In early February, Martin Gibson, Chairman of the Howmet Sports and Social Club based in Exeter, took 95 members on a four-night tour of the Scottish Highlands.
After discovering that Cairngorm Travel had recently joined the GTOA, Martin decided to organise his trip to Scotland with them. Martin comments, “I was very impressed with the service from David Southcott, their Tours Manager. We required two Cairngorm coaches and I was able to book out the entire Duke of Gordon Hotel in Kingussie for my group.” Martin organised a number of excursions, beginning with a trip up the Cairngorm Mountain. He recalls, “We ventured up on the funicular railway with the skiers and snowboarders, but at the top we escaped the snow and warmed up with a coffee in the Ptarmigan Restaurant.”
“In the afternoon,” Martin continues, “We visited the Speyside Centre, a unique heather attraction based in the Cairngorms National Park.” The following day, the group visited the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre. Martin explains, “There was a multimedia film with lasers and special effects which taught us about all the different expeditions in search of Nessie.” Martin’s itinerary also included a visit to Inverness and a tour around the Dalwhinnie Distillery, where he says, “Everybody enjoyed sampling the whisky!” The hotel’s entertainment was a highlight for the group. Martin recalls, “A ceilidh band was hired and we were put through our paces as we learnt the Gay Gordons and a host of other dances!”
Even the journey home was eventful, Martin comments, “We stopped off at a butchers in Muffat to buy some haggis and later on we had the good fortune to see magnificent red deer stags proudly standing over their herds.” On the trip as a whole, Martin reports, “I’ve received nothing but praise. If you wish to have a traditional Scottish stay in the Highlands, I urge you to book with Cairngorm travel.”
The toast of the seas
In May, Richard Heywood, vice president of the National Association of Toastmasters, and his wife Shirley, enjoyed a two-night taster cruise onboard the Adventure of the Seas travelling from Southampton to Cherbourg with 12 other GTOs, organised by Steve Plummer and Sherina Hale from Cruise for Groups.
With 80 members nationwide, Richards explains, “Next year I will be president and I plan to add some member benefits. This cruise was the perfect opportunity to see what sort of trip I could offer my group.”
Richard met Steve and the other GTOs at Oceans, a nautical museum and coffee shop in Southampton, and he recalls, “Steve took care of parking arrangements and had organised a private transfer to the ship and a VIP embarkation – it was all very civilised!”
On his first evening on-board, Richard says, “We attended the Royal Caribbean cocktail reception, enjoyed a delicious dinner and watched an excellent show in the theatre with acts by magicians, singers and dancers.”
The following morning the ship had docked at Cherbourg, France. Richard says, “It was great to wake up in a different location and explore the delights of Cherbourg. The town was full of gardens, shops and museums, but we chose to relax over food and drink, and make the most of the glorious sunshine.”
In the late afternoon, back on-board the Royal Caribbean, the group watched an ice-skating show. Richard comments, “It was fantastic, and afterwards we enjoyed the ship’s nightlife for one final time.”
Of Cruise for Groups, Richards says, “The organisation could not be faulted – there is no doubt that we will be offering our members the opportunity to cruise with Steve and Sherina.”
Bowled over in Durham
Sandie Westlake, GTO of the Stonyhill Indoor Bowls Club based in Brentwood, Essex, organised a four-night bowls and sightseeing trip to Durham for 46 members in April travelling with Shearings Holidays.
Sandie explains, “We chose the destination to incorporate a bowls match against Durham City Indoor Bowls Club, a team who has previously travelled to Essex to compete against us.”
On planning the trip, Sandie comments, “It was more practical and cost-effective to travel during the week, and I decided on Shearings as they are familiar with the Durham region.”
The group, also known as the Westlake Wonderers, checked into the Eden Inn Bay Hotel, just south of the city. Reporting on the match, which took place the following morning, Sandie says, “Unfortunately for us, it was a win for the host club, but their hospitality knew no bounds. Meanwhile those who didn’t play had a very interesting visit to Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience.”
The group spent the next day in Durham’s city centre. Sandie recalls, “Half of the group visited Crook Hall and Gardens. They were all delighted to discover this secret haven of peace and tranquillity in the heart of the city. The rest of us visited the shops and watched crews of eight rowing on the river. In the afternoon we had a fantastic guided tour of the cathedral.”
On the third day, Sandie arranged a trip to the Beamish Open Air Museum. She says, “It was such good value and there was so much to see – we stepped back in time to the early 1900s as we explored the wonderfully preserved cottages and shops, and hoped on and off old-fashioned trams and buses.”
Of the whole trip, Sandie says, “It has given us many enjoyable memories, and I’d definitely recommend Durham as a base for another group.”