Come rain or shine
Date Posted: 06/05/2010
Whatever the weather, make the most of a group break to some of the UK’s best seaside resorts.
EAST OF ENGLAND
Cromer, Sheringham & Wells-next-the-Sea,
North Norfolk Coast
Take a nostalgic steam train ride on the North Norfolk Railway, offering a 10.5 mile round trip from its headquarters in Sheringham. Groups of 20 plus are entitled to discounted rates and some trains offer buffet facilities.
The picturesque seaside towns of Cromer, Sheringham and Wells-next-the-Sea offer peaceful alternatives to the bustling resort of Great Yarmouth. This part of north Norfolk is prime bird-watching territory, with species including marsh harriers, bitterns, terns and oyster catchers.
For a taste of British nostalgia, head to nearby Yesterday’s World, or visit the Time & Tide museum to explore Great Yarmouth’s maritime heritage. The SEA LIFE centre Great Yarmouth and Amazonia Reptilarium are also good alternatives for family groups.
Great Yarmouth boasts 15 miles of sandy beaches, with a host of seafront entertainment including bouncy castles and donkey rides. Take advantage of free entry to Pleasure Beach Great Yarmouth, or visit the landscaped gardens of Merrivale Model Village to see its brand new models for 2010.
Ensuring an all-weather shopping experience, canopied malls will be added to the walkways of Clacton Factory Outlet this spring, so groups can shop ‘til they drop whatever the weather. Located just over 30 minutes away from historic Colchester, the pedestrianised shopping centre offers free on-site coach parking.
A recipient of the Blue Flag and Quality Coast Awards in 2009, Clacton-on-Sea promises a traditional seaside atmosphere and remains popular with family groups. Each August, crowds flock to the annual Clacton Air Show; featuring two days of spectacular flying displays, this year’s event takes place on the 26th and 27th August.
From Herne Bay head west to explore the independent galleries, craft and clothes shops that line the historic streets of Whitstable, or enjoy afternoon tea in the new Orangery Tea Rooms at Whitstable Castle and Gardens (re-opening 26th June).
A hive of activity throughout the summer, Herne Bay retains all the charm of a seaside town with its Victorian architecture and seafront gardens. Enjoy the walking Cultural Trail or soak up the cafe culture beside the Bandstand. The annual Herne Bay Festival, taking place in mid-August, offers a host of familyfriendly events including a sandcastle building tournament and firework display.
Discover Portsmouth’s rich maritime and naval history at the Historic Dockyard, home of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the Mary Rose Museum and Action Stations. Groups can also take advantage of the 95 designer outlets and selection of restaurants at Gunwharf Quays, just a short walk away.
Keen walkers can follow the three-kilometre Millennium Promenade, indicated by a chain motif set into the ground from Southsea’s Clarence Pier, meandering through Old Portsmouth, the Camber and Gunwharf Quays, finishing on The Hard. Make the most of a clear day and enjoy panoramic views from the top of Spinnaker Tower.
The bustling town of St Ives presents a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets filled with a charming array of gift shops, boutiques, artists’ studios and galleries to peruse. Art enthusiasts can enjoy the regularly changing exhibitions of modern and contemporary works on display at the Tate St Ives, or take a trip along the scenic branch railway line to Penzance.
Recipients of both the Blue Flag and Seaside Awards 2006, the golden sands of Porthmeor and Porthminster Beaches are popular with family groups, as well as surfers and body boarders.
Coach groups staying near Weston-super-Mare will find a number of rainy day attractions close by, including Wookey Hole Caverns, Wells Cathedral, medieval manor house Clevedon Court, and Clarks Village retail outlet.
Groups will soon have the opportunity to enjoy Weston-super- Mare’s Grand Pier, as it re-opens in June this year following the fire which devastated the Grand Pier Pavilion in 2008. Visit www.grandpierwsm.co.uk for frequent updates and further information.
Bournemouth’s pedestrian-friendly town centre lays claim to 250 restaurants, bistros and wine bars, with a host of shops and boutiques for retail therapy on a rainy day. Alternatively, why not book to see a show at The BIC or Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth’s primary entertainment venues?
