Live the life in Lancashire
Date Posted: 03/11/2010
Boasting a kaleidoscope of contrasts, we take a look at what Blackpool and Lancashire can offer visiting groups.
Whether you enjoy exploring, shopping, eating, walking or simply relaxing and having fun, the historic county of Lancashire offers a host of pursuits for visiting groups. Located in the heart of the north west, it provides a kaleidoscope of contrasts in terms of experiences and activities. Whether you’re looking for an action-packed adventure, a cultural city break, a country escape of distinction, first-class entertainment by the seaside, or family fun to suit all age groups, then look no further. Lancashire promises a destination where treasured memories are made.
From the ever popular seaside resorts of Blackpool and Morecambe, and the historic splendour of Lancaster, to the breathtaking countryside of the Ribble Valley and the cultural hotspot of Preston, there really is something for every group, all within a two-hour drive time. Plus, with easy road, rail and air links from anywhere in the UK and beyond, Lancashire is waiting with open arms to welcome groups. Choose from a selection of group-friendly accommodation providers, restaurants, cafes and pubs across the county, to ensure every element of your itinerary caters to the needs of your party.
In the morning, take a private tour of the magnificent Samlesbury Hall, a medieval manor-house dating from 1325, followed by an afternoon of dancing in Blackpool’s world famous Tower Ballroom, with a trip to an award-winning farm shop along the way. For a ‘bloomin’ good day out, try Barton Grange Garden Centre between Preston and Garstang, where groups can indulge in a spot of all-weather plant shopping and enjoy a bite to eat in either the Riverside Cafe or Willows Restaurant. Follow this up with a trip to its fantastic farm shop, before embarking on a leisurely afternoon cruise on the Lancaster Canal from Barton Grange’s very own marina. Alternatively, why not pay a visit to some of the region’s award-winning family attractions, including Blackpool Zoo and Dinosaur Safari.
With two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Lancashire offers a truly idyllic setting for your group to get away from it all in the glorious outdoors. Whether you’re seeking relaxation and peace, or activities to get your adrenaline pumping, you’ll find an array of treats in store. Be entranced by the natural beauty of destinations like the Ribble Valley, Morecambe Bay, Silverdale and Arnside, Pendle Hill, Gisburn Forest, the Forest of Bowland, the Lune Valley, tranquil Bilsborrow, Wycoller Country Park and Hoghton Gorge to name but a few. Visiting groups will find plenty to explore, from stunning scenery, bustling market towns and mystical legends, to mill shops and rural attractions.
A snapshot of features includes Browsholme Hall and Gardens, historic Whalley Abbey where guided tours and afternoon teas are available to groups, the award-winning Ribble Valley Food Trail including the fabulous Bashall Barn, the recently re-opened Clitheroe Castle, and Pendle Hill - a must for all intrigued by mystery and legend.
Alternatively if you want something a little more action-packed, why not indulge in some off-road driving, water skiing, wake boarding, windsurfing and para-gliding, or venture on some of the area’s world-class cycling and walking routes. From gentle nature trails and sociable strolls, through to the more challenging routes and rugged landscapes of east Lancashire, there is something to suit all tastes and abilities. The new Pennine Lancashire Adrenaline Gateway offers some of the best purpose-built bike trails in the UK at Lee Quarry, Bacup, and they’re free to ride all year round.
Countryside attractions are bountiful, and Cobble Hey Farm and Gardens, Gisburn Forest, the Panopticons, Witton Country Park, Williamson Park and the Wyre Estuary Country Park, are just a small selection of firm favourites. Group organisers can also plan a visit to coincide with one of the many special events held throughout the year, including festivals and markets.
What’s new for 2011?
Groups planning a visit to the county town of Lancaster in the summer, can look forward to the 25th anniversary celebrations of the UK’s biggest walkabout outdoor theatre event. Since 1987, The Dukes in Lancaster has been transforming the city’s Williamson Park into an outdoor stage, producing a memorable theatrical experience. The theatre’s promenade season has become a highlight in the county’s summer events calendar, and to celebrate its silver jubilee season, The Dukes will be staging Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur from the 8th July to 13th August. Early bird tickets are now on sale, and groups can book via The Dukes box office on: 01524-598500 or log onto www.dukeslancaster.org.
