Joanna Booth looks at what's on the market for groups of friends looking for UK short breaks
Whether it’s a stag do or a girly spa weekend, a sports team reunion or just an excuse to catch up without the kids or the other half getting in the way, there are plenty of good reasons for friends to head off on holiday. But with money and time off work often tight, it can make sense to stay close to home.
With hotels, holiday parks, escorted tour operators, villas and even barges offering packages to suit groups from four or so up to more than 10, persuading your clients that they need to spend some quality time with their mates shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
There’s little better than a weekend in the city to make groups of female friends feel like Carrie and the girls.
Superbreak offers two-night deals with dinner included on the first night – perfect for easy post-work Friday night dining before a big night out on Saturday.
There are currently 148 of these deals on offer, including two nights at the four-star Macdonald Burlington Hotel in Birmingham from £89 per person in August, and at the three-star Jurys Inn Manchester from £99.
Holiday Inn has a couple of savings on offer, including B&B from £49 per room this summer at Holiday Inn Cardiff Centre, Holiday Inn Edinburgh, Holiday Inn Glasgow Theatreland and Holiday Inn Express Bath.
Apartments can be a great fit for groups, with the flexibility of self-catering. Hoseasons offers two nights in a converted factory loft in London’s Hoxton Square from £1,193 in September for up to eight people. Superbreak offers two nights at the Fountain Court Apartments in Edinburgh in a two-room apartment, from £89.50 per person for four, in November.
London’s shows are one of the capital’s big attractions and alongside the old favourites such as Wicked and Les Misérables, this winter will see two new options which should strike a chord with groups of girls – The Bodyguard and Viva Forever – the latter based on the songs of the Spice Girls. Superbreak offers Viva Forever packages from £118 including one night’s accommodation and tickets to the show.
Hand Picked Hotels has a range of Super Spa Breaks targeted at girls looking for a weekend away, available at four of the group’s hotels.
The package starts from £199.50 and includes a three-course dinner, overnight accommodation, breakfast and a spa voucher worth £100. Hotels offering the break are Brandshatch Place in Kent, Norton House in Edinburgh, Nutfield Priory in Surrey and Rookery Hall in Cheshire.
A group celebration package is available at all 17 of the group’s hotels. From £198 per room, each group member gets a glass of champagne, canapés and nibbles on arrival, private dining for the group with a selection of menus, accommodation and breakfast.
For a spa hotel with city access, Irish Ferries recommends a hop across to Dublin travelling club class – fast boarding, lounge access and free drinks and snacks – on its flagship Ulysses, followed by a short break at Fitzpatrick’s Castle Hotel on the outskirts of the capital.
The four-star, 18th-century castle hotel has a swimming pool, sauna and steam room, and is five minutes from Dart railway station which serves central Dublin. With the hotel featuring a third-night-free offer year-round, Irish Ferries can offer three nights’ B&B from £215 based on twin share including a return Holyhead-Dublin crossing in Club Class.
They might be seen as a haven for families, but holiday parks are increasingly tailoring their offerings to suit adults too.
Butlins has rebranded its Big Weekends as Live Music Weekends, and there’s a new mini brochure focusing on the range and quality of what’s on offer at its three beachside resorts in Bognor Regis, Minehead and Skegness. Big-name acts lined up for 2012 include Beverley Knight, Chesney Hawkes, T’Pau and Madness, plus a range of themed weekends including Soul & Motown, Skool Reunion, Disco Inferno and 60s to 90s decade breaks.
New for this year is the Great British Folk Festival. A three-night Stars of the 60s break starts from £42 based on four adults sharing Silver room-only accommodation at Skegness resort on December 7.
Those who prefer action to music should head for one of Hoseasons’ 14 ‘Go Active’ parks, where breaks are designed for groups of friends who enjoy high-octane adventures.
Piperdam Lodges near Dundee is set in 500 acres of countryside, and friends can stay in high-quality log lodges and have a go at as many activities as they can pack into a trip from a range that includes golf, quad biking, archery, fencing, climbing, sailing and even driving a tank. Activities cost extra: an hour’s golf tuition is £7, for example, while 90 minutes’ quad-biking is £20.
Groups of 12 should choose the luxury Vegas Executive Lodge – there are six en-suite bedrooms, an outdoor hot tub and even a casino-themed games room with a roulette wheel, card table and snooker table. A three-night weekend break in September costs from £1,299 for up to 12 people.
THE OLDER MARKET
Friendships don’t fade with age. Grand UK Holidays, the 50-plus specialist, finds its hobby and special-interest holidays appeal to groups of friends, with options including line dancing, rambling, bingo, nostalgia tours and cards.
Festive holidays are also an annual favourite for groups. Grand UK’s options include its Turkey & Tinsel programme, trips to UK Christmas Markets and a new range of Festive House Parties. Breaks include some sightseeing and entertainment every evening, with prices for the latter starting at £189 for a five-day half-board coaching holiday.
Shearings Holidays has reintroduced its Party Weekends, priced from £89 for four nights’ half-board, return coach travel and one sightseeing excursion. There are three nights of music and dancing, and a four-course gala dinner to keep the party spirits high. Locations include Llandudno and Bournemouth.
The operator also runs three-night Cabaret Weekends at a selection of destinations including Blackpool and Whitby, and include live entertainment every night. Packages start from £114 with half-board accommodation, return coach travel and some sightseeing.
Warner Leisure Hotels has introduced Star Dance Spectacular Breaks and Star Concert Breaks for 2012. Strictly Come Dancing fans can meet and compare moves with Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor or James and Ola Jordan. Star Concert Breaks combine intimate venues with big names from the worlds of music and comedy, including opera’s Lesley Garrett, blues singer Elkie Brooks and comedian Bobby Davro.
The Warner Experiences Programme, spread across 13 properties, suits friends who like picking up new skills and hobbies. Options are as diverse as falconry, psychic school, whisky-tasting and a trip to Newbury Racecourse. There are new golf experiences on offer, including Couples Golf and Golf for Over 55s.
A three-night break at Norton Grange in the Isle of Wight costs from £259 on a half-board basis including a falconry experience.
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