Date Posted: 28/04/2011
With the British monarchy being a hot topic of conversation concerning the recent excitement of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal nuptials, GTOs should consider arranging a blue-blooded trip using these regal ideas.
Sovereign short breaks
St Andrews, Scotland
Now equally as famous for its courting connections as its championship golf, St Andrews is where it all began for university students William and Kate. Claiming to be Scotland’s oldest university, a visit to the ivy-clad St Andrews University is a great place to start your short break schedule. The accompanying museum, known as MUSA, is home to some real treasures, and with free entry, groups can explore the four galleries, the Leaning Loft and the viewing terrace with panoramic views over the bay.
The town’s cathedral and castle boasts hundreds of years of history, whilst the British Golf Museum will bring your group itinerary bang up-to-date with its memorabilia and interactive displays. If the weather allows, sporting fans can sink some holes on the hallowed turf of The Old Course, the most renowned of St Andrews’ seven courses. Non-players can instead stop off at the Botanic Garden to meander the lush grounds.
Beyond the narrow alleys and cobbled streets lies two beaches, one being West Sands, where the opening sequence of Chariots of Fire was shot. Further afield in Fife, groups can consider a trip to Falkland Palace, the Earthship Fife Visitor Centre, and St Monans Windmill.
A short break in England’s capital offers royal opportunities aplenty, as the future King and Queen have lots of obvious connections with the city. A good starting place in London is Clarence House, the official residence of The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Prince Harry. Open to the public between August and October each year, groups can book a guided tour of the five ground floor rooms.
Westminster Abbey, the setting of the Royal Wedding ceremony, means you have another great reason to visit the tenth century London site of worship. Various visitor tours are available, including verger-led, guided and audio. The original abbey gardens are worth a look, whilst the museum exhibits a collection of royal funeral effigies, together with historic treasures.
Buckingham Palace serves as both the office and London residence of Her Majesty The Queen, and cannot be missed from a regal-themed trip as the Royal Wedding reception setting. During the summer, visitors can tour the 19 State Rooms, decorated with paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto, and sculpture by Canova. The on-site Royal Mews consists of working stables and a collection of historic coaches and carriages, plus is open to visitors year-round. For a display of British pomp and ceremony, watch the regular Changing the Guard ceremony outside of the palace.
The Tower of London, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace are all operated by Historic Royal Palaces, which offers group discounts and special interest tours at each property. Then to keep your members entertained well into the evening, choose from a show at the Royal Albert Hall or the Royal Opera House, and a performance of Betty Blue Eyes; playing at the Novello Theatre and based on the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
With the marriage of Prince William of Wales to Kate Middleton, the spotlight has turned to Anglesey in north Wales as the couple look set to make their first home on the west coast of the island, facing the panorama of the Snowdonia Mountains. With William serving at the nearby RAF Valley, groups too can enjoy the relaxation of island life, which is connected to the mainland via bridges.
Surrounded by beaches, there is something for everybody, from sandy stretches buzzing with activity to rocky coves and secluded bays, where horse-riding, cycling, fishing and watersports are in abundance. Thrill seekers may also want to pay a visit to Anglesey Circuit, home to the Performance Driving Centre.
Plas Newydd, the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey, is known for its Rex Whistler association and extensive seasonal gardens. The National Trust property boasts connoisseur tours, a tearoom and discounts for group bookings. Parties can also engage their sense of history at Beaumaris Castle, Llynnon Mill, the Seawatch Centre at Moelfre, Penmon Priory and South Stack Lighthouse.
Noble day trips and majestic exhibitions
Encapsulating 900 years of British history, Windsor Castle in Berkshire is another of the official residences of Her Majesty The Queen. Groups can arrange a guided tour of the Great Kitchen; which provides insight into the behind-the-scenes castle life, or choose to Conquer the Tower; a new sightseeing trip which takes visitors 65 metres above the Thames to enjoy views of the castle, Windsor Great Park, the Thames Valley and the London skyline. Running until the 17th January, the Drawings Gallery’s current exhibition celebrates Prince Philip’s 90th birthday.
Heading east, the Sandringham Estate is famous as Queen Elizabeth’s private Norfolk retreat, where the royal family annually spend Christmas and New Year. Open to the public from Easter to October, highlights include the gardens, Queen Alexandra’s Nest, Sandringham Museum and the visitor centre, which offers popular tractor trailer tours of the grounds.
A short ferry ride away from mainland Hampshire is Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Now an English Heritage property, it was the setting of the royal romance of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the 1800s, where love tokens can be witnessed throughout the home. Must-see aspects are Swiss Cottage, the queen’s own bathing machine, and the Indian-inspired Durbar Room. Groups receive a 15 per cent discount based on 11 or more people.
Now docked in Edinburgh, the young Prince William sailed on The Royal Yacht Britannia with his family, and he is featured in many family photographs which can be seen during a self-guided vessel tour. During which, visitors will explore five of the decks, including the State Apartments, crew’s quarters, and the Engine Room. Moored alongside Britannia, 1930s racing yacht Bloodhound is holding an exhibition on the story behind the royal family's passion for sailing. Special rates are available for pre-booked groups of 15 or more visiting The Royal Yacht.
Hampton Court Palace in Surrey is associated with lots of monarchs such as Queen Mary I and James I, but none more so than Henry VIII, who along with his court, was a frequent visitor. Unmissable palace sights include the Tudor kitchens, the Great Hall, Hampton Court Maze and the Chapel Royal, the latter of which hosted the christening of Henry’s son Edward VI. A permanent exhibition focuses on the young Henry VIII, prior to his tyrannical behaviour and multiple marriages.
For those groups with expendable energy, Capital Sport are offering a gentle three-night walking and cycling tour from London to Windsor in celebration of the royal matrimony. Running throughout the year, day one begins with a walking tour of London covering Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the procession route and many other William and Kate hot spots. The next day, float out of London aboard a riverboat and cycle from Kew along the Thames towpath, before finishing at Hampton Court Palace. The rural Thames offers further traffic-free cycling on day three, including Runnymede, the site of the Magna Carta signing.