorium safe. They have created a cabaret setting with well-made wooden shelving with lamps over alternate rows of seats, and then Perspex shields between each group of seats. Far

more atmospheric than it would otherwise have been. You really didn’t feel as if there were only 70 of you instead of 250. Thank you everyone at Sonning Mill.

Durham tour. Even up to four days before we travelled this was still ongoing. What a thankless task for the tour operator, NAGT. I decided, for this first tour, to ask everyone to have a lateral flow test the day before departure. Everyone willingly agreed.

In between this concert and our next day trip - to RHS Bridgewater where we took two coaches of 30 people each - the extended lockdown resulted in the necessity to revise and tweak our early July County

On our way North we had a lunch stop at Richmond with many taking a walk around the castle grounds with its

Arbeia Roman Fort archaeological site 8

Monday when we went to Beamish was more of the same, heavy showers which didn’t clear up until just before we were leaving. Rather a shame as it is an outdoor venue. Due to COVID the trams weren’t running. Being a very large site the one bus they had put on was totally inadequate for the visitor numbers, restricted though they were as the bus could only run half full. The one indoor tea-room was also a disappointment as queues were long and service was haphazard at best. Such a shame as Beamish is a great place to go. If you made it to the Pit Village area things were much better but with only outside catering, which in inclement weather is not great. Ken and I had planned to do a reccy in October last year

Group Travel Today

to explore. The Verger, Jimmy Guy, agreed to give us a talk for a donation towards their fund raising. It was an inspirational talk by a wonderful man and everyone came out saying how much they enjoyed it.

Group having a talk in Chancel by Jimmy Guy St Paul's Jarrow

of the next day’s venue, Arbeia Roman Fort at South Shields, but had to cancel due to the local lockdown. Only the museum and reconstructed Commanding Officer’s house were open. As it was again pouring with rain I was very concerned about possibly having to stand outside for part of the visit but local guide Sue came up with a solution. We split the group in three. Sue stayed in the museum and gave her talk about the history of the area and how the ruins were discovered. Her friend and volunteer guide Faye took another group to the Commanding Officer’s House, starting with a video (which is similar to one on YouTube) and the last group looked around the museum. Although small the story of how it came to be is fascinating, and a very worthwhile inclusion in any tour, but do get a guide. The initial idea after Arbeia

Parts of the 7th century monastery still survive within the existing church. The monastery’s reputation spread throughout Europe mainly due to the writings of the Venerable Bede who entered St Paul’s in around 680 at the age of seven and spent his life in the twin monastery of WearmouthJarrow. From the moment we left the church until the time we got home on Friday the

was for people to have free time in South Shields to get coffee and have a wander along the seafront or explore the small town centre. In the rain that wouldn’t have been much fun so Plan B. The Little Haven Hotel at the mouth of the Tyne is just 3 minutes drive away. They agreed, with 90 minutes notice, to provide coffee and scones or toasted tea cakes for the group. In contrast to the day before we were served quickly and efficiently despite them being very busy. A view of the Souter Lighthouse was next on the itinerary and a few brave souls got out to photograph it, but any thoughts of a short coastal walk there were put aside. There are lovely sandy beaches along this part of the coast.

Kynren performance is definitely on the cards. The Auckland Project is very much in its infancy and archaeologists are still excavating in front of the Palace gates. Our driver contributed to the tweaking by taking us to Stanhope and the Durham Dales Centre for refreshments. The 20 mile drive back to our hotel over the moors with heather just beginning to flower and the rolling hills full of sheep grazing was both stunning and peaceful. South Tynedale Railway at Alston operate for groups midweek so we had the

Hexham Abbey and Angel Wings installation weather was sunshine all the way. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about that.

St Paul’s Church Jarrow (a surprise on the day for the group) is in the grounds of the Monastic ruins cared for by English Heritage and free

Our final stop of the day, and plan D, was the nearby J.Barbour & Sons outlet shop. The bargain buys in their red carrier bags came pouring out 45 minutes later. What could have been a disastrous day proved to be the highlight day of the tour. Auckland Palace, which has only recently opened to the public after restoration, accepts groups on Wednesdays. Six people were allowed in each room at once, but only the Throne Room, and Dining Room were open whilst the Chapel is undergoing restoration. A return trip to include another

Throne Room Auckland Palace 9

whole train to ourselves. A gentle 30 minute ride took us through the Northumbrian and Cumbrian border country up to Slaggyford Station where coffee and delicious homemade cake awaited us. The staff were full of good humour and made us feel really welcome. Our final visit of the day was to Hexham Abbey. My overriding impression of this tour was just how much pride the local people take in both preserving and maintaining their heritage and sharing it with visitors. It felt so good to be able to go on holiday again and everyone in the group just gelled as if the past 16 months had never been.

Grand Days Out

Group Travel Today

These venue’s and attractions come highly recommended by Wallace and Gromit, give them a go. Waterperry are home to one of the country’s most beautiful herbaceous borders. Also don’t miss the formal knot and rose gardens, spectacular white and lavender wisteria arch, water lily canal, alpine garden and riverside walk. While the gardens provide an oasis of calm and beauty, the Gallery, Gift Barn and Potting Shed are a shopper’s delight, featuring beautiful, affordable works of art in the Gallery, and inspirational outdoor living ideas and gifts in the Gift Barn and Potting Shed.

Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway

day during our open season: 1st March – 31st October 2021.

Exbury Gardens are now accepting group bookings for 2021, and are looking forward to welcoming groups to Exbury as long as they are able to do so safely in accordance with government restrictions and guidelines relating to COVID19. They have strict safety measures in place and will continue to update these as the situation changes. Whether you're a local garden society, coach operator, WI group or a big family wanting to take advantage of discounted admission, what better place to enjoy a group day out than at Exbury?

Please pre-book your group visit to ensure the day runs smoothly and to receive the special group rates. To book please call 02380 891203 or email

They offer groups a range of benefits, a variety of guided tour types and the option for chartered train rides, as well as pre-bookable group meals and of course, free entry for the organiser and coach driver. Full details on all of these great group benefits can on their website. They welcome groups any

The plant centre, housed within the ancient walled garden offers plant connoisseurs and budding amateurs alike the chance to buy unusual varieties of shrubs and herbaceous plants whilst their friendly and knowledgeable staff are always available to provide advice, information and inspiration. There’s also a wide range of bedding, herbs and vegetable plants in season and the garden shop has a great range of garden sundries, tools, bulbs and seeds. You’ll also find a huge range of apples and juice for sale in season – all grown in their 5 acres of apple and pear orchards.

Group benefits Discounted gardens admission Discounted railway tickets Free coach parking, easy drop-off and collection point Free gardens admission and railway ticket for organiser

They have a full programme

Free gardens admission, railway ticket and £5 discount on refreshments in Mr Eddy's Restaurant for coach drivers

Waterperry Gardens – an inspirational day out. Waterperry Gardens is just 7 miles from historic Oxford – the perfect stop for garden lovers. Established by Beatrix Havergal in the 1930’s, the 8 acre ornamental gardens at


of events throughout the year, from horticultural themed weekends to open air concerts and theatre during the height of the summer in the stunning setting of their outdoor Amphitheatre. Visit their Country Life Museum, featuring agricultural and horticultural implements from a bygone era, and a beautiful Saxon Church which still contains its original 13th century stained glass windows, and lancets. Whether you’re dropping by or spending the day, looking for a quick cup of coffee and a scone or planning to relax over a leisurely lunch, no visit to Waterperry Gardens is complete without including the Tea Shop. The team at the Tea Shop make everything by hand on the premises, using the best locally sourced ingredients they can find. From delicious home baked cakes, vegan oat-bars, vegetarian lasagnes, chicken salads, toasties and sandwiches – they try to cater for everyone. Waterperry offers good group rates for parties of 20 or more, coach parking is free and all drivers get a meal voucher. For bookings call 01844 339254 or visit













Exclusive group rates and benefits

Discover a 200-acre woodland garden and narrow-gauge (121⁄4”) steam railway located on the edge of the Beaulieu River in the New Forest, Hampshire. 023 8089 1203 |

New Forest, SO45 1AZ

Group Travel Today Southport – space to breathe With its wide shopping boulevards, award-winning beach and coastline, spectacular gardens and magnificent pier, Southport has long been recognised as one of the UK’s leading group-friendly destinations.

Coldharbour Mill: Bringing the past to life! Coldharbour Mill is one of the UK’s oldest working woollen mills. Set in the heart of the Devon countryside and on the bank of the River Culm, this industrial heritage site brings to life the stories of the Industrial Revolution and Textile production through the ages. You can see a full range of heritage machinery in action, see them fire up their steam boilers and engines on their event days or enjoy their wetland, wellbeing and wildlife space as a chance to relax and stroll in the beautiful Devon landscape. There has been a mill at Coldharbour, Uffculme, since the time of the Domesday Book, with the current woollen mill in continuous production since 1797. English Heritage described the mill as "probably one of the best-preserved textile mill complexes in the country. It retains the full range of buildings and power system features which characterised the development of the 19th century textile mill with much of the machinery that was used at the site in the 20th century." Coach parking is available as well as a coach driver care package. Group rates are available and groups can be accommodated all year round. It has a great waterside café for a light bite or cream tea as well as opportunities to browse their heritage produce in their onsite shop.

Now, as GTOs look to reassure their groups and restore confidence in travel, Southport’s mix of wide shopping boulevards and wide open spaces, combined with all the fresh air that goes with being a coastal resort, is proving attractive for an enjoyable and safe day out. Enjoy a walk along the pier or by Marine Lake, or a stroll on the beach, then relax in beautiful King’s Gardens. Discover Lord Street, the unique Victorian-canopied, tree-lined shopping boulevard, and enjoy Southport’s famous outdoor café culture. Adding to the town’s vibrant food scene, 2021 sees the opening of the new Southport Market, a purposebuilt food hall that will champion local artisan suppliers.

it’s your


Combine time in the town with visits to Crosby Beach and Anthony Gormley’s world-famous art installation ‘Another Place’, 100 iron lifesize statues staring out to sea. Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) offers 800 acres of wide open space to see rare birds and pink flamingos. Visit historic Churchtown with its thatched roof cottages, and the nearby Botanic Gardens.

With historic Lord Street, great events, shops, restaurants, theatres, museum & art gallery and wide open spaces Southport is the ideal place to base your group or visit for a day trip If you’d like more details on itineraries... Email: Visit:

Coaches can drop off right in the heart of the town, and there’s a purpose-built, secure coach park with a whole day’s parking for just £5. For more information, go to, or email Steve Christian, destination development manager, at





A fascinating living history museum with Victorian streets, shops from the past, vintage vehicles, working pub, costumed characters and more! • Discounts for pre-booked groups of 15+ • Special packages available • Welcoming café with a wide selection of refreshments





FIND OUT HOW TO BOOK YOUR GROUP AT Hampshire Cultural Trust is a registered charity (no. 1158583) and company (no. 08986225) in England and Wales

Group Travel Today

Cathedrals, Churches & Abbeys

Not just for the faithful, Cathedrals, Churches and Abbeys around the UK offer a unique insight into our social, political and cultural history. Lichfield Cathedral A story worth discovering at Lichfield Cathedral There has been a Cathedral in Lichfield for over 1350 years and with it comes a captivating story bursting with history, art, culture and life. Lichfield Cathedral’s famous silhouette standing above the city marks it as the only three-spired medieval Cathedral in the UK. Rich Heritage

Join tens of thousands of visitors for spectacular light and sound shows inside and outside the Cathedral and enjoy a wide range of inspirational concerts and events that are available to book in advance. There is no entry charge for a visit to Lichfield Cathedral, but donations are encouraged to help secure the future of this historic building for generations to come.

If you’re looking for rich heritage, ancient artefacts and stunning architecture then Lichfield Cathedral has it all. From an uncovered medieval wall painting, the famous Lichfield Angel (what is believed to be a section of St Chad’s reliquary casket dating back over 1000 years) to the recently beautifully restored Herkenrode stained glass windows, a visit to Lichfield Cathedral is sure to feed your curiosity.

