Article by Matthew Inglis
A familiarisation trip to Guildford, Surrey, organised by tourism specialists Steve Reed Tourism in conjunction with Visit Guildford was attended by a group of around 20 group travel organisers and coach operators.
The three-day trip started with a walking tour of Guildford on the Saturday afternoon, and after a leisurely stroll, the group made their way to the Holiday Inn Guildford, which provided accommodation for the stay.
The Holiday Inn Guildford is a modern hotel and a great base for any coach groups looking to spend a short break in the area. The hotel is less than a mile from the University of Surrey and Guildford Cathedral and has 168 rooms, so it can comfortably accommodate group bookings. The rooms are stylish throughout, with free wifi and the hotel has many modern facilities including the Spirit Health Club with an indoor pool, a health and fitness club, ample coach parking on site, as well as fine dining in the hotel’s restaurant, where the operator group enjoyed a lovely evening meal, attended by Council leader Paul Spooner. The group also enjoyed a free gin tasting session provided by Silent Pool Gin who offer groups tours of their site. For more information call 01483 229136.
For information on booking groups at the Holiday Inn Guildford, call the hotel’s Director of Sales, Katie Taylor, on 01483 784444
After a comfortable night’s sleep our group set off on Sunday morning for a busy day visiting some of the area’s best attractions.
The first stop was a visit to Birdworld where the group enjoyed a tour with the park’s manager, Mark Anderson.
Birdworld is in Farnham, and is home to over 2,000 different animals and birds. Birdworld is a 26-acre site that includes the Forest Lodge Garden Centre, part of the same business as Birdworld. Free coach parking is offered, a free lunch voucher and free driver entrance included. For more details call Birdworld on 01420 22140
Having concluded our look around the Garden Centre we boarded the coach and made a short journey to Painshill Park and Gardens. Painshill Park is an 18th Century landscaped garden which welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year. Our tour took in a visit to see the Crystal Grotto and Follies followed by a delicious lunch. For more information call 01932 868113
Our group spent around two and half hours at Painshill and then set off on the road again visiting Brooklands Museum and experiencing The Concord Experience.
Brooklands Museum is widely known as the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation. The Museum contains an amazing collection of cars, motorcycles, bicycles and aircraft, as well as many other amazing exhibits. Visits to the Museum are never complete without taking the Brooklands Concorde Experience, which our group had the chance to experience first-hand. The Concorde experience includes a complimentary Concorde boarding pass, pre-flight briefing as well as the chance to sit on board the concord and experience your own virtual take-off and flight, giving visitors the chance to discover what travel would have been like on board this amazing piece of aeronautics. For more information call 01932 857381
Our final stop on a busy Sunday was the short, 20-minute drive to Denbies Wine Estate, in Dorking. Denbies Wine Estate is home to England’s largest Vineyard, spanning over 268 acres, with 15 different grape varieties grown. During a good year over 400,000 bottles of wine are produced. Our visit started with a road train tour around the Estate, before we made our way inside and enjoyed a short film showing the History of Denbies, which turned into a vineyard in 1986. After walking through the main area where the wines are produced, we had the chance to sample three wines before enjoying supper and returning to our coach to make our way back to the hotel. Get more information on Denbies group deals by calling 01306 734651
Our final day on this excellent trip started with a short drive into Guildford and a visit to the Guildhall situated in the heart of Guildford High Street. We all enjoyed meeting the Mayor of Guildford, as well as having the opportunity to speak directly too many of the area’s attractions, who had set out their tables at the Guildhall for people to source further information and talk face-to-face about their groups requirements.
After leaving Guildford, we made our way to the beautiful RHS Wisley garden, the flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society. RHS Wisley is home to one of the world’s largest plant collections, and there is always something different to see whatever the season. The garden is open year round (except Christmas Day) We also enjoyed an informative tour of the gardens, which span over 200 acres. The gardens have a host of events to visit throughout the year, so it is always worth keeping a check on the RHS website for more information. Our visit to RHS Wisley concluded with a lovely lunch buffet. Free coach parking is offered on site, a meet-and-greet service for group bookings when you arrive. All coach drivers receive complimentary admission, and there are reduced group rates for admission and catering. Call 01483 224234 for details.
Our final two stops of superb weekend included a highly entertaining tour of the Hogsback Brewery (Tel: 01252 783000) before the final course was produced by the majestic Guildford Cathedral (Tel: 01483 547860) and a chance to digest the many experiences served up by Visit Guildford during the showcase.
For further information on Steve Reed Tourism, call 01420 560288
For further information from Visit Guildford, call Diana Roberts on 01483 444396