A collaboration between Pleasure Beach, Blackpool and Nickelodeon, the popular children’s entertainment brand, will see a six-acre area of Pleasure Beach transformed into Nickelodeon Land, scheduled to open in April. New rides are to include SpongeBob’s Splash Bash, an interactive ride where participants can blast pesky jellyfish with jets of water; Avatar Airbender, which allows riders to join Aang on an amazing adventure, spinning and soaring through the air on a giant disk; and the Rugrat’s Lost River, a rollicking flume ride. Nickelodeon Land will also feature a number of themed retail and catering outlets.
Also in Blackpool, following a major £10 million investment programme, the iconic Blackpool Tower complex and associated buildings will be transformed in to a world-class family leisure destination. The current Louis Tussauds wax attraction near to the Tower will become a second UK Madame Tussauds, with all the interactivity and high quality figures associated with this world-famous brand. This will open in the spring, with the other new attractions in the Tower - a thrilling new Dungeon experience and ‘eye’ experience (observation platform and 4D screen show) - to be completed by early 2012.
The current restoration programme for Blackpool Tower itself will also continue, and from next year visitors will once again be able to wander round and enjoy this beautiful historic building. Finally, the famous Ballroom and Circus will be retained and are expected to be in great demand in the future to host a programme of exciting new events.
Ten great group attractions
1 Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool: Reportedly the UK’s largest waterpark, a fun-filled day awaits children and family groups at Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool, with water slides and chutes, fun pools, a lazy river, wave machine, and arcade.
2 Brockholes, Preston: Opening next spring, be one of the first to explore this beautiful reserve. See a wealth of wildlife in its natural habitat and experience the floating visitor centre, cafe and shop – situated in the middle of a lake.
3 Moorhouses Brewery, Burnley: Visit the new brewery and visitor centre in Burnley, as the 145-year-old company opens the £3.5 million tower brewery development, which includes a training school and visitor centre. Brewery tours are available by prior arrangement.
4 WWT Martin Mere Canoe Safari: The wetland creation is due for completion this autumn, with the canoe safari experience opening in the spring. Visitors can paddle through the open channels around the reed bed in canoes, providing bird-watching opportunities and the chance to get close to nature in a fun and interactive way.
5 Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston: Enjoy a mix of contemporary and traditional art at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. The new and frequently changing exhibitions ensure there is never a dull moment, and the cafe’s inspirational setting and views up to the Egyptian balcony promise to leave groups in awe.
6 Farmer Ted’s Farm Park: Farmer Ted’s is an interactive children’s activity park, sited on a working farm within the beautiful Lancashire countryside. From handling animals to tractor barrel rides, Farmer Ted’s is a feast of fun for children and family groups.
7 Clitheroe: The historic market town of Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley, provides an ideal base for groups wishing to explore Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland. Take time to visit Clitheroe Castle, said to be the smallest Norman castle in England, and now home to a museum and 16-acres of landscaped gardens.
8 The British Commercial Vehicle Museum: This museum in Leyland hosts one of Britain’s most important heritage collections, displaying a number of historic commercial vehicles and buses, including the oldest-known preserved commercial vehicle in existence and the Popemobile.
9 Oswaldtwistle Mills: The popular shopping destination has teamed up with a number of local attractions to promote a variety of special offers and events for groups, including Free Super Deals and Lancashire Tales Tours in January and February. Its 19 Shop & Tour packages combine time for shopping followed by an excursion to a nearby attraction.
10 Camelot Theme Park: The popular theme park in Chorley promises to take groups on a medieval journey back to the magical world of Camelot. Highlights include fun-filled rides, Excalibur, Pendragon’s Plunge, and Knightmare; the daily jousting tournament; and magic show, Merlin’s School of Wizardry.