For more information on what’s happening at Lichfield Cathedral visit: or contact them at or 01543 306100

You can take a journey of discover through the Cathedral with an expert guide. There are regular free Highlights Tours at 11:00 and 14:00 every day of the week (except Sundays) that don’t need to be booked in advance. Other tours that can be booked in advance include an in-depth Discover the Cathedral Tour and special tours of the historic Library, housing a magnificent collection of early printed books and manuscripts.

After being closed for over a year whilst undergoing significant conservation work, The Leaves of Southwell can once again be seen in all their exquisite glory, thanks to a £2.2m National Lottery Heritage Funded project. The fluid carvings of plants, animals and ‘green men’ found within the Chapter House – known collectively as The Leaves of Southwell – are of quite exceptional quality. Regarded as the best example of 13th century naturalistic carving in the United Kingdom, and indeed Europe, they are of significant global importance and are perfectly set inside the glorious Chapter House of Southwell Minster, the Cathedral church of Nottinghamshire. As a direct result of the funding ,they have been

Stunning Events Lichfield Cathedral’s story doesn’t end with its past, it is very much alive with a vibrant programme of events and art projects to capture the imagination of all ages.

Visit Southwell Minster and the world-renowned Leaves of Southwell

able to implement and deliver works to protect, interpret, and better present these beautiful and historic medieval carvings for future generations. A cantilever lift has also been installed to allow improved accessibility whilst new lighting has been put in place, both inside and outside. New interpretive materials and signage across the site have been produced to raise awareness and increase understanding of the Leaves of Southwell, other foliage carvings in the


Cathedral and the masons who carved them. The Archbishop’s Palace, once home to Cardinal Wolsey, is situated next door and includes the serene Palace Gardens, home to an abundance of flowers, plants and wildlife and is the perfect place to sit and relax after a busy day. Upstairs in the Palace, the grand State Chamber is adorned by paintings of numerous historical figures, all of whom had associations with Southwell, including King James VI, and Charles I who surrendered here to Scottish forces, hastening the end of




There has been a Cathedral in Lichfield for over 1300 years and its story is one bursting with history, art, culture and life. If you’re looking for rich heritage, ancient artefacts, and stunning architecture then Lichfield Cathedral has it all. Lichfield Cathedral’s story doesn’t end with its past, it is very much alive with a vibrant programme of events and art projects to capture the imagination of all ages.


W H AT I S T H E R E T O D I S C O V E R AT LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL? • Daily Cathedral Tours • Enagaging Art Projects • Uplifing Worship • Inspirational Concerts and Events • Seasonal Family Activities • A Place for Reflection

Group Travel Today

also new for groups this year, featuring a tour of the outdoor spaces and quiet corners of the cloisters, allowing for a relaxed experience. Whatever you choose to see or do, Canterbury Cathedral is sure to be a highlight of your itinerary whenever you visit. To find out more contact the Cathedral’s Visits team.

Coventry Cathedral

the first Civil War. They have a Refectory on site offering a delicious range of meals, snacks and drinks, whilst their Cathedral Shop (closed Mondays) boasts a huge array of gifts and souvenirs. Southwell Minster is open 365 days per year. Situated in the heart of rural Nottinghamshire, in the picturesque Georgian market town of Southwell, just 8 miles from the A1, there’s never been a better time to visit. Coach drop-off directly outside the Cathedral, with free long-term coach parking available nearby. For group booking enquiries, please contact Please keep an eye out at for opening times and closure notices. They look forward to welcoming you soon!

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is the jewel in Kent’s crownUNESCO World Heritage Site, Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. With a tradition of visitor welcome stretching back to medieval pilgrims,

Visitors can explore their Ruined Cathedral, destroyed by enemy raids during WW2, which now stands as a moving reminder of the horrors of war. Those of you who are feeling energetic can climb their Tower which at 295ft is the third highest in England.

the Cathedral is again opening its doors after lockdown to greet today’s travellers. Inside this architectural marvel a wealth of treasures from stunning stained glass to beautiful stonework is waiting to be discovered, while outside, tranquil Precinct gardens or atmospheric Cloisters offer peaceful places to pause and reflect during any visit. The Cathedral’s stories have helped shape England, from Thomas Becket’s martyrdom through to surviving the Blitz during WW2. With King Henry IV and the Black Prince also entombed here, there is so much to discover, whether you are visiting for the first time or rediscovering this stunning landmark, and your group can share this 1,400year history. Private guided tours and ‘behind the scenes’ experiences are available to enhance group visits, while new facilities from an exciting Visitor Centre to an enlarged shop ensure there is always more to explore. The Cathedral are also offering groups a unique, bookable Group Welcome on entry, featuring a short introductory talk about the Cathedral’s history and highlighting points of interest to look out for, providing a low-cost way of offering an added-extra for your group. A guided Precincts Tour is


Standing proudly alongside the Ruins is their magnificent ‘New’ Cathedral, featuring works by some of the greatest artists of the 1950s and 60s. Designed as a ‘casket of jewels’ by Sir Basil Spence, as you move through the building you will experience a journey like no other. Your group will learn about the history and significance of the Cathedral from one of their expert guides, and your tour can be tailored to include any specific areas of interest you may have. Perfectly placed in the city centre, the Cathedral campus spans over 1000 years of history, from the early medieval craftsmanship still visible on the ruined Old Cathedral to the innovative 60’s design of Spence’s casket of jewels. Coventry Cathedral sits


SO MANY REASONS TO RETURN ... Email: Tel: +44 (0)24 7652 1234

1 Hill Top, Coventry CV1 5AB

Group Travel Today

with an expert guide. A complimentary guidebook is included in the tour, along with a classic buffet lunch served in the beautiful surroundings The Gatehouse Café across the road.

alongside many of Coventry’s other visitor attractions so you can really make a day of it! They’d love to welcome you! Kirkstall Abbey Explore one of the most complete examples of a medieval Cistercian abbey in Britain. Set in wonderful parkland along the banks of the River Aire, Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds boasts historic architecture amid a haven of wildlife and greenery. Founded over 850 years ago in 1152, the abbey was formed as a sister to Fountains Abbey and became the residence for Cistercian monks for almost 400 years. The abbey was closed in 1539 by the order of King Henry VIII. The last abbot is believed to have retired to the inner gatehouse, now Abbey House Museum. The

land was owned privately until purchased by Colonel North in 1889. He presented the land to the city of Leeds and it opened as a public park in 1895.

present day. Original floor tiles from the refectory can be seen in here, but amazingly there are some still present in the abbey ruins today.

Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre tells you more about the lives of the 12th century monks and contains the touch table, a unique catalogue of images of the abbey from the 18th century to the

The Monks, Mead and Medieval Leeds guided tour provides an intimate insight into the history of the abbey which starts with a taster of traditional mead (optional) before exploring the ruins


The abbey hosts activities and trails throughout the year, along with special events which make the most of the dramatic ruins including outdoor film and theatre shows. Markets are held at the end of each month March - October, showcasing local producers, makers, and creatives in the beautiful setting of the abbey cloister. Kirkstall Abbey is directly across the road from the Victorian museum, Abbey House Museum, and the two historic sites can be combined into a joint group visit for a full day out. Visit their website

Monks, Mead & Medieval Leeds Book a place on our new tour to discover the incredible history of our stunning 12th century Abbey. Guide book and lunch included. Find out more and book online at

Groups Always Welcome

Group Travel Today

Take a look at these venues and attractions you’ll be sure to find a great reception for you and your group, they can’t wait to welcome you back.

5 Must-See UK Landmarks with Riviera From the heights of John o’Groats to the tip of Lizard Point, there’s no doubt the beautiful British Isles has so many jewels just waiting to be discovered, or even rediscovered. Whether you love taking a step back in time, seeking out local wildlife or simply soaking up the natural beauty of an area, every county and city from Belfast to Bath has its own distinct character. They’ve picked five of Riviera Travel’s mustsee UK landmarks and why they make the perfect group staycation. Tintagel Castle Set high on Cornwall’s rugged north coast, Tintagel Castle became famous for its links with King Arthur in the 12th century. On their Cornwall – Falmouth Bay & St Ives tour, take a scenic drive to this iconic spot. As the silhouette comes into view, you’ll begin to understand why this is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular historic sites in England.


Roman Baths

The highest mountain in Wales, the imposing Snowdon stands at over 1000 metres above sea level. On their Conwy Coast & Snowdonia Walk & Discover tour, they make their way to Llanberis for a spectacular trip on the Snowdon Mountain Railway – one of the highlights of this part of Wales, which is both picturesque and wildly rugged.

It was the Romans who first discovered Bath’s potential by siting a bathhouse here, which lead to the development of a settlement in the area. On the Bath, Somerset & Glastonbury tour, after their guided walking tour of historic Bath, you will visit one of the bestpreserved Roman bathhouses in the world.

tours and river cruises to over 130 destinations? Contact their Group Travel team today on 01283 742322 or email quoting ‘AGG’. Call 01283 742322 or visit,email

Cogges Manor Farm There are so many reasons to book a group holiday with Riviera, from the easy payments to a range of prebookable personalised experiences. With so many excursions included in the price, it makes it so easy for your group to budget for their trip. Plus, did you know when you book a group holiday of 10 or more, you will receive 10% back? Just remember to provide us with your group details at time of booking.

Giants Causeway One of the most famous natural marvels of Northern Ireland, the Giants Causeway’s basalt hexagonal columns have spawned many legends. On the Belfast, Giant’s Causeway & Mount Stewart tour, discover more about this fascinating spot, illuminating the science behind the site as well as the fairytales that have been weaved along the way.

Want to find out more about their award-winning escorted

The Norfolk Broads One of the most famous waterways in England, it’s no wonder so much glorious British wildlife calls this network of rivers and lakes home. Travelling by boat is the finest way to discover this wonderful area. On their Norfolk – Royal Sandringham & the Broads tour they do just this, starting the journey in Wroxham, admiring pretty villages and wildlife along the way on a relaxing boat cruise.


Discover a hidden gem in the Cotswolds Cogges is the perfect location for your group visit. A beautifully preserved collection of Cotswold stone farm buildings set in its own grounds, the site has been occupied since before the Domesday Book and parts of the Manor House date back to the Thirteenth Century. With support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, new interpretation brings to life 1000 years of history at Cogges. An

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Cogges Manor Farm A hidden gem in the Cotswolds

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At , SETCHEY, King’s Lynn, PE33 0BE (Just off the A10 - turn at JSW Car Sales)

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Wheelchair Friendly Friendly welcome Wheelchair in Antique Antique & welcome in Staff Friendly Friendly Staff Steiff Shop Shop Garden & Steiff & Beer Tel:01553 Tel:01553812000 Telephone 01993 772602 Email

Book a group holiday and receive 10% back* Same Riviera Travel experience, a little closer to home Our collection of 12 handcrafted UK breaks and cruises offer the opportunity to visit many of the jewels of the British Isles whilst enjoying the same immersive Riviera Travel experience that we’re famous for. • Cruising the Best of the British Isles • Devonshire Coast & Dartmoor • Norfolk – Royal Sandringham & the Broads • The Peak District – Chatsworth & Buxton To find out more, order a brochure or to make a booking

Call 01283 248 304 quoting AGG Visit For individual enquiries call 01283 742 322 or email: *Selected elements are not commissionable. For full details please visit Riviera Travel retain the right to withdraw this offer at any time. All itineraries are open to individuals as well as group bookings.