Boasting seven miles of sandy beaches, Bournemouth is a favourite with groups, winning the title of Best UK Resort at the Group Leisure Awards for the past two years.
Adventurous groups can enjoy a host of watersports, with surf lessons, speedboat rides and boat trips, while those seeking a slower pace can meander through Bournemouth’s attractive gardens, located within easy walking distance from the beach. A clear day also offers the chance to enjoy panoramic views 500 feet in the air from the Bournemouth Eye, a tethered balloon located in the lower gardens. Exeter Road, by The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) provides the nearest coach drop-off point for groups keen to spend the day by the beach.
Visit historic Torre Abbey and view its display of Torquay’s famous Watcombe Pottery or explore Agatha Christie’s Potent Plants, the new garden of medicinal and poisonous foliage, celebrating the area’s links with the famous crime writer. Alternatively combine a visit to Torquay Museum with Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves.
The so-called Queen of the Riviera, Torquay offers a mix of sandy beaches and hidden coves to enjoy when the sun is shining. Stopover at Torre Abbey Sands and stroll along the promenade to the harbour, visit the picturesque gardens in nearby Abbey Park, or take in striking views from the Hi Flyer Balloon.
If it’s too nippy to take a dip in the sea, visit Sandcastle Waterpark, reportedly the largest indoor water park in the world, housing 18 rides and attractions. Alternatively visit the iconic Blackpool Tower for the chance to ogle the fish in the aquarium, take a spin in the world-renowned ballroom, ride to the tower top, or enjoy a circus show.
With seven miles of beach, Blackpool is still one of the UK’s favourite seaside destinations. For a beach alternative head to Stanley Park and enjoy the serene gardens, Art Deco cafe and boating lake, or thrill-seekers can experience the white-knuckle rides at the popular Pleasure Beach Resort.
If rain stops play, why not indulge in a spot of retail therapy? Southport’s Lord Street, a Victorian-style street sheltered by glass canopies, is home to a host of boutiques and independent shops, while the Royal Arcade offers a treasure trove of antiques and collectables. Alternatively, family groups can keep children entertained with a visit to indoor water park, Splash World.
Head to the popular Southport Beach, or nearby Ainsdale on Sea and Formby Point to enjoy the summer sun. Art-lovers can also visit Crosby Beach, home to Angel of the North artist Antony Gormley’s installation, Another Place, featuring life-size cast iron figures positioned along the beach for three kilometres.
Two miles north of the resort of Bridlington is 18th century listed country house, Sewerby Hall & Gardens. If the weather’s slightly grey and the cows are sitting down, take the chance to explore the exhibitions at Sewerby’s galleries, visit the residents of Sewerby Zoo, or wander the 50 acres of gardens overlooking Bridlington Bay. Free coach parking is available all year round. Telephone: 01262-673769 or log onto www.eastriding.gov.uk/sewerby for further information.
The award-winning beaches at Bridlington promise traditional seaside fun, with donkey rides and a fair. Groups can stroll down the promenades, wander round the historic harbour or venture into Bridlington’s Old Town, where a walking tour will provide an introduction to the antiques shops, galleries and tea rooms which line the 17th century streets. For help organising a group visit to Bridlington, log onto www.realyorkshire.co.uk/group
The Vale of Rheidol Railway will take groups on a two-hour round journey by narrow gauge steam train from Aberystwyth to popular visitor attraction, Devil’s Bridge, passing through the striking Rheidol Valley. Group fares are available to pre-booked parties of 15 plus. Telephone: 01970-625819 or log onto www.rheidolrailway.co.uk.
Cardigan Bay is home to a pod of bottlenose dolphins, one of only two resident groups in the UK. Catch a glimpse of the dolphins from the shore, or get a little closer aboard an adventure wildlife boat trip organised by A Bay to Remember. With the chance to spot harbour porpoise and grey seals plus a variety of seabirds, tours take place all year round and group discounts are available. Telephone: 01239-623558 or log onto www.baytoremember.co.uk for further information.