A time to celebrate

Everyone loves Christmas so why wait until 25th December to begin your celebrations. Brenda Watkinson explores the numerous venues up and down the country where groups can take part in a ‘tinsel and turkey’ short break.

Lighting the Christmas candles on a holiday with Martyn Leisure Breaks

Lighting the Christmas candles on a holiday with Martyn Leisure Breaks

If you have never booked a pre-Christmas break for your group before, now is the time to check out the various options available. Even if you don’t want to travel great distances, you will likely find a suitable venue close at hand. A lot is packed into these three and fournight breaks, which take guests on a journey from ‘Christmas Eve’ to ‘New Year’s Day’ with all the trimmings usually associated with the season. This has to be the perfect way to enjoy all the festivities without any of the shopping, the cooking or the endless washing up!

Nationwide

With 36 properties across the country, Britannia Hotels is the largest privately-owned hotel chain in the UK and most of its hotels offer ‘turkey and tinsel’ pre-Christmas breaks throughout November and December. There is a choice of mid-week or weekend breaks, which both include a very special ‘Christmas Day’ complete with traditional fayre, carol singing, party hats, crackers and festive decorations. As well as a good choice of accommodation to suit all budgets, Britannia Hotels offers groups live entertainment, a great choice of food and drink plus Spindles leisure health and beauty spas in many hotels in the group. A full programme of festive live cabaret entertainment is included at the Grand Entertainment Hotels, namely The Norbreck Castle Hotel and he Grand Metropole, both in Blackpool, The Grand Hotel in Scarborough, The Grand Burstin in Folkestone and The Grand Hotel in Llandudno.

Celebrating the festive season with Britannia Hotels

Celebrating the festive season with Britannia Hotels

Also now part of the Britannia Hotel group, Pontin’s offers ‘turkey and tinsel’ breaks at its five holiday parks – Southport Holiday Park, Camber Sands Holiday Park in East Sussex, Pakefield Holiday Park in Norfolk, Prestatyn Sands Holiday Park in Wales and Brean Sands Holiday Park in Somerset. These breaks are known for their live entertainment, up to 70 free activities, a ‘Christmas Eve’ celebration and traditional ‘Christmas Day’ with a full festive feast, carol singing, party hats, crackers and Christmas decorations. For parties booking 10 rooms or more, the Britannia Hotels group offers discounted rates, a free place for the organiser, complimentary room upgrades (subject to availability) and free coach parking (at most hotels).

With 11 hotels around the UK, Grand UK Holidays, based in Norwich, will be launching its new brochure for 2011-2012 next month. This will give details of all ‘turkey and tinsel’ holidays to be held at its Grand UK Hotels during November and December including the Nelson Hotel in Great Yarmouth, Glen Usk Hotel in Llandrindod Wells, Wales, and Parkbury Hotel in Sandown on the Isle of Wight. As well as its own hotels, Grand UK Holidays also features other properties in its brochure, giving groups an even greater choice of accommodation. The five-day half-board breaks commence on a Monday evening with a welcome reception, followed by ‘Christmas Day’ on Tuesday with an excursion, Christmas dinner, visit from Santa and festive entertainment. On ‘Boxing Day’ (Wednesday) and ‘New Year’s Eve’ (Thursday), there are two more excursions along with plenty of festive food and entertainment before your departure on ‘New Year’s Day’ (Friday). However, not every group is able to book an ‘off the peg’ holiday and some changes are usually required to the standard programme. This is where sister brand, just for groups!, is able to help. GTOs can use the Grand UK Holidays brochure as inspiration and then mix and match their requirements to build their tailormade break. For groups of 10 or more, just for groups! is able to offer exclusive deals at all Grand UK Hotels and generous savings at other venues in the brochure.