Your money is 100% protected with

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Group Travel Today

Photograph Stephanie Belton

optional tour guide dedicated to your group (additional charge) can lead you through the changes and adaptations made at Cogges to survive over the centuries. Such a unique location lends itself perfectly to being used as a location for TV and the big screen, most notably Downton Abbey, Arthur & George and Colette. How long will it take The main historic and filming locations are close together and can all be seen in under an hour if on a tight timescale, whilst two hours leaves time to explore the gardens, farm animals and beautiful natural grounds. Refreshments The Cogges Kitchen café offers a fresh local menu, fine coffees and teas and excellent cakes and biscuits. Groups are advised to prebook their order. Coach parking Coach parking is a short walk from the site. Please use postcode OX28 3FR for the main car park which is free. Prices 2021 Group rates apply for groups of 12 or more Adults £6.00 Children (3-16) £4.50. Tour guides £20 per group of up to 16, if required. Group bookings can be made throughout the year. How to book Contact

ST ALBANS FOOD & DRINK FESTIVAL - FOODIES WELCOME Tickle your tastebuds and enjoy an exciting line up of events at the legendary St Albans Food and Drink Festival this September. The month-long festival, now in its 13th year, is hugely popular with locals and visitors looking for an incredible food and drink experience, with a host of on and offline events that showcase the brilliant food

and drink heroes across the district. From online cookery classes to live demonstrations, meet and greets with brewers, chefs and growers to exquisitely paired tastings – local businesses come together to offer a truly unrivalled experience. The festival culminates with the vibrant FEASTIVAL street event on the 26th September, the central streets in the town centre will be peppered with over 100 food and drink stalls and bars with live music, entertainment, face painting and fun for all ages. Just 20 miles and 20 mins from London by train and excellent road connections – St Albans is easily accessible. Make a weekend of it and book one of the many city centre hotels which include the stunning country style Manor hotel, St Michaels Manor and the Victorian Grade II listed Torrington Hall. Visit CRIEFF VISITOR CENTRE Crieff Visitor Centre is a popular visitor attraction set in the heart of the beautiful Strathearn countryside on the outskirts of Crieff. It is easily accessible from all directions and has extensive FREE coach parking.


As the home of worldrenowned Caithness Glass, you can enjoy watching the skilled craftsmen at work from the viewing gallery, before spending time meandering around our Gift Shop, Garden Centre, Gallery and Antique Areas. You can also discover more about the history of the local area in their Highland Drover’s Exhibition.

recently been awarded VisitScotland’s Taste Our Best accreditation in recognition of their sourcing policy and the quality of the food and drink provided.

Your will also be sure of a warm welcome in their spacious family-friendly Drover’s Restaurant. They pride themselves on using the best of local produce and their extensive menu offers great value. Visitors come from far and wide to enjoy breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack. The Drover’s Restaurant has

Please call their Restaurant Manager –on 01764 654065 to make a booking and discuss your groups requirements.

They welcome coach parties all-year round, but if possible it is best to book in advance to ensure a smooth and speedy service for your guests. Snowdon Mountain Railway Let Snowdon Mountain Railway take you on the

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Home of Caithness Glass

Guernsey’s Historic Home Historic House Tours covering 800 years of History with the same Family, part built at the bequest of the 1st Governor of New York. Lived in by a Seigneur who had 28 children, and whose uncle circumnavigated the globe with Cmdr Anson 40 years before Captain Cook and captured the worlds richest treasure ship and whose cousin was awarded the 1st Albert Medal (now the George Cross) and started the Army and Navy stores. Also the luxuriant Wild Sub Tropical Garden and Sculpture Park crammed with rare and unusual plants and trees and sculpture from around the world.

Attractive Group Rates. Contact Peter on 01481 235571 or , , Sausmarez Manor , Guernsey, GY4 6SG.


Crieff Visitor Centre is a popular visitor attraction set in the heart of the Perthshire countryside on the outskirts of Crieff. It is easily accessible and offers extensive FREE coach parking. Visitors can enjoy meandering around our Gift Shop, Garden Centre, Antique and Gallery Area, Highland Drover’s Exhibition and Caithness Glass Shop, before experiencing the wonderful homemade food on offer in our spacious 180-seater Restaurant. Muthill Road, Crieff PH7 4HQ (A822). Tel: 01764 654014 E

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of the world’s greatest panoramas is revealed at the Summit. Hafod Eryri, the Summit visitor centre, has spectacular panoramic views to the valleys below. Venture to the cairn and take in the spectacular view, recently voted the UK’s favourite in a poll by Samsung.

journey of a lifetime to the rooftop of Wales. Snowdon dominates the landscape of the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. Travel to the Summit on one of their award-winning heritage

carriages, pushed by an original Swiss steam locomotive. Or climb aboard their Traditional Diesel Service, pushed by a handsome Hunslet diesel locomotive.

From the first views of the waterfall plunging into the gorge below at the start of the journey, to the breathtaking sights over the sheer edge of Rocky Valley, every moment is memorable. One

Group Discounts on the Snowdon Mountain Railway Email Snowdon Mountain Railway, Llanberis, Gwynedd LL55 4TT


From the Summit of the highest Mountain in Wales and England, young and old can embrace the invigorating atmosphere of Eryri – Land of the Eagles. All Summit services last approximately 2.5 hours, including a 30 minute stop at the Summit. Go and see exactly why Snowdon Mountain Railway has been described as one of the most unique and wonderful railway journeys in the world. Email

Christmas Supplement

W NO LE 22 SA 20 ON


Groups Why not join the hundreds of groups that travel with us every year and discover all the benefits of Daish’s Holidays for yourself.


All our hotels are accredited as COVID safe under the Visit Britain good to go scheme

places for groups over 20 people

A choice of 12 fantastic hotels spread across 10 locations

Great value half board breaks including nightly entertainment

Fleet of 26 luxury coaches to provide comfortable travel

Dedicated groups team to support you from booking to arrival

Over 40 years of award winning customer service

Get in touch with us Today! Call 01202 638 841 or visit


Isle of Wight








Lake District


Group Travel Today

After the restrictions in place for Christmas 2020, this year it’s time to do and see all the things you missed out on last year.

There’s plenty on offer and the good news is in many cases they last longer than a mere 12 days. So why not treat yourself and your group to some festive action, whether it’s a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings that turns into an overnight stay in a great hotel, well you

wouldn’t want to risk driving after eating all those brandy laced treats!

Or behind you, relive your youth join in the fun,we all love to forget ourselves once in a while, the stories may be as old as the hills but the pantomime writers are very clever and use every opportunity to parody current celebraties and culture to great affect.

of a statley home all decked out in winter finery?

Surely there can’t be a more festive atmosphere than that

Roaring fires, mince

pies and mulled wine inside, outdoors Christmas markets and sparkling lights all agloe.


From Boyband A1

OF THE GILLOW FAMILY LANCASHIRE From CBeebie’s Waf e the Wonder Dog


0 Carnforth, .035, M6 Lancashire LA5 9ST • 9ST T: 01524 734474 8 M6 Exit 35 Carnforth, Lancashire LA5 £PE1R Exit PERSON T: 01524 734474


He’s Back!


DECK THEHalls HALLS WITH LEIGHTON AND HAYES GARDEN Deck the with Leighton HallHALL and Hayes Garden World WORLD BOOKING FOR CHRISTMAS booking nowNOW for Christmas 2020 2021

75 £19E. R



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Director PETER DAYSON • Choreographer PIPPA HOLLIDAY • Musical Director SAM DANDO

6 DEC 2021 - 2 JAN 2022



AVAILABLEfor FOR pre-booked PRE-BOOKED GROUPS Available groups NOVEMBER–- 20th 17TH DECEMBER 2021 1st1ST November December 2020


shutterstock Evgeny Karandaev

Only 12 Day’s of Christmas?

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in the restaurant at 9am. Father Christmas will be dropping in at 11am with a present for everyone, staying for morning coffee and some games. At 1pm join them for a traditional Christmas Lunch with all the trimmings, to be served in the restaurant. At 3pm The Queen’s message will be shown in the main lounge, after they will serve an afternoon tea at 4pm with Prize Bingo. A Gala buffet dinner will be served at 6pm followed by fun entertainment in the bar. Boxing Day 26th December

Christmas Holidays with Daish's Spend Christmas with Daish's. Starting on 23rd December join them for a fabulous full board festive holiday. You won't be short of entertainment this Christmas with Daish's. All their guests are welcome to do as much or as little as they wish. The typical Christmas Break itinerary is detailed below but will vary slightly between hotels.

10.30am, returning for lunch at 1pm. Alternatively, why not do some last minute shopping in town before lunch. They will be serving an afternoon tea around 3pm with a game of Bingo to while away the afternoon. At 6pm they’ll be serving Dinner in the restaurant,

followed by a full entertainment programme in the bar, with a fabulous live act. Christmas Day 25th December After exchanging and opening gifts please join them for Christmas Breakfast

23rd December Mince pies, tea and coffee on arrival, then a chance to settle into your room, get to know the hotel and staff, or relax in the lounge. At 6pm please join them for a Pre-Dinner Bucks Fizz Reception followed by dinner served in the Restaurant. From 8pm there will be live entertainment. Christmas Eve 24th December After an English breakfast in the restaurant at 9am you can join them for an inclusive mystery tour, departing at


English breakfast will be served in the Restaurant at 9am, then join them for an inclusive coach tour, departing at 9.45am, returning just before lunch. Alternatively, Morning Coffee will be served in the lounges at 11am where you can join them for some games as well. At 1pm a light luncheon will be served in the restaurant, followed by a quiz in the lounge with Afternoon Tea at 4pm. At 6pm join them for Boxing Day Dinner and prize giving

Contact us for special group rates

Visit the world-famous botanic garden 020 8332 5648

DENBY CHRISTMAS MARKET 2021 COACH TOURS Experience Christmas at Denby with the Pottery Village Christmas Market. Alongside the full Pottery Village offer will be a free-to-enter magical market with over 30 hand-picked stall holders offering handcrafted and personalised gifts plus artisan food & drink and bookable Christmas events. Fri 26th Nov | Sat 27th Nov | Sun 28th Nov

Fri 3rd Dec | Sat 4th Dec | Sun 5th Dec

Guests will also enjoy our full retail offer including the Denby Store (with up to 60% off RRP), Home, Gift and Cookshops, Garden Stall & Garden Buildings, Koi Aquatics, Ginger Butchers Farm Shop & Deli plus breakfast or lunch in Bourne’s Coffee Shop & Bistro or Ginger Cook’s Cafe. Create a full bespoke package with pre-booked visits to the Denby Museum, Craft Studio or Discovery Experience.

C OAC H DRIVERS Book in advance to secure your preferred date and activities

FREE COACH PARKING Coach Driver Incentive Programme & Refreshments Voucher

D E N BY P O T T E RY V I L L AG E Derby Road, Denby, Derbyshire DE5 8NX Open Every Day Mon to Sat 9am-5pm / Sun 10am–4pm TO BOOK email our Welcome Desk on call: 01773 740 799 every day between 10am – 4pm CLOSED EASTER SUNDAY AND CHRISTMAS DAY


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Waddesdon Manor © Waddesdon - Photo Hugh Mothersole

aglow. Browse over 70 handselected stalls for unique gifts, beautiful decorations and tasty festive foods at their Christmas Fair. Wander the Winter Light trail and experience the gardens brought to life with spectacular light displays and colourful illuminations and for the first time ever, see the Parterre illuminated by a dazzling light show. Make your group visit even more special with a delicious Christmas lunch at the Five Arrows Hotel. Can’t make a visit before Christmas? Bring a group to Waddesdon in the New Year as Winter Light extends through January. Christmas at Waddesdon runs 13 Nov-23 Dec. Winter Light continues 6-23 Jan. for all the winners of their Christmas competitions, followed by Cash Bingo or a quiz and their final night’s entertainment. 27th December Breakfast at 8am. Then it's time to bid a fond farewell to friends old and new The Management may have to alter this programme without prior notice due to changing circumstances.

Leighton Hall Christmas

delivers excellent value for money, free coach parking, and driver rest area and refreshments at the Hall, so book early to secure your dates.

making family. Then it’s a leisurely drive to Hayes Garden World in Ambleside, for an afternoon browsing the Lake District’s most popular garden centre and immersive Christmas shopping experience, for the perfect Christmas present, or to treat yourself!

