While London sits atop most organiser’s list for destinations in the south of England, that doesn’t mean the nation’s capital is the only option. The South East region, which encompasses the counties of Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Buckinghamshire, casts its net over countless conference and event venues and teambuilding solutions.
From hotels and dedicated venues to stately homes and attractions offering non-traditional event options and wide open spaces, the region has something for all event organisers in both urban and rural settings.
The large region is threaded with motorways, A-roads and railways, allowing easy access to and from both Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Owing to the region’s vast size geographically, organisers looking to explore its offerings would be well advised to contact MEET Beyond London and take advantage of the team’s local knowledge and free inspirational resources. The organisation is a regional information hub, putting organisers in touch with venues and destinations directly through a website, e-newsletters, familiarisation trips and industry events.
The town of Windsor is a 15-minute drive from Heathrow Airport and is accessible on key mainline railway lines to Windsor & Eton, Maidenhead and Ascot. Windsor and neighbouring Maidenhead boast numerous small, high-end board retreat properties such as the 5-star Stoke Park, with its championship golf course. There are also large capacity purpose built facilities and those with historical significance, such as De Vere Beaumont House Estate. This hotel venue features 75 conference, training and event spaces and 414 bedrooms.
Organisers can take advantage of the Thames by taking up to 150 delegates aboard a riverboat for a networking event or post-conference drinks. Exclusive evening tours of Windsor Castle add unrivalled prestige to any event, or for the more energetic delegates organisers can book polo experience.
Guildford is located in the heart of leafy Surrey and has become a big hitter in the business market, owing in part to its location on the London to Portsmouth line. More and more venues have opened in recent years, with the 183-bedroom Harbour Hotel Guildford being the latest addition to the town’s inventory. The hotel, which has several event spaces in a range of sizes, sits literally next door to G Live, a large-scale events venue designed to be stylish and modern. The venue, which opened in 2011, can hold up to 1,700 standing or 1,000 seated and is popular for entertainment, conferences and music.
Guildford sits on the edge of the Surrey Hills, an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are plenty of smaller, intimate venues located throughout, and the area offers some of the most spectacular walks in the country.
Within the M25 off junction 10 is Booklands Museum, Weybridge, the birthplace of British motorsport. The Brooklands circuit, the world’s first purpose-built race track, was open between 1907 and 1939. The steep concrete banking is still visible today, and the museum is built within its grounds. The resort-like area has multiple teambuilding options on offer.
As well as great meeting spaces, there are unique teambuilding solutions, from Concorde experiences to soapbox racing on the original Finishing Straight or Hill Climb racing.
Richmond Hill in Surrey is 30 minutes from Central London and affords striking views of the River Thames from its terrace.
Hampshire has emerged as a market-leader in hosting international events. With a large stretch of the county located on the South Coast, it offers excellent transport links from London, the North and the South West.
Modern city centres such as those of Southampton, Winchester and Portsmouth have no shortage of venues, while university facilities of both Winchester University and Solent University Conference Centre and Sparsolt Conference and Event Centre are all strong players in the academic venue sector.
For those looking for something steeped in history, the neo-classical blank canvas mansion, The Grange Hampshire, is one to consider. Set among striking gardens, in a valley north of Winchester, the venue has a 570-capacity auditorium.
There are teambuilding opportunities ranging from Bake Off challenges and CSI Challenges to Bear Grylls survival courses and sailing on the Solent.
Winchester is an historic Roman city, steeped in history. Event organisers can take advantage of several unique spaces and enjoy historical walks around the cathedral and narrow streets.
Brighton is one of the UK’s most popular cities, well-recognised nationally and internationally as a leading and dynamic destination, made famous as a host venue for political party conferences.
Combining a seaside location with a vibrant city atmosphere and a large number of high capacity venues, booking well ahead is always advised. Less than an hour by rail from London and 30 minutes from London Gatwick Airport, everything is within walking distance of the seafront for delegates. There are thousands of hotel rooms across a range of budgets close to major conference centres and venues.
Private Wine Cellar dining to Vintage Bargain Hunt Experiences are available for up to 50 delegates.
Waddesdon Manor is a country house located near to Aylesbury. The Grade I listed chateau was built by the Rothschilds in 1874. The house was built to display collections of art and as an entertainment venue for the great and good of the age. It is today managed by the National Trust.
New and improved hotels
Windsor’s newest addition to its venue portfolio is The Fairmont Windsor Park. Formerly the 141-bedroom Savill Court Hotel & Spa, it is being renovated and transformed into a luxury, 210-bedroom hotel in line with Fairmont’s globally-recognised standards. Opening early in 2020, the hotel will feature an impressive 2,500sqm spa and wellness area, and 16 elegantly designed meeting rooms including an 800sqm pillar-free ballroom for up to 700 guests. It will also feature two event spaces with natural daylight, access to private terraces, as well as bespoke landscaped gardens for outdoor functions.
Southampton has a new addition to its hotel inventory. The exciting new 208-bedroom Moxy Hotel. Marriott International’s new ‘millennial-focused’ brand sits right in the heart of the city and brings with it a fresh and innovative boutique-hotel concept with a fun stylish design, a super cool lobby, fast and furious Wi-Fi, meeting spaces for up to 50 and a bar.
Holiday Inn Winchester is also soaring eagerly into 2020 fresh from its £2.5m refurbishment in 2019. The 131-bedroom hotel is 10 minutes from central Winchester and just seven minutes from the M3. It’s a great choice for businesses looking for fresh contemporary open lobby spaces for small informal meetings, or larger events catering up to 180 delegates. Events and receptions can also be held it the new Odyssey Restaurant, and the ANA Spa is available as part of breakout time packages for delegates.
Experience beyond London
Treat your most valuable clients to a dinner at The Chef’s Table at Lainston House, an Exclusive Collection Hotel. Guests can relax and dine within a unique open kitchen as chefs aspire to create your dream meal. The surprise tasting menu, created just for the Chef’s Table, includes the highest quality ingredients including produce grown in their very own Kitchen Garden.
Adding to this interactive dining experience, the chefs personally present and describe each dish to guests. Following the tasting menu, up to eight guests have the opportunity to take a tour of the kitchen.
Brand new for 2020, Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery has introduced a ‘Tasting Experience’, an opportunity for delegates to explore the full range of Bombay Gins, expertly tutored by Gin specialists. After a hosted tour, small groups will be invited into a private room where an expert guides them through samples of Bombay Sapphire gins before enjoying a complimentary drink in the Mill Bar.
Spanning the entirety of the cricketing season, a private box experience for County Championship cricket matches offers the ideal opportunity for you to wow your clients with a full day of traditional Division One Hampshire Cricket action at Hilton at The Ageas Bowl. Parties of a maximum of 12 can be accommodated in a formal dining style, with parties of a maximum of eighteen accommodated with informal leaning tables.
Leeds Castle in Kent has launched a Murder Mystery Experience. Take over the castle for your next corporate event. As actors help to set the scene, your guests will be immersed in this truly interactive evening of dinner theatre. The emphasis is on having fun and solving the crime as a team.
Explore the Lanes of Brighton, on one of the city’s newest teambuilding adventures, as part of a ‘Vintage Bargain Hunt Experience’. With kitty money, teams are sent off to purchase items from various vintage and antique shops within The Lanes of Brighton before returning together for a fun ‘final valuation’ by a qualified and much animated Brighton Auctioneer.
The Auctioneer will determine which person or team has made the shrewdest of purchases. The items will then be submitted to a real live auction (at a later date) and proceeds will be donated to charity.
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