A visit to a Christmas market is one of the excursions available on a break with Grand UK Holidays

A visit to a Christmas market is one of the excursions available on a break with Grand UK Holidays

Offering inclusive short and weekend pre-Christmas breaks at four of its five locations, Martyn Leisure Breaks has earned a reputation among GTOs for delivering a trip that suits their needs, especially when it comes to securing the required departure dates and room types. Bookings can currently be made for the ‘tinsel and turkey’ three and fournight packages at The Russell, The Sherborne and Hotel Prince Regent, all in Dorset, and also Sand Bay Leisure Resort near WestonsuperMare in Somerset, which run from late October right up to Christmas. Exclusively for adults, these festive breaks take you on the entire journey from ‘Christmas Eve’ to ‘New Year’s Day’ with all the festive celebrations you would expect at this time of the year. For a slightly different twist to its already popular entertainment filled breaks, this year also sees the introduction of a professionally organised dance break with a festive theme at the Hotel Prince Regent in Weymouth. Groups booking a Martyn Leisure Break benefit from a number of incentives such as no single room supplements for up to 10% of the party, free porterage service, full board and discounted drinks promotions on selected dates. GTOs also get the privilege of a dedicated groups hotline to assist them all the way through the booking process, as well as big discounts on brochure prices and free places.

Festive fayre on a Simply Groups turkey ‘n’ tinsel break

Festive fayre on a Simply Groups turkey ‘n’ tinsel break

Another way to get into the festive mood is on a Simply Groups ‘turkey ‘n’ tinsel’ short break. The Yorkshire-based tour operator has been tailor-making ‘turkey ‘n’ tinsel’ packages for over 10 years and can arrange your next themed break at a number of venues around the UK. As well as accommodation, Simply Groups can put together the whole itinerary including visits to Christmas markets and other places of interest in the vicinity. One of its ‘turkey ‘n’ tinsel’ themed tours, which is available throughout November as well as the first two weeks of December, is based at the Angus Hotel in Blairgowrie, Scotland, where all bedrooms have ensuite facilities. This four-night half board break includes a candle-lit sherry reception, a visit to Glamis Castle and a Scottish Hogmanay celebration. Single room supplements and minimum numbers apply.

Scotland, Wales and the north of England

In Scotland, Strathmore Hotels offers festive breaks at all five of its properties north of the border. In Inverness-shire, the Nethybridge Hotel offers four-night breaks throughout November, where guests can expect warm Scottish hospitality with a true Highland festive celebration. The highlight is probably the ‘Hogmanay’ when the famous Abernethy Highland Banquet takes place with pipers, kilts and plenty of singing. The Salutation Hotel in Perth, the Royal Hotel in Oban and the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William will all be offering similar four-night festive breaks in November while, for a different twist, the Ben Nevis Hotel & Leisure Club, also in Fort William, will be holding ‘Ceilidh Party Weekends’ at the end of November and beginning of December. On the Saturday night, in particular, a gala dinner will be followed by ceilidh music and plenty of dancing. Strathmore Hotels also operates two hotels in the north of England – the Cumbria Grand in Grange over Sands, Cumbria, and the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Both hotels are offering ‘turkey and tinsel’ four-night breaks in November. Group rates apply to parties of 20 or more.

Strathmore Hotels’ Alexandra Hotel in the snow

Strathmore Hotels’ Alexandra Hotel in the snow

Further south in Blackpool, All Seasons Hotels offers groups a choice of three hotels – the Ambassador Hotel, Parisienne Hotel and Tiffany’s – in which to spend their pre-Christmas ‘tinsel and turkey’ short break. Available from early November until Christmas Eve at all three hotels, groups can choose a four-night midweek break or a two-night weekend break. As well as festive menus and competitions with trophies and prizes, guests can expect a nightly show with dancers and cabaret artists. All hotels also offer a free coach trip to Fleetwood Market and Cleveleys for last minute Christmas shopping. Group rates are offered to parties of 20 or more.