For more details:,groups@seetickets. com Victorian Fayre Worcester

See or call 01524 734474 for a pleasurably simple, friendly, one-stop booking process: that’s Christmas covered.

Including a £7 lunch voucher for every tour member, give in to locally-sourced temptation in Hayes’ bustling café, and relax while the elves take care of the washing up. Garlanded with awards including the UK National Coach Awards, Leighton and Hayes’ tried and tested norush, Covid-safe itinerary

Waddesdon Christmas 21 Take your group to Waddesdon this Christmas for a magical day out. Celebrate the festive season with an enchanting outdoor extravaganza to brighten the end of your year with sparkling lights and gardens

‘Deck the Halls’ with the festive tour that’s top of everyone’s Christmas list Celebrate the return of Christmas this year, as Carnforth’s historic Leighton Hall invites you to a truly magical dual destination tour, guaranteed to spread festive cheer among your passengers. ‘Deck the Halls’ tours begin with the warmest of welcomes: coffee and mince pies before Leighton’s roaring fire. This is followed by an entertaining guided tour of the festively decorated Hall, amongst the fascinating treasures of Leighton’s celebrated Gillow furniture


The Victorian Fayre has been a firm favourite on the festive calendar since it began in 1992. The Fayre now welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year but stays true to its roots with Victorian themed characters, festive treats, delicious street food and a wonderful atmosphere. With almost 200 stalls filling Worcester’s historic streets selling all sorts of delightful Christmas goodies,

Christmas at Waddesdon 13 Nov - 23 Dec Christmas Fair 6 - 23 Jan Winter Light For opening times and group rates Nr Aylesbury, Bucks HP18 0JH




The Barnstaple Hotel is the winter wonderland you’re seeking for a seasonal escape to North Devon. With plenty of festive spirit and seasonal joy, a Christmas break in the heart of the countryside is the most precious way to celebrate the festive period in a ‘home away from home’. Included in your festive stay: • 4 nights Dinner Bed & Breakfast • Christmas Day luncheon • Entertainment programme • Leisure facilities including a heated indoor pool • Christmas Hamper • FREE space for coach drivers*


01271 340014 | *FREE space for the accompanying coach driver is based on the assumption of there being 20 paying guests.

Group Travel Today

handmade items, local produce and not forgetting the extremely tempting international street food. Whether you’re looking for a Christmas decoration, a piece of unique jewellery, an unusual item for the home or some edible festive treats, you won’t be disappointed with the varied choice on offer. As well as a wonderful array of stalls, visitors will be treated to a fantastic programme of entertainment, including Victorian characters, lofty entertainers on stilts, brilliant musicians and buskers on street corners.

award winner and all around Hackney Empire legend Clive Rowe.

most anticipated annual highlights bringing West End value at East End prices to attract an ever growing local, national and global fanbase.

This tall-tale is packed full of slapstick comedy, laugh-outloud topical gags, outrageous costumes, dazzling song and dance numbers . With plenty of chances to cheer, boo and hiss, this bigger-than-ever Hackney panto will be a fabulous festive experience like none that have ‘bean’ seen before! Hackney Empire’s pantomime has become one of the country’s

Jack and the Beanstalk will get the 2021 festive season underway with all the fun, magic and razzle-dazzle that our audiences love and sadly missed last year.

Empire. The safety and wellbeing of our staff and audience is our highest priority and we will be following Government guidelines extremely carefully and introducing some of our own, these will be shared with bookers nearer to the time of their performance. See It Safely at Hackney Empire. HACKNEYEMPIRE.CO.UK

You can book with confidence at Hackney


No visit to the Fayre would be complete without a ride on the traditional vintage carousel in the Cornmarket and a journey along New Street and Friar Street, Worcester’s independent quarter, home to wonderful shops and fantastic restaurants.


Opening times •Thursday 2 December: 12noon – 9pm •Friday 3 December: 11am – 9pm •Saturday 4 December: 10am – 8pm •Sunday 5 December: 11am – 5pm Jack and the Beanstalk at the Hackney Empire Last Christmas we were unable to celebrate in person with colleagues, friends and family so Christmas 2022 is going to be a great celebration. Come and celebrate at Hackney Empire watching their classic pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk.

When happy-go-lucky Jack is tempted into selling his family’s beloved cow for a fistful of magic beans, he finds himself tangled in an adventure of epic proportions! Join Jack on his journey up an enchanted beanstalk as he tries to outwit a rampaging giant, all with the help of his larger-than-life mum, Grande dame, Olivier-

PLENTY OF FOOD, FUN & ATTRACTIONS FOR BIG KIDS & CHILDREN To book your coach, email:, call 01905 722501 or go to Designated city centre drop off and pick up areas within easy walking distance to the Christmas Fayre Stewarding service to welcome passengers to the event Guaranteed coach parking on hard standing Well signposted access routes









£8.50 £25.45 *





*minimum group size 15

25 NOVEMBER TO 24 DECEMBER 2021 CALL 0871 222 8787 or email

T ic kets from £ 1 0

On Sale

Book your tickets now!

W it h gr ea t gr ou p ra te s av ai la bl e!

full deta ils) (che ck web site for

Ear ly Bir d spe cial offer!

Book and pay befo re 01 Sept and get best avai lable seats for selected performances for just £19.5 0

20 Nov- HACKNEYEMPIRE.CO.UK 02 Jan 020 8985 2424 (check website for full details )

Heritage Railways

Group Travel Today

Here’s a platform for your group to get chuffed and carriaged away, whether you are a knowledgable railway enthusiast or looking for somewhere to visit you’ll be right on track. Buffet Car. They will require full payment for these tickets at the time of booking. GENERAL INFORMATION They have a maximum capacity of 120 pre-booked Group Travel seats on each train. However they are flexible in their arrangements wherever possible and will gladly add (subject to availability) additional coaches to meet your needs. It does make good sense to call early as they receive many bookings and the earlier you can confirm your date of choice they can book you in.

Days out by steam train Join The Steam Dreams Rail Co. on a nostalgic day out by steam train to one of the UK’s favourite destinations. All the day trip itineraries are carefully selected for their cultural and historical appeal. This year, they include trips to Royal Windsor, Cardiff and Weymouth. You can choose to dine on board in Pullman Style Dining or Premier Dining carriages, or bring your own picnic along to enjoy with complimentary tea and coffee. With fares from £39 and group discounts for 10 or more passengers, there are plenty of options to suit your group. Call or visit the website to request your free brochure. 01483 209888 South Devon Railway The multi-award winning South Devon Railway is one of Devon’s and the West Country’s best loved tourist attractions and is the longest

West Somerset Railway

established steam railway in the south west, celebrating over 50 years in preservation.

West Somerset Railway Group Bookings give passengers discounted train fares, seat reservations, reservation notices and the option to have catering from their special menu.

The SDR is a seven mile former Great Western Railway branch line, built in 1872, which runs along the stunning valley of the River Dart between Buckfastleigh and Totnes. They run steam trains with heritage rolling stock and offer a wonderful all day, all weather attraction for families and people of all ages.

Pre-booked Groups of 16 passengers and above enjoy discounted travel on the West Somerset Railway. Please call 01643 700398 (Monday - Friday 9am 4.00pm) or email

Once they are back to normal and fully open again, you’ll be able to ride the South Devon Railway and, while you are with them, visit the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm and Dartmoor Otters & Buckfast Butterflies: 3 Great Attractions, 1 Amazing Day.

They will check availability, and answer any questions you have asked them about dates, timings, prices and catering and get you booked in.

Find them just off the A38 at Buckfastleigh, very close to the famous Buckfast Abbey, or by train to Totnes on the Great Western main line.

They do not accept Group Bookings during special events, such as Steam and Diesel Galas. On Special Event Days and Galas ticket prices are slightly more. If you do wish to travel on these days they can sell you tickets at the special event advance rate, but cannot offer seat reservations or Group Catering other than buying food from the on train

Buckfastleigh is around 22 miles from Exeter, 21 miles from Plymouth, 19 miles from Dartmouth and 13 miles from Paignton.


Please allow 30 minutes prior your departure time so that you can complete any paperwork at the Booking Office and get aboard in a relaxed manner, ahead of a quiet enjoyable journey through 20 miles of beautiful Somerset countryside. Swanage Railway Located in the Isle of Purbeck, the rebuilt Swanage Railway is the perfect place to enjoy a great family day out on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. The heritage railway attraction operates full-size steam and diesel passenger trains along the five and a half miles of line from Norden to Corfe Castle and down to the Victoria seaside town of Swanage. Full details of our services, timetables, group fares and latest information can be found on our website at Your booking (for 20 or more passengers) includes reserved seats on specific train(s) and two free tickets for your driver and guide.

Welcome back!



South Devon railway

far more than a steam train ride




A first class destination and a warm welcome for coaches and groups.

West Somerset Railway are able to offer a variety of Covid safe group excursions from 22nd May 2021 onwards.

Easy access from the A38 and free coach parking at Buckfastleigh, TQ11 0DZ

Enjoy your journey and meander through the countryside behind a heritage steam or diesel locomotive. The majority of excursions will depart Bishops Lydeard. Excursions to and from Minehead will be available after 1st July 2021. Please check our

Ask us about...

website or contact us for more information.


OR CALL US ON 01643 704996

...and our other joint ticket options.

Buckfastleigh • Staverton • Totnes 01364 644370

Steam and Lights

Make wonderful and magical memories in the run-up to Christmas – an evocative, dramatic and colourful Steam and Lights train journey through the Isle of Purbeck countryside.

Receive 10% commission for groups of 10+

From the breathtaking to the life-changing Award-winning worldwide tours Our tempting collection of escorted tours for 2022 will offer all the inspiration you require for your next getaway. With all tours and visits included and flexible booking policies, what better reason to book ahead for a group holiday to look forward to.

Here are just some of our favourites Vietnam and Cambodia

South Africa

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Deep South USA plus Texas

Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer

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Holiday Happiness. Guaranteed. ✓ Happy by day two or we’ll bring you home with a full refund ✓ Industry-leading health & safety practices to keep you safe ✓ Plus, with COVID Cancellation & Curtailment protection included as standard, you won’t lose out if your holiday is affected by the pandemic

Call 01283 742 322 Visit Email: For individual holidays, visit or call 01283 742 300 and mention Group Travel Today Magazine Bookings for individuals as well as groups are accepted. Some elements on group bookings are not commissionable. For full details on the group commission and how it is paid, please visit . Riviera Travel retain the right to withdraw this offer at any time. Please remember to mention ‘Group Travel Today’ Magazine and your group name at the time of booking. Prices based on two sharing a room/cabin. Visit the website for full terms and conditions. Prices are subject to availability and are per person based on two sharing a room. Visit the website for our full terms and conditions.

Your money is 100% protected with

ABTA No. V4744

Great WestWay A Guide for Groups A Beau Business Media Publication

Groups at Longleat Steeped in history, embellished with eccentricity… uncompromisingly astonishing

For more information email


#GreatWes tWay

Quay Street, Nelson Street, St John’s Bridge. e names give all the clues needed. Where trees now line Colston Avenue, once there were three-masted tobacco traders. e traffic flow was once the water’s flow, and pavements were docks. Bristol’s maritime heritage is never far away. Whether your group is about to cast off on a voyage of discovery, or just jump on their bikes for the tenth anniversary Great Weston Ride to Weston Super Mare, Bristol’s favourite beach resort, you’ll never be far from history - or ships. Look into the land and it will tell you a story. A story about a journey begun long ago, before the wind whistled though the hills and the sun illuminated the monuments of Stonehenge; before the legionaries marched to make camp that made Bath; before the wind filled the sails of clippers from Bristol; and before the shovels of navvies hewed out Sonning Cutting for steam trains to thunder through Berkshire to London.

