Mix a hobby with a holiday for successful short breaks, says Katie McGonagle
Mad about musicals? Gripped by golf? Hooked on historical sites? No matter what your clients get up to in their spare time, the UK’s expanding sector of special-interest holidays is bound to have something to suit.
A short break – especially one closer to home – is the perfect time to pursue our favourite pastimes and see if we’d enjoy a longer holiday devoted to our hobby, or whether it would be too much of a good thing.
Graham Balmforth, national sales manager at Superbreak, says: “What better way for agents to drive business than to combine a short break with a hobby? Whether it’s a love of golf, going to the theatre or visiting art galleries or museums, the UK is bursting with ways to see and do things. People take UK short breaks for a whole host of reasons and agents need to tap into this with clear marketing messages.”
So next time your favourite customer is waxing lyrical about their favourite walking routes or blossoming rose garden, turn it into a money-spinner with our guide to some of the UK and Ireland’s best themed breaks.
ON A PAR
Destinations like the Algarve are synonymous with golfing holidays, but what about where the game began? Scotland is golf’s spiritual home, and its neighbouring nations aren’t far behind when it comes to great courses.
Superbreak features 14 golfing hotels, many boasting championship courses on-site like the Arden Course at the Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel & Country Club, which has played host to the British Masters and English Open. Prices start at £105 for a night’s bed and breakfast at a Marriott, two rounds of golf, and guaranteed tee times.
Great Little Breaks, which is expanding its agent network beyond current sellers Carrick Travel and Midcounties Co operative, also specialises in golfing holidays. A two-night break at Aston Hotel in Dumfries, set in 1,000 acres of parkland on the Crichton Estate, starts at £95 with dinner and two rounds of golf.
Those who prefer a quieter round can take advantage of QHotels’ Sunday Driver rate, staying at one of five golfing hotels – in Glasgow, York, Shropshire, Northamptonshire or Lincolnshire – on a Sunday night and playing 36 holes on Monday. One-night rates from £99 including dinner and breakfast.
Send those who say golf ruins a good walk on a rambling retreat through rolling countryside.
Inntravel has self-guided walks in the North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland, Peak District and Shropshire providing maps, accommodation and luggage transfers so walkers can travel light as they trek between countryside hotels. The new Cotswold Way trip is popular with foodies thanks to a stay at The Three Ways House in Mickleton, home to the Pudding Club’s deliciously indulgent desserts, which can then be walked off along the scenic trail. Rates from £535 including four nights’ B&B, some meals and maps.
The sweeping landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales are a favourite for ramblers. Great Little Breaks offers a self-guided taster trip: a one-night break staying in the Rendezvous Hotel in Skipton, on the edge of the Dales, starts at £55 each including dinner, breakfast, packed lunch and walking maps.
Older or less-experienced walkers might prefer a guided trip such as Grand UK’s five-day rambling holiday, with gentle six or nine-mile group walks. Prices from £299.
For a more active alternative, how about scaling Britain’s highest peaks? Explore offers three-day hikes up Ben Nevis and Snowdon from £345 and £369 respectively. Walkers can enjoy superb views from the summit and try kayaking or other adventurous activities the day after the ascent.
ON YOUR BIKE
Before Victoria Pendleton was strutting her stuff on Strictly, she was inspiring us to get back in the saddle along with fellow Olympic heroes Hoy and Wiggins.
Explore saw a 62% increase in demand for worldwide cycling holidays immediately after the Games, adding 10 tours to its 2013-14 Cycling Adventures brochure. In the UK, Explore offers the 140 mile coast-to-coast route from Whitehaven, through the Lake District and the Pennines to Tynemouth, with rates from £245, including bike hire, hostels, guide and support vehicle.
Cycling is one of the most family-friendly hobbies too. Most of Hoseasons’ 16 Go Active parks offer bike hire and recommended trails to suit everyone from young children to hard-core bikers. Kielder Water Lodges in Hexham, Northumberland, has 27 miles of cycle paths around the shores of Kielder Water, plus some of the most demanding single-track mountain biking trails in the country for those seeking a challenge. Prices for a family of four staying four nights range from £225 to £669 in 2013.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
One of the UK’s biggest attractions for foreign tourists is our plethora of historic sites, yet it’s something we take for granted.
Explore England through the ages at Warwick Castle, from its 11th century origins as a military fort to a civil war siege and conversion into an aristocratic home. Great Little Breaks offers two-day tickets to the castle, a night in a Knight Suite at luxury hotel Mallory Court with gourmet dinner and breakfast, from £100.
Don’t forget the Downton Abbey effect, with visits to its real-life location at Highclere Castle in Hampshire proving popular. Shearings has a five-day Romantic Bath & Downton Abbey tour from £379, while Grand UK combines it with other TV dramas in its Lark Rise to Downton Abbey tour (five days from £349), taking in Inspector Morse’s Oxford, plus Highclere Castle, Cranford’s filming location of Lacock, and the house featured in Lark Rise to Candleford.
Of course, the past isn’t all about distant history. Grand UK has added Torquay Rock for 2013, rolling back to the era of teddy boys, the Beatles and Babycham at Richmond Hotel in Torquay, complete with 1970s-era menus, music and a best-dressed Mod contest (from £229 for five days including half-board accommodation and coach travel).
BEST OF THE REST
London’s theatre breaks are well known, but touring productions are the perfect excuse to indulge our interests on a short city break. See Phantom of the Opera in Cardiff or The Lion King in Manchester this December, with a night’s B&B in a three-star hotel, from £110 and £109 respectively with Superbreak.
Shopping is a favourite pastime for some, so get a head start on Christmas gift-buying at Dublin’s European Winter Market in Docklands and Fairtrade market in Temple Bar. A three-night break with Irish Ferries Holidays costs from £183, with accommodation and Holyhead-Dublin return ferry crossing for a car and passengers (valid December 1-20).
We’re an island nation, yet watersports often remain the preserve of beach breaks abroad. A boating holiday is the perfect opportunity to sample life on the water, and indulge penchants for birdwatching or fishing along the way. Hoseasons offers four nights on the Norfolk Broads aboard the 40ft Fair Monarch, which sleeps up to six, from £630 in total.
If there’s one benefit from the British weather, it’s our beautiful gardens, so encourage green-fingered clients to get inspired on a horticultural holiday. Grand UK has introduced a National Trust Country Gardens tour for 2013, with visits to historic properties around the Cotswolds, from £379 for five days’ half-board with coach travel, while Shearings’ garden-themed tours include Houses & Gardens of Northumberland (five days from £369), featuring a tour of Belsay Hall led by the head gardener.
Warner Leisure Hotels invites its guests to appreciate the finer things in life with wine-tasting workshops across its 13 hotels, as well as other experiences including dance lessons, painting, bowling, sea fishing and horse racing. A four-night break at Corton in Suffolk starts at £141 based on two sharing a chalet on half-board in February, including the Getting to Grips with Grapes experience.
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