Meanwhile, located in the centre of Llandudno’s sweeping promenade, the family-run St Kilda Hotel offers ‘Holly and Mistletoe’ festive breaks in November and December. Little extras include tea and scones on arrival, a sherry reception, complimentary wine with Christmas dinner and mulled wine on ‘New Year’s Eve’. There is also live entertainment nightly. Discounts apply to groups of 20 or more with a free place for the GTO.

The south and east of England

In Devon, the family-owned hotel and leisure complex, TLH Leisure Resort, in Torquay, offers a choice of two and three-star hotel accommodation combined with an excellent range of indoor leisure facilities, including a pool complex and spa. The resort, comprising the Derwent, Victoria, Carlton and Toorak hotels, offers a year-round calendar of themed breaks and special interest holidays; however, during November and December, the ‘turkey and tinsel’ four-night breaks are always popular. If you’re looking for something a bit different, you might like to consider a Victorian Christmas Break’ where groups enjoy a host of traditional festive treats including a welcome reception with carols and punch, festive fayre throughout and a Victorian-style tea dance. In the evenings, guests will be treated to all the usual TLH nightly music and dancing. A number of local excursions can also be arranged including a Victorian Christmas tour of the nearby Bygones museum, a visit to the Victorian market town of Newton Abbot for some late night Christmas shopping or a visit to Babbacombe Model Village with its glittering snow scenes. The four-night ‘Victorian Christmas Break’ is available at the Toorak Hotel and Carlton Hotel & Spa on selected dates throughout November & December. Group rates are available to parties of 20 or more.

Daish’s guests can expect a visit from Santa and his elf

Daish’s guests can expect a visit from Santa and his elf

Also in Torquay, the Devonshire Hotel is part of the Daish’s Holidays group of four hotels, which also includes the Barrowfield Hotel in Newquay, Sands Hotel in Bournemouth and Daish’s Hotel in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. Daish’s Holidays starts its two, three and four-night ‘tinsel and turkey’ breaks in November and these run right through to Christmas itself. The hotels are fully decorated and all the staff enter into the spirit of Christmas. Group prices include coach travel, half board accommodation and live entertainment.

Further east in Eastbourne, the New Wilmington Hotel offers pre-Christmas ‘tinsel and turkey’ breaks throughout November and most of December. These three and four-night packages include half board accommodation and live entertainment every evening. On ‘Christmas Eve’ there is a special candle-lit dinner and Santa arrives with a little gift for everyone; the fun and laughter continues until the grand ‘New Year’s Eve’ banquet. Located close to the centre of Eastbourne, the hotel features 40 ensuite bedrooms, an 80-seater restaurant with dance floor, and private lounge and bar.

Enjoying a Christmas drink with friends on a break at Potters Leisure Resort.

Enjoying a Christmas drink with friends on a break at Potters Leisure Resort.

In the east of England, near Great Yarmouth, Potters Leisure Resort features a number of Festive ShowBreaks in its 2011 brochure. Groups can choose from one, two or three-night packages; however, if you want to stay longer, this is possible with a number of Breaksaver deals, enabling additional nights to be purchased either side of the main ShowBreak. This year, midweek and weekend breaks can be booked from mid-November until mid-December and guests can expect plenty of festive fayre including mince pies and mulled wine on arrival, a Bucks Fizz brunch and traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Groups of 20 or more benefit from discounted rates and can choose either hotel or bungalow accommodation.

Not far away in Skegness, the family-owned Savoy Hotel features 49 ensuite rooms and is located right on he seafront. Renowned for its large ballroom and function room, the hotel offers ‘tinsel and turkey’ three and four-night breaks throughout November and early December. These include all the usual trimmings of Christmas and can be tailored to suit your group. During the break, guests can expect Santa’s arrival on ‘Christmas Eve’, a traditional ‘Christmas Day’ dinner and a ‘New Year’s Eve’ party night. For groups of 30 or more, the organiser is offered a free place.