#GreatW estWay

Follow in the footsteps of generations past. Discover this quintessential England, along this Kings’ Road, commissioned by monarchs to define a nation. It winds through verdant landscapes, filled with famous attractions and undiscovered secrets. ere’s Royal Windsor, the charming Cotswolds, the World Heritage Sites of Stonehenge and Roman Bath. See English village life and Bristol’s vibrance, each with the shallow streams and ship-going rivers that flow through the landscape. Traditional pubs and inns abound, serving craft ales, local farm food, and the latest culinary creations. Churches and cathedrals dot the landscape with reverence. Independent shops and galleries filled with contemporary designs and creations, are a discreet foil to the homogenous malls of mammon. You don’t have to travel far to explore further and delve deeper into England. 125 miles apart, the Great West Way links London with Bristol through 500 diverting miles of new discoveries. Explore by road, by railway or by waterway. Whatever it takes to take your party to this diverse part of England, take it at your own pace. e Great West Way has secured a growing network of Ambassador organisations, led by four title Ambassadors; Bristol Airport, e National Trust, the Canal & River Trust, and Great Western Railway. Launched Ambassador Network, brand toolkit and Official Tour Operator scheme in spring 2018, over 270 Ambassadors and 26 destinations are there to be discovered by groups like yours. e growing family includes recent members like stately Blenheim Palace, Bristol’s adventurous new surfing attraction e Wave, and the long established Camping and Caravanning Club. Like the enduring tracks, the ever-evolving roads, and the timeless waterways, the Great West Way initiative is here to stay, with member businesses committing for at least another three years. Now it’s time for your group to discover the welcome in the real, concentrated, undiluted, essential England ( 3

#GreatWes tWay

Please check with individual attractions for any restrictions Front cover pictures #GreatWestWay Tel: 0121 445 6961 Production: Laura Collins Contributors: Julie Callaghan Design: Alexina Whittaker Written by Simon Walton

Publishers note- A big thank you for all the help from the #GreatWestWay in the production of this publication Managing Director: Nigel Whittaker Beau Business Media Group Ltd Publishing House, Windrush, Ash Lane, Birmingham, B48 7TS Tel: 0121 445 6961 e-mail:

This is a controlled circulation publication and freely available to qualifying applicants. Care is taken to ensure that the information contained within the magazine is accurate. However, the publisher

cannot accept liability for errors or omissions, no matter how they arise. Readers are advised to get facts and statements confirmed by suppliers when making enquiries. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those as the publisher. All rights are reserved. No reproduction of any part of this magazine may be carried out without the consent of the publisher being obtained in the first instance.

Contents 4.

So much to see and so much to do…


Foreword - with David Andrews of the Great West Way


Title Ambassador: Bristol Airport's Jacqui Mills

Great West Way

10. Bristol, Bath Brunel and beyond… 12. Bristol and Brunel - industrial heritage and the fascination of fearsome engines 16. Bath, the Romans, the Georgians and today - history for all 18. Title Ambassador: Canal & River Trust's Richard Jones 20. Cotswold Escapes, Steam Age Swindon. e Stone Age too… 24. Title Ambassador: Great Western Railway's Chris Lund 26. Reading, Berkshire and Riverside Retreats… 27. Berkshire and Beyond - Eton and Windsor, Maidenhead and Henley where old school good schools meet royal places and palaces 30. Title Ambassador: National Trust's Jo Atkins 34. Gardens and London. Far from the

madding crowd… 36. London - journey’s end is just the

beginning of the adventure









David Andrews, Director, Great West Way, who might be called the driving force behind the Great West Way (we said ‘might’ because everyone is driving together on this one). Certainly there are many attractions within the county which draw visitors in their own right, so they are not without expertise in the field. The iconic Stonehenge is a world-wide draw that the county has used to successfully broaden interest in the greater body of archaeological sites, such as Avebury, and used that to encourage groups to visit the surrounding communities and built heritage. Who would say that their visit had not been enhanced by a stop over for tea in Marlborough; a sail with the accessible Bruce Branch Boats; or a stroll through any of the many Cotswold villages.

“The Great West Way is the first touring route of its kind for England,” says David. “As such it gives the opportunity to present England in a new way. Thank you to all the destinations and the industry along the route who have helped us develop the Great West Way experience, a new touring route which will join up many of England’s iconic and importantly yetto-be-discovered destinations and attractions along a corridor between Bristol and London.”



Great West Way

Title Ambassador: Jacqui Mills at Bristol Airport Touchdown. Bristol Airport provides a convenient and accessible gateway to the Great West Way..

Another perfect landing for you and your group, and if it goes exceptionally well, you’ll be met by Jacqui Mills from Bristol Airport. Maybe even like us, you’ll have a short walk to the lounge of the Hampton by Hilton, for a briefing on all you need to know before departing the entirely manageable and pleasant Airport precinct. “Passengers flying into Bristol arrive in the heart of the West Country where they will receive a friendly welcome from our awardwinning customer service

team,” says Jacqui. “Frequent bus and coach services operate from the Airport to Bristol, Bath, and all around the Great West Way and the region at large, with integrated ticketing making it easy to connect to other destinations on the UK rail network too.” So much for ground transportation. For those groups who prefer to actually fly to Bristol; Cork, Belfast, Aberdeen and Newcastle are among the Irish and UK airports served directly. at friendly arrival makes all the difference. “Our team in the

terminal have been trained to provide a welcome to Great West Way visitors and bring bags of local knowledge and experience when answering customer queries about things to do and places to stay,” says Jacqui, as we’re led though the modern, well thought out facilities. Bristol Airport has invested over £200m since 2010, and it shows. “We hope groups arriving to tour the Great West Way receive positive first impressions,” she says. Mission accomplished we say. ere’s another great

Shutterstock/Sion Hannuna


advantage to starting your adventure in the west. “Visitors flying to Bristol Airport have plenty of options when beginning their Great West Way journey. e vibrant city of Bristol – home of street art pioneer, Banksy – is just eight miles away, while the World Heritage City of Bath is also on the doorstep,” says Jacqui. Getting into her stride, just like a true ambassador, Jacqui says there’s also Bristol’s other great historical connection with aviation. is is of

course the city that gave the world Concorde, the supersonic airliner. ough the runway at Bristol Airport was never a base for those fantastical three-hour transatlantic flights, Concorde was conceived, built and tested from Filton, just to the north of the city. Your group can visit there now, and take part in the cabin experience at Aerospace Bristol, where every British built marque made its maiden flight (

as well.

Meanwhile, there are plenty more experiences that Jacqui Mills thinks are just as tasty as a delta-wing airliner with the afterburners on full throttle. “e West of England is home to fantastic food and drink producers, so visitors looking for refreshment after a long flight will also be spoilt for choice.” We are certain that goes for a short haul arrival

“For anyone interested in history, Brunel’s SS Great Britain is a must. Brunel’s historic ship has been restored to its former glory and is now a floating museum in Bristol’s redeveloped harbourside. It’s a fascinating way to spend a few hours and in the summer those with a head for heights can even climb the rigging for fantastic views of the

waterfront,” says Jacqui. “Better yet, the great-greatgrandmother of modern ships is served by a stop on the route of the Bristol Flyer, the bus which operates every ten minutes from Bristol Airport’s terminal.”

“Overall, the relaxed and friendly vibe of the West Country will have visitors in the holiday mood much sooner than if they flew into a bigger and busier capital city.” We can’t imagine of where Jacqui may be thinking, we’re just happy to be on board our transfer in no time at all, and heading for the landing lights of Bristol city (passing by the floodlights of Bristol City on final approach by the way).

Marriot Bristol City Centre • Bristol Balloons and Bailey Balloons •Berkeley Castle • Avon Valley Adventure & Wildlife Park

So near, yet not so far A dozen short-haul sky-high attractions cleared for take off: • Aldwick Estate Vineyard yes, a wine yard in England’s backyard • Cheddar Gorge & Caves rock formations and camping too • Tyntesfield Victorian Gothic revival house with gardens and parkland. • Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm • Bristol Zoo Gardens • Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre • Glenside Hospital Musuem • University of Bristol Botanic Garden • e Urban Roof Terrace at


“Passengers flying into Bristol arrive in the heart of the West Country where they will receive a friendly welcome from our award-winning customer service

Great West Way

Bristol: Brunel, Banksy, and Cary Grant: painted pictures and moving ones too For all his wonderful foresight, Brunel probably didn’t know what he was starting when he laid down that famous railway, and put Bristol within reach of hip and trendy Victorian London. Now, we New Elizabethans have made the

West Way. Banksy probably has a GWR season ticket. So, explore if you will, the alternative Bristol. Maybe rendezvous at Prince Street Social, the hippest cafe, neatly bracketed by Pero’s Bridge and Queen Square, before exploring the world of

provides an insight into Banksy’s work and the growing coterie of city street culture. Who knows, your guide could have more of an insight than they’re letting on… If you follow Jacqui Mills’ advice, you’ll get yet another

harbour and city of Bristol, surveying a view that would still have some sights familiar to the sailors who took this mighty steamer on transatlantic voyages. It’s no coincidence that Temple Meads station is on a lagoon. Brunel’s vision was for fast

street art - and we don’t mean graffiti. ere’s a whole tour devoted to the muralicious works of (possibly) Bristol’s most famous artist. e Bristol Street Art Tour

perspective all together, if you’re brave enough to climb the mast of the SS Great Britain. Yes, probably only one at a time, but your group can gaze out over the

trains to connect with fast steamers for a seamless journey from his new Paddington station to the New World in world record time.

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one-and-a-half hour journey into a prelude to a lifestyle that’s somewhere between new age and all the rage. Bristol is, by definition, the hippest place on the Great


e vibrant city of Bristol – home of street art pioneer, Banksy at Victorian need for speed is no less relevant to the modern city of Bristol, even if the vibe is rather more laid back. ese days, to enjoy an Americano or browse for oriental silks, you can still stroll around the coffee shops and boutiques of the city. In days gone by, ships sailed right into the centre, and you only had to wait until dockers unloaded the beans and bales right on to the quay, as you struck a bargain right there on the original nails (it’s where the saying originates). Bargaining comes naturally

• Bristol Cathedral • Lido Bristol Clifton - eat, drink and get wet, outdoors • Stand Up Paddleboarding In the harbour - really in the harbour if you’re not careful • University Botanic Gardens • Bristol Zoo Gardens • Tyntesfield - one the National Trust’s finest (and check out Barrington Court and Tintinhull Garden near Yeovil too) • Interactive science centre We e Curious (formerly “at Bristol”) • Bristol Blue Glass (several retail locations) • Arnos Vale Cemetery, the dead centre of the city, a Victorian necropolis undergoing restoration (as features on the TV programme) • Aldwick Estate in the Redland district - conference venue and vineyard (a combination made for Bristol like no other) • Nordic Walking, Packet

to Bristol. e markets may not be as famous as London’s, yet that doesn’t detract from their popularity nor their diversity. So, if your group hits the stalls with a vengeance, Harbourside, St Nicholas and Oriental are three markets for which to look. Seasonally, Millennium Square is transformed into a Christmas entertainment area - just don’t be tempted to put a Santa hat on Cary Grant’s statue. Yes, that Cary Grant - an even more famous son of Bristol, whose artistry was entirely screen and never street. Pilgrimages from here to Horfield (his leafy northern suburb birthplace) every ten minutes by number 73 bus. Alight, camera, credits.www.GreatWestWay. Supporting Cast Other Bristol players cast on “Group Visit: e Movie”:





Boats, and Tandem Hire for groups of two and up

e world famous Clifton Suspension Bridge Spanning Bristol’s River Avon from the famous Georgian architecture of Clifton Village to the tranquil Leigh Woods, the world famous Clifton Suspension Bridge is an iconic landmark not to be missed! Designed by aspiring 23-year-old Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the highest and longest bridge in the world, Clifton took over 30 years to complete, eventually opening in 1864 as a memorial to the engineer.

volunteers provide guided tours of the bridge, answering questions about its history, engineering and maintenance – and sharing tales of Britain’s first bungee jump and the city’s own Mary Poppins, a Victorian barmaid named Sarah Anne Henley. Adventurous groups of twelve may also climb into the bridge to explore the recently rediscovered vaulted chambers of the Leigh Woods abutment – an echoing red brick cathedral decorated with stalactites.

Clifton’s team of expert

e nearby Visitor Centre

provides a chance to explore the bridge’s history in more depth, learn about the local geology (the Avon Gorge is a Site of Special Scientific Interest), or pick up a guidebook or souvenir of the visit. For those planning on visiting later in the day, don’t miss a photo opportunity with the bridge illuminations which are switched on every evening just before sunset. Contact info: To find out more, visit vel-trade, email Tish Russell Telephone 0117 974 4664. 12

e city’s has it’s own Mary Poppins, a Victorian barmaid named Sarah Anne Henley.



Great West Way

Bath -

a city of its times What have the Romans ever done for us? For that matter, the Georgians, or the Victorians, Edwardians? Nothing!

Don’t forget your own costumes before boarding e Bath Bus Company, part of the City Sightseeing family. ey’ll get your whole group around the sights and more, and leave you more time to relax, in places like the Bath Brew House. Let’s see if you can guess what goes on there, shall we? e Mayor of Bath’s Honorary Guides have been offering visitors free walking tours since 1934. Surely someone must have taken them up on the offer by now? Do the Austen locations, inspirations for ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’ - Jane’s posthumous novel. Set


Well, except for the Roman Baths (in case you were wondering where the name came from). en there’s the Palladian architecture, the railways, the parks, the paved roads, the sanitation… Drag yourselves out of the ermae Bath Spa. Get dressed, and take a walk that Jane Austen would recognise. Let’s just turn our backs on the grandeur of Royal Crescent, its homes and eponymous hotel, and look out over the lawns of the tended semi-circle that frame this pinnacle of neo-classical architecture. Careful at the back there, we don’t want to block the pavement. is is a busy residential thoroughfare after all. It has been since the eighteenth century, and it’s still very much in its

originally intended use today. So, turn around again, to face the Palladian columns and stone facades, and be transported back in time, as we enter a house that really does live the part. Dress up like a Georgian belles and gentlemen at the magnificent Assembly Rooms. Here, in the Fashion Museum Bath, there’s a wonderful collection of contemporary and historic clothes for women and men, displayed on more than 160 dressed figures. You will also find a dressing-up area where you can try on coats, hats, corsets, dresses and bonnets. Have a photograph taken in front an image of Royal Crescent that will be the envy of those mere twentyfirst century dwellers.


( 16

jetting? You’ll be able to take your extras along to Lacock (the house starred in Harry Potter and Downton Abbey), Castle Combe (War Horse and Dr Dolittle), and Corsham town, home to the Pound Arts Centre, and location star of the show for Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Lark Rise to Candleford, and latterly Poldark.

“Straight out of Monty Python What have the Romans ever done for us?”

Whether staying at the Abbey Hotel, the Apex, or Bailbrook House Hotel, it’s entirely possible to explore Bath on foot, including the beautiful Henrietta Park, where you can “promenade” and visit the nearby Jane Austen Centre. is is a permanent exhibition that explores the life of Jane Austen in Bath, and the influence that this city had on her work. Every day, the staff dress in clothes from the Georgian period, and serve you tea in the Regency Tea Room, overlooking the grounds which have not changed in 300 years. Little has changed at the Palladian mansion that is the Holburne Museum (free on Wednesday afternoons) and the uniquely themed collection of the Museum of East Asian Art demands a closer look. Check out the 1500 exhibits at the Victoria Art Gallery - the building itself is a work of art.



To the south of the city there’s Prior Park Landscape Garden within the estate. is eighteenth-century Capability Brown masterpiece is maintained by the National Trust, and carries a grade one listing. Well, this is Bath, and grade one is the minimum requirement. at, as they say, is what the Romans did for us; and the Georgians; and the Victorians and Edwardians. You can find out more at the Great West Way partner


Great West Way

Title Ambassador: Richard Jones, Canal & River Trust ere’s a mellowness to the waterways of the West.

e mid-life creases of the ames, the Severn, the Avon and the Kennet, all meander with restrained purposefulness. Even the industrial cut of the canal, that once was the artery of commerce, finds these relaxed days more convivial. Beneath all that swan-like grace, there’e a flurry of activity. Paddling fervently, never furiously, and presenting a decorum that his title of customer service operative hardly begins to describe, Richard Jones of the Trust does anything but make waves. Long before Brunel’s railways or Marples’ motorways, the Kennet & Avon Canal brought oceangoing trade from Bristol to the markets of London, 87 miles and 104 locks later. is a linear testament to the engineering of an age, that still serves today. e care of the Canal & River Trust keeps alive the heritage of water-borne trade, when trans-Atlantic ships were an everyday sight in the very heart of Bristol. Given the waterways and wellbeing remit of the Trust, where better to start than in Bristol Harbourside. “It’s a west country Mecca to seasoned boater and visitor alike,” says Richard Jones, over a delightful cuppa from the Trust’s Tea Rooms in

Bradford on Avon. “It offers big city attractions in a concentrated space with a nearby airport bringing international visitors to the area and mainline rail and motorway links to Cornwall, Wales and Birmingham. With a vibrant music and arts scene in venues like the ekla and Arnolfini, and historical features such as Brunel’s SS Great Britain and the Clifton Suspension Bridge to amaze, the waters of the Great West Way connect the modern and the past in a space that can be explored on foot or city bus, with all that the historical city can deliver.”

setting, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, away from town and traffic and nocturnally, light pollution.” All that’s hidden in the bright lights, comes out in the darker surroundings of the Canal at night. “For a night under the stars awakening into the capital of crop circle mystery the Vale of Pewsey delivers the best that nature and nurture can offer in our waterway and wellbeing vision,” says a star-struck Richard. Somewhere that has been in a starring role for almost as long as the heavens above, Bath is still a gateway to the waterways. It’s obviously a favourite with Richard too. “A beautiful city linking Roman with the modern, all within a short walk of the Canal that brought wealth and prosperity to the region, opening markets to coal, building materials and farming produce and importantly in the Victorian age - to tourism.” Not one to avoid the finer things in life, Richard suggests a suitably regal location for repast. “e Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath creates afternoon teas to delight and enjoy in a wonderful example of Georgian architecture. Ask head sommelier Jean Marc to help select your champagne of choice.”

It’s not just the city and the ocean of course. “e waterways of the west feature strongly in many aspects of life in the region,” says Richard. e canal makes an ideal opportunity for groups to experience something a different world. He picks out Market ursday in Devizes, with the town square given over to a vibrant and busy spectacle - a great opportunity to let your group roam free, while you prepare for a visit to Wadworth, for a tour of the Famous Wadworth 6X brewery. “Peace and tranquility in the waters east of Devizes offer the boating traveller a lock free 15 miles of Kennet & Avon Canal, to relax and dwell, in a rural 18

Popular attractions, then and now, Richard recommends navigating east along the Kennet & Avon to find treasures such as the Cross Guns at Avoncliffe and the little town jewel of Bradford on Avon before continuing to the majestic Caen Hill flight of 16 Locks. Elsewhere, if your group has flushed every last drop out of your watery odyssey, Richard makes some suggestions. Still nearby Devizes, these destinations epitomise the tranquility of the region, and wellbeing nature of the Trust Never far from the river bank, just north of Melksham, Richard says there’s a glamourous location, with almost as good a star-spotting record as those night time cruises on the Canal. “Take a trip out to Lacock, the film set home of many of our period dramas including Downton Abbey and Harry Potter - or a short trip across the A4 to Whitehall Garden Centre more a day out than plant shop. e Cotswolds village of Castle Combe hides a motor sport racing circuit nearby, where track days and go-karts will provide an adrenaline hit to the more adventurous.” Your group might start out cruising, and end up on the winners podium. Now that’s how to make a splash on the Great West Way.

So near, not so far Many more places to make a splash: •Bristol Community Ferry Boats and Bristol Packet Boats •Windsor Marina and nearby Bray Marina •Honeystreet Boats and Cafe •Caen Hill Locks, also at Devizes •Canal Boats (like the Barbara McLellan and Sally Narrowboats at Bradford on Avon, MV Jubilee in Newbury, and Honeystreet

Boats in Wiltshire) •Cotswold Water Park, near Cirencester •Hobbs of Henley Boat Trips - the gin tasting is overboard •Henley Rowing Association - don't forget the Regatta •Henley’s River & Rowing Museum •Original Wild - a splash, in Bath •Salter's Steamers - Oxford hospitality on the ames

“Take a trip out to Lacock, the film set home of many of our period dramas including Downton Abbey & Harry Potter”



Great West Way

Villages and the Cotswolds places where even time meanders Make no mistake. When you think of the quintessential English countryside view, you’re thinking of the Cotswolds.

Now, it’s fair to say that other quintessential views exist. e rolling Yorkshire Dales, the hop fields of Kent, the Norfolk Broads, the dairy farms of Hampshire and Sussex, all spring to mind. Turneresque views they all are, and they all do the green and pleasant land a great service. From familiar opening titles, for vets called Heriot, for summer winers called Cleggy, vicars of Dibley, for murderers of Midsomer and cases for Poirot. Yet, for sheer variety, and no little measure of all of these qualities, the Cotswolds have an abundance to satiate everyone with a hankering for view, the place, the feel, and the people that make

caught in time, just waiting to be discovered, with a welcome for everyone in your party too.

the English countryside uniquely satisfying. So then to this geographical ribbon that is the Cotswolds. As difficult to define as it is to depart from, the Cotswolds might roughly be described as the sumptuous lands north from Bath, on a corridor that straddles the ancient Roman Foss Way.

Take the village of Ramsbury, just outside Marlborough. At its heart, a 300-year-old coaching inn, that could be your base for excursions to Avebury and Stonehenge - the former the less well known foul to the latter prehistoric enigma. From the sublime to the raucous days of thunder at Castle Combe, all revved up on motor racing days. en there’s Calne. South west of Swindon, over 17,000 souls astride the River Marden, all carefully curating their town’s charming conversation area centre.

Steeple Ashton, the Great West Way’s first Ambassador Village, extends a welcome with St Mary’s Church, the tiny blind house temporary gaol, and the famous community-led Village Shop. Around every mile, from Eastville to Ealing, there’s a village scene,


It’s also home to the historic Atwell-Wilson Motor Museum. Nearby, Bowood House & Gardens is a grade one Georgian country house with interiors by Robert Adam and a landscape designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown. It’s adjacent to the village of Derry Hill, and has a separate hotel, golf course and spa for good measure.

Steamy Swindon and Diverse Devizes Yet all this bucolic rural delight is not all that the region, the county and the Great West Way has to offer. We’re in the neighbourhood of Swindon, a town that

So near, not so far


Places ten minutes distant: •Helen Browning's Royal Oak traditional pub and inn (small groups) •All Saints Church, in Alton Priors village, east of Devizes

more than any other owes its existence to the coming of the railways and Brunel’s requirement for a works to maintain his operations. Having delighted in the Agricultural Age, and marvelled at the Stone Age, it’s time to welcome to the Steam Age. You may already have considered the nearby Didcot Railway Centre - so move on to Swindon. e town is a minute less than an hour from London and is home to STEAM – the Museum of the Great Western Railway. at these endless Grade II-listed halls are testament to the scale of Victorian ambition, and tell

the story of the men and women who built the GWR. Even if your party have left behind their anoraks, it’s as enthralling as a production at the town’s renowned Wyvern eatre. Spend a few more hours browsing for bargains in the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Swindon - still within “e Works”. e town’s Doubletree by Hilton accommodates groups with ease. Also within easy reach of the route, try the Holiday Inn Salisbury-Stonehenge and the Best Western Plus Angel Hotel, in Chippenham.

Wiltshire and on the Great West Way, the town of Devizes has plenty to delight even the most diverse group. Camping may be your thing, and Devizes has camping galore. It’s landlocked location is deceptive. You’ll find a Marina, Honeystreet Boats with day boat hire - and a wharf side tearoom for land lubbers (or sailors in need of a brew). You can even do a group cookery school. ere’s the charming independent Wiltshire Musuem, and the equally charming a’Beckett’s Vineyard for visits with a variety of still and sparkling English wine.

Built around its castle, and a centrally located in

… and some more a little further afield: •Salisbury with its cathedral - buses to and from Stonehenge •Alison Howell’s Foot Trails from Salisbury •Westonbirt, e National Arboretum •e Courts Garden near Bradford on Avon •e Swan, Bradford on Avon - remarkable traditional inn •e Bridge Tea Rooms, also Bradford on Avon •Crofton Beam Engines, near Marlborough •Wilton Windmill breezing by Marlborough



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Great West Way

Title Ambassador: Chris Lund, Great Western Railway Take all the fabulous achievements of the Victorian era, and there’s one that stands out.

It’s as vital to the nation as it ever was. Still carrying the name by which it was conceived, the Great Western Railway is a legacy that shows no sign of shunting into history. From Brunel to Banksy and all stops along the way, “God’s Wonderful Railway” as good as defines the Great West Way. Take in those vast cathedrals to rail ambition: Paddington and Temple Meads. Add to that the modern achievement of redeveloped Reading, and engineering legacy of Swindon. ere’s more to the network than the prestige main line, but who can do less than marvel at sights along the way: Maidenhead Viaduct, Sonning Cutting, Box Tunnel and the beautiful approaches through Bath (ok - the view from Box Tunnel is a little limited, but it’s a marvel nonetheless). e brainchild of three of the most famous names of the Industrial Revolution - Isambard Kingdom Brunel - the GWR been the express carrier since 1833. As Chris Lund watches yet another of the box-fresh fleet of new trains accelerate effortlessly away from the platform, we can’t help but comment on the way this latest innovation is living up to the reputation of the route, and, even at top speed, the relaxed progress is exactly how the GWR epitomises the Great West Way.

“Today’s Great Western Railway is a modern railway, fit for the twenty-first century, and still very much following the route of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s pioneering line between Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads,” says Chris. “Victorian travellers simply called the ‘holiday line’ as it took them out West.”

minutes. e rail network is vast, and efficient, and you can easily reach so many places in between by train and bus.” Chris thinks that Great West Way touring is best by public transport. “With the pass, and co-ordination between different modes of travel, that’s certainly an option for organised groups, and gives plenty of flexibility something that the endlessly engaging communities and landscape certainly encourages.”

For getting your group around, the modern iteration of the Great Western Railway (GWR) has been working as the designated Rail Ambassador to the Great West Way. e Great West Way Discoverer pass - the largest integrated rail and bus pass in the country, it allows unlimited off-peak train and bus travel between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, with options to branch off in the ames Valley, Cotswolds and Wiltshire – all with just a single ticket - and most groups would want to branch off as they take in everything the Great West Way has to offer.” Rather than where to stop, Chris says where to start is the dilemma. “We’ve got some great scenery out the window on the Great Western network, from Brunel’s Temple Meads Station in Bristol to the beautiful Avon and Pewsey valleys further up the line. So with time on your hands, it’s very relaxing to sit back and enjoy the views. Our new Intercity Express Trains can whisk you at 125mph from Bristol to London in under 90

Couple that with the accessibility, and the proximity between desirable destinations, and, as Chris points out, the grandeur of the statement pieces of architecture along the railway offer a welcome in themselves, equal to some of the iconic Great West Way places themselves. Chris picks out some examples that should make you take a moment as you check through the ticket gates. “From the West, then you’re bound to start in Bristol where it’s a quick twelve minutes by train to neighbouring Bath Spa.” Take a moment to enjoy the 1840 building, grade II listed and, given the canopied entrance, fit for a uniformed concierge. You could be exiting an understated grand Victorian hotel. It’s probably no coincidence then, that you’ll find yourself on aptly named Dorchester Street. Chris is mindful of the railway’s original 24

target clientele, and the reason why the GWR had to appeal to the sense and sensibilities of those well-to-do would-be passengers. “Walk out of the station and make your way up to the Royal Crescent via the Circus for a tour of the exemplary Georgian sandstone architecture. Visit the excellent No. 1 Royal Crescent museum which is a brilliant example of a Georgian townhouse. Head back down the hill and make time for tea at the Pump Rooms.” ere’s something else that Chris recommends, and it’s a particular dip into history. “No trip to Bath should omit the Roman Baths, a very wellpreserved site of Roman history in Britain. Don’t forget to try a pint or two of something local at the Bath Brew House opposite the excellent Apex hotel.” “If starting in the East, then take the train from London Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central with a quick change at Slough for the Windsor branch line.” ere’s a hidden treasure on the approach to the station. Something more common in south London than in affluent Berkshire, the station is approached by a brick viaduct, over two thousand yards long, punctuated as it crosses the ames by the Windsor Railway Bridge, the last surviving wrought iron bridge designed by Brunel. e station itself has gone through several

name changes, hence “Royal Windsor Station” emblazoned above the glazed entrance, adorned with an impressive station clock and regal coat of arms, all date stamped 1897. Would you be forgiven for not noticing it on arrival? Possibly. e cloistered Victorian exit channels arriving passengers direct to something in full view and synonymous with this particular location: Windsor Castle itself.

former railway works with expresses up and down the line several times an hour, and if you want something west end, that’s not in the West End, it’s a group-friendly laugh to jump off at the Broadway for an Ealing Comedy all of your own making.

Encourage your group to stay. Windsor’s Sir Christopher Wren Hotel & Spa sets a high standard. e Castle Hotel MGallery may have taken named inspiration from something local, and sits opposite Wren’s peerless Guildhall.

· National Trust – I’m a member and always enjoy a visit to one of their sites with my family. Mompesson House in Salisbury is well worth a visit. (20 minutes walk or less from the station) · Bradford on Avon – a beautiful, picture perfect town on the Avon a short train ride on from Bath · Clifton Suspension Bridge – a truly deserved focal point/icon of Bristol and one I’ve been fascinated with since first moving to Bristol as a student, trying thousands of ways to photograph it day and night.

Chris Lund does a peerless job of being an impartial advocate for the Great West Way, so he’s refrained from filling our time together with railway destinations. So, we’ll do that for you, with a few examples that you can reach twice as fast as the traffic on the M4, and enjoy for twice as long. Newbury Racecourse has its own station, so you couldn’t be better off for a day at the races if you backed the train to take the reins. You can visit Swindon’s super shopping and

So near, not so far Six more of the best from Chris’s own favourites



Walking across is always a buzz. (check out Discover Card options from Temple Meads station) · Hampton Court Palace – great Tudor kitchens section inside to see how a banquet was #GreatWestWay

catered for, lovely grounds and riverside location on the ames. (Don’t tell Chris there’s a station on the doorstep served by another operator) ·e Matthew of Bristol – can you imagine sailing unknowingly across to Newfoundland in that, and making it back to Bristol


again. Brilliant ship to visit and learn about the often used name of John Cabot in Bristol. (twenty minutes walk through the arty centre and quaysides of the city)

Great West Way

Reading: Quite aristocratic actually It’s undeniably more direct, though undeniably less romantic.

We’d be tempted to say less stressful as well, but we’ve driven the M4 in the rush hour. So, while the motorway may get you there faster, the Great West Road is still the way to reach Reading. Well, that and the fabulous new station that would even impress Brunel. e largest town in the UK, Reading epitomises the Great West Way. Its treasures are just as many as the surprises along the Way. Hotels, museums, river boat companies on the ames and Kennet, shops, all have their place in Reading. Great names spring to mind. Oscar Wilde (imprisoned) and Jane Austen (impressed) come to mind. King Henry the First, in 1121, founded Reading Abbey: "for the salvation of my soul”. e remains of the Abbey still adorn the city centre. e remains of the king adorned the car park of Reading Jail (the modern one). Well, it’s become traditional for medieval English kings, hasn’t it? Oscar Wilde probably knew but wasn’t letting on. e future of Wilde’s place of incarceration is yet to be decided - but an arts centre has been proposed for the Victorian gaol. Have a high tea break, why don’t you. ere are enough

biscuits for the biggest groups. Reading is the home of Huntley and Palmers, after all. Sadly, their worldbeating factory, the biggest in the world, has only partly survived modernity. It was, in its Victorian industrial way, just as majestic as the modern Madejski Stadium, home of Reading Football Club, or the Royals, as they’re aristocratically known. Reading’s great arts and cultural community is well represented. e tourism map of the town (remember, not a city) includes just as many studios and galleries as it does casual dining gastropubs and entertainment venues. You’ll see plenty suits on the sidewalks, with so many corporate headquarters right here … in town. You don’t need a collar and tie to dine in Reading - though you might need an interpreter: there are 150 languages spoken locally, and all of them are represented in famously diverse and tasty dining scene.

e Chilterns lie to the north, abandoned Roman Silchester to the south. Park yourselves at the Novotel Reading Centre. Take your pick or take a guided tour of the Abbey ruins, go open air swimming at the restored Edwardian ames Lido, take afternoon tea or stay the night at the high-end Roseate, or grab a blue and white favour and take in EFL action at Reading FC. “Up the Royals!”

greatly in the following years.

Reading Abbey will be celebrating its 900th anniversary in 2021. One of the most important monasteries of medieval England. Today, the remains of the Abbey can be found throughout the former precinct known as the Abbey Quarter in the heart of Reading, sharing the site with the Victorian Reading Prison buildings. It is a site of huge archaeological and historic importance.

So near, not so far Further Reading: places to peruse not many miles distant: •West Berkshire Museum in Newbury •Newbury Races for a flutter •e Watermill eatre (also Newbury) •Donnington Grove Hotel & Country Club in Newbury •e Newbury gastropub (it’s in … Newbury) •e historic Tutti Pole Tea Rooms in Hungerford •Take in Hungerford Wharf and a canal trip on the Rose of Hungerford •Cobbs Farm Shop & Kitchen (Hungerford) •Alder Ridge Vineyard (Hungerford) •West Berkshire Brewery (Yattendon)

Reading Abbey was founded in 1121 by King Henry I. He intended it to be his own burial place and memorial, and although he died in France, he was buried in Reading before the Abbey’s High Altar in 1136. In its heyday, the Abbey was one of the largest monastic sites in Europe. It was closed in 1539 as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and it suffered

Groups with boots and parties with pedals will find Reading to their liking for hiking and cycling. Lovely footpaths adorn the ames and Kennet, and cycle routes can get you as far as Hungerford and Newbury. 26


If that leaves you hoarse, go see a horse at e Museum of English Rural Life, or seek out the Huntley Palmer biscuit tin collection at the Reading Museum. Reading’s £900m new railway station will, all too soon, await you.

Berkshire and Buckinghamshire and beyond inking of Marlow as an outer commuter town? ink again. Heritage walks with an optional treasure hunt, and riverside views and cafes.

Chris Lund from GWR may not have mentioned it, but Marlow is at the end of a branch line as quirky as its civic personality. Also with an outlying personality, the outlying Waddesdon Manor is a pleasant coach trip from Marlow - a few miles off the Great West Way, but still a Bucks treasure. Windsor needs no introduction - though you’ll find plenty of introductions in the Great West Way guide. Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, does however offer a unique view of the surroundings. Windsor

Castle’s Conquer the Tower Tour, which is only open to the public in August and September, enjoys 360degree views of Windsor, the London skyline, Eton College and the ames Valley. Do educate your class with a visit to Eton, Windsor’s intertwined twin. Considering its proximity to London, this home county is big on old English charm. Leafy villages and horsedrawn canal boats will leave your group convinced they are a hundred miles down the Great West Way, and one hundred years or more in the past. You really can escape

the hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century along the Way, and you don’t have to travel far to travel back in time. Well - you do travel back in time at Maidenhead Heritage Centre, but there’s also the communities of Cookham, Sonning, Bray and Bisham, and a hundred more places just as pretty and welcoming … and Legoland Windsor, Basildon Park, Reading Abbey, and Caversham Court too. You’ll need a hire from Windsor Carriages or the Swinley Bike Hub to get around them all.



So near, not so far •Windsor Castle & St George's Chapel •Legoland Windsor Resort (oh, we mentioned that) •Ascot and Royal Windsor racecourse •LaplandUK - seasonal fun in Ascot •e Savill Garden,Egham, Surrey •Explore the River ames •French Brothers Boat Trips •Private Boat Hire Ltd Maidenhead •Windsor Great Park

shutterstock_Ververidis Vasilis

Great West Way

Title Ambassador: Jo Atkins, National Trust ere’s no denying that at sunrise, with the blond sandstone of the facade illuminated in the soft morning light, Lacock Abbey is as pretty as a picture.

It’s probably why it was the inspiration behind its most famous resident, William Henry Fox Talbot and why Lacock is renowned as the UK birthplace of photography. Imaging that, a real person with the name ‘Fox’ - we should open an X File. “I would suggest Lacock as it offers the chance to try a bit of everything the Trust has to offer,” says Jo Atkins, the marketing and communications consultant for the National Trust, taking a day out from her Salisbury base to show us around some of the fifteen treasures, cared for by the Trust, along the Great West Way. “It’s steeped in history, from when Ela of Salisbury chose this spot for her abbey in 1232, through its life as a nunnery and transition into a unique home.” Like many ‘abbeys’ around the UK, Lacock takes its name from the original use of the site as a monastic location. “Lacock’s ecclesiastical affectations and beautiful grounds are a place to relax, explore and reconnect,” says the Trust’s own introduction to the property near Chippenham. “ey encourage you to wander through the changing colours, spot some woodland wildlife, and don’t forget the celebration of innovation too. You might just want to get a group selfie before you go in.

It’s not just about the house itself, Lacock also celebrates innovation, with the Fox Talbot Museum celebrating William Henry Fox Talbot and Lacock as the UK birthplace of photography.”

to pick up the perfect souvenir,” says Jo, who, let’s not forget, does have the marketing brief for the trust in this area. “Having visited Lacock there’s then the opportunity to continue to travel through time at somewhere like Tyntesfield or Barrington, explore another museum at Avebury or take in more dramatic views on a walk at Dyrham Park or Stourhead. ere’s plenty of variety and breadth in what can be found. So many eras of history can be discovered along with dramatic wild countryside, immaculate landscaped gardens, plus the fascinating stories of the people who shaped these special places.”

ere’s more to the Great West Way than picturesque locations and a laid-back lifestyle. As Lacock Abbey demonstrates, there are plenty of surprises and innovations to discover too. It’s not just the house that’s been in the frame either. “e picturesque village with its timber-framed cottages, interesting shops and bustling community is well worth exploring, says Jo. “It may also look familiar to some, having been used as the backdrop for film and TV productions.”

At a mere eight centuries old, Lacock is but one of the youngsters in the Trust’s local portfolio. Jo Atkins has some sites that might be considered more established to show to your group. “ere are ancient sites such as Avebury and the Stonehenge landscape. ere’s also the glittering Elizabeth mansion at Montacute; the late seventeenth-century house and parkland at Dyrham; a Victorian gothic country house and estate at Tyntesfield and the house and worldfamous landscape garden at Stourhead – a sublime creation of reflective water, woods, temples trees and grottoes.”

For those groups that take fresh air seriously, Lacock’s setting, nestled alongside the River Avon in rolling Wiltshire landscape, is an ideal place to make sure you’ve packed your walking boots. “It’s also a great place to get outdoors. ere’s seasonal colour in the wooded grounds, botanic garden, greenhouse and orchard; from early spring bulbs to golden autumn hues.” As we all know, there is always something upon which to rely at a National Trust property. “ere are two National Trust tea rooms to choose from for refreshment and a National Trust shop in the High Street 30

So near, not so far More places Steeped in history: • Horace Walpole’s Georgian Gothic Strawberry Hill House and Garden in London. • Sandycombe Lodge is the quiet retreat Turner used as his escape from the London art world. • Basildon Park, the fabulous Palladian mansion near Reading. • Shaw House in Newbury, one of the best preserved Elizabethan mansions in England. • Squeeze your group into the cottage-sized Aldermaston Tea Rooms in the village near Reading. • e working industrial heritage of Crofton Beam Engines, in the rolling hills near Marlborough. • Check out the Merchant’s House in the centre of Marlborough . • Book a meal stop at the traditional White Horse Inn, in the village of Compton Bassett, Near Calne. • Ashdown House is an unusual Dutch-style house on the Berkshire Downs, well worth your attention.

Escape the everyday

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Great West Way

Gardens and Houses You’ll all find dozens of blooming participants from the National Garden Scheme as you travel the Great West Way,

But progressing eastwards, and if your party plan a horticultural bonanza, then they are about to arrive at the Great West Way venue that’s always in bloom with all the flowering riches of the world. Kew Gardens is surely part of the green crown jewels of the journey. Great gardens and great houses go hand in hand, so you’ll find inspiring built heritage, tended with just as much loving care as the lawns and beds that frame them. Explore Kew with an experienced guide to gain an insight into the history and work, identify exotic plants, the great glasshouses and so much more. Experience the beautiful botanic gardens and the most biodiverse place on Earth. Visit the wild botanic garden, with 500 acres of woodland and the world's largest seed conservation project. Conservation wasn’t top of the agenda for our famously discontent monarch. During Henry VIII’s time at Hampton Court Palace, when portion control was obviously outlawed, his courtiers ate their meals under ‘eavesdroppers’, painted faces reminding them not to gossip. After all, what goes on at Hampton Court, stays at Hampton Court. 500th anniversary of the


Field of Cloth of Gold (postponed from 2020) with the 'Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King' exhibition running from 1 April-5 September 2021

e inspiration came from the former owner, Robert Adam, the famous architect who did a decent sideline in interior design. If you’ve based yourself in one of the pretty locations along the Great West Way, your group are well placed to collect a series of visits to the rural houses and gardens. Highclere will be an obvious target for fans of Downton Abbey. Cliveden, on the upper reaches of the ames, also has star quality - it’s the house where Hollywood actress Meghan Markle stayed in preparation for her wedding to Prince Harry.

ere’s so much more to choose from, e Savill Garden in Surrey is an inspired series of gardenscapes, certain to excite the most reluctant of gardeners, while Ham House in Richmond is renowned as the most haunted house in England. Check out the Cherry Garden instead. Not far, there’s Osterley Park and House. e wide open spaces are echoed in the marvellous decorative interiors at this Neoclassical mansion.

Consider too Bowood House and Garden in Calne, a 34

Georgian accomplishment with beautifully-preserved ‘Capability’ Brown parklands. en there’s Stonor Park, an architectural miscellany, reflecting its protracted construction. Avebury Manor and Garden is more modern than its prehistoric neighbour, and better decorated than those standing stones too. Eighteenth-century Basildon Park was saved from destruction after World War II, and was brought back to life during the challenging times of the 1950s. It’s a wonder now. Everyone knows the name of Blenheim Palace, but there’s a uniqueness to this baroque masterpiece. Just a little

north of the Great West Way, but well worth the detour, it is the only non-royal, nonepiscopal, country house in

England deemed a palace.

Dyrham Park near Bath are currently being reimagined, inspired by a detailed bird’seye engraving Dutch artist Johannes Kip made of the landscape in 1712. Some other west end favourites include Berkeley Castle, Tyntesfield, and Prior Park a romantic garden in Bath blessed with swans and snowdrops.

It’s not all about the past. e formal gardens at #GreatWestWay

So near, not so far A few more horticulturally and architecturally inspired ideas…

classical architecture. • Westonbirt, the National Arboretum in the Cotswolds - the clue is in the name. It’s great, especially with the colours of spring and autumn. • Peto Garden - at Iford Manor Estate in Bradford upon Avon, this Italianate masterpiece with a summer arts programme to match. • Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury - the best Grade I listed Neo-Renaissance French château in the whole of Buckinghamshire

• Longleat House - part of the Longleat Estate, this Elizabethan house has 15 magnificent rooms to explore. • Stourhead - a world-famous garden renowned for its



Great West Way

London journey’s end, adventure’s beginning Let’s not dwell on Westway. Students of Brutalist architecture will find it worthy of note, but few of them would live in its oppressive shadow, as the elevated highway snakes into west London.


Far better to arrive as nature intended - along the Great Western Railway to the vaulted cathedral that is Paddington Station (although an alternative route by way of what was the Southern Railway is permissible to Waterloo). Paddington and Bayswater may not be the most fashionable of London

suburbs, but as a welcome from or gateway to the Great West Way, they are twins who work well together. From here you can reach any part of London in a thrice even the impressive Great Northern Hotel, reworked next to the reborn Kings Cross. You may need to google that - it’s not quite on the Great West Way. Neither might the Wellington Arch

be described as upon the Way either, but that shouldn’t deter your group from a visit to one of London’s most enigmatic attractions. Standing on the corner (literally in the middle of the road), the arch is not a solid stone construction. Its interior was once the smallest police station in London, 36

and now is home to three floors of exhibits detailing the history of the arch, and an exhibition titled Waterloo 1815: e Battle for Peace (try telling that to your French friends). e terraces of the arch command unique views of west London, Green Park and Hyde Park. e Duke himself doesn’t actually feature on the plinth atop. He vacated that spot in

1912, and the ‘Quadriga’ has been there ever since. Not that the current Duke, a politician rather than a cavalryman, would have far to go, Apsley House, the official London townhouse of the Dukes of Wellington, is next door. If you take the Great West Way’s other rail partner - the South Western Railway you can easily reach Strawberry Hill House & Garden. is Gothic Revival villa was built in Twickenham by Horace Walpole in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Handy for the rugby (not that there was nay rugby in 1749). e style caught on and gave us the Gothic legacy that spread throughout the country. Pretty as a picture? Absolutely, and that’s why Turner’s House, the home of

England’s celebrated landscape artist, is right here in Twickenham too. South Western will also get your group to Barnes, from where it’s a short walk to the London Wetlands Centre, a nature reserve amid the urban suburbs of the capital. It’s something of an oasis for wildlife, and not small respite for humans too. It’s only down to the tireless work of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust that this one hundred acre site is so well kept and relaxing. It’s appropriate that we’ve come to adventure’s end within sight of the skyscrapers of London. Here we are, on the banks of the ames, surrounded by wildlife. When we started out, with the Atlantic at our backs, we had the salty air from the tidal shores of the

Severn Estuary in our nostrils. So much variety has come between that beginning and this ending. e Great West Way experience is anything but repetitive. From the oceanic trade routes to the markets of London, the Great West Way links them both, by water, road and rail. ere’s history, heritage, county towns and city streets all to savour in between. It’s an informal chain of icons and iconic places to visit. If your group think all there is to see between Bristol and London is Silicon Corridor and the M4, then it’s time to introduce them to all the other wonders that make up the Great West Way.

Operator. e Great West Way Official Tour Operator programme was launched in June 2018 as a key element of the travel trade strategy. is partnership approach supports an ongoing commitment from tour operators to develop, market and distribute programmes. ere are currently agreements in place with 82 Great West Way Official Tour Operators. To discuss how you can get involved please contact

Who to call… For assistance with group visits, trade information or to discuss how you can become an Official Tour

Contact us for special group rates

Visit the world-famous botanic garden 37 020 8332 5648


WHICH WAY NEXT? Be Curious. Be Responsible.

To find our more about our Official Operator Programme contact Begin your next adventure at

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