10 group travel ideas: royal connections

Date Posted: 19/06/2013

Althorp

Pictured: Althorp House in Northampton, where groups can visit the final resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Your group might be interested in learning some royal history, or maybe you want to walk in the footsteps of kings and queens. Here is a selection of attractions, all of which have a connection to royalty and boast something fun and interesting for you to do.

1. Althorp - Home of the Spencer family

Althorp in Northampton will be open from 1st July to 30th August, sitting majestically amidst 550-acres of rolling Northamptonshire countryside. The estate has been home to the Spencer family for nearly 500 years, and is now also the final resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales. 

Groups can visit the award-winning exhibition Diana: A Celebration which includes family home movies, childhood mementos, and her famous wedding dress.

Alternative packages offered to groups include an extended private tour of Althorp with a guide, or the opportunity to ‘take tea’ in the opulent State Dining Room which will be opened exclusively for afternoon tea.

2. Buckingham Palace - the famous royal residence

Where better to find royal connections than the home of the Royal Family? Buckingham Palace serves as both the office and the London residence of the Queen, and during August and September, when the palace is not being used in its official capacity, visitors can enjoy the 19 magnificent State Rooms.

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and a special exhibition will be on display. The Queen’s Coronation 1953 will commence as part of the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace from 27th July to 29th September, bringing together an unprecedented array of the dress, uniform and robes worn for the historic event.

Buckingham Palace State Rooms host tours for 15 or more people, with discounts available for group visitors. 

Buckingham Palace

Pictured: The Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace in London.

3. The Changing of the Guard

If you’re in London, why not witness the Changing of the Guard? Taking place every day in June and July, the royal display is the process involving a new guard exchanging duty with the old guard.

The guard which mounts at Buckingham Palace is called The Queen’s Guard and is divided into two detachments: the Buckingham Palace Detachment (which is responsible for guarding Buckingham Palace), and the St. James’s Palace Detachment, (which guards St. James’s Palace).

Guard Mounting takes place at 11.30am, and groups can watch this traditional and famous demonstration take place for free. 

4. Blenheim Palace – themed tours for visitors

Situated in the heart of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace is an example of English baroque architecture. Famed as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, it is now home to the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.

The palace boasts themed tours which are available for groups to book. On-going talks and tours include Running a Great Estate – Blenheim Palace Today, and Odd Men and Necessary Women – Servants of a Great Palace.

Group travel organisers will find discounts on tours as well as admission to the palace.

5. A guided tour of the Tower of London with a Beefeater

If you’re visiting the Tower of London, experience a Yeoman Warder guided tour with those more popularly known as Beefeaters. Tours take visitors around the Tower of London, and you can be entertained with tales of intrigue, imprisonment, execution, and torture.

The Beefeaters, as they are nicknamed, have long been symbols of London and Britain. It is thought their nickname is derived from their position in the Royal Bodyguard, which permitted them to eat as much beef as they wanted from the king's table.

Tower of London

Pictured: The Tower of London from the south of the river Thames, where you can take a tour with a Beefeater guide. (Photo credit: Britain on View).

Tours take place every 30 minutes and last approximately an hour. Group travel organisers will find a guided tour is included in the Tower of London admission ticket. Parties of 15 or more people will find savings on admission prices.

6. Discover secrets of Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace in London boasts the palace and gardens, as well as a maze, the historic tennis court and the huge grape vine, claimed to be the largest in the world.

This year’s highlights include Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber, which is a temporary exhibition running from now until 3rd November. The State Beds gives an insight into the fascinating world of the 17th and 18th century court.

In addition, exclusive for groups, guided tours of Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber will be available for advanced bookings at £100 per group (plus VAT) for a one and a half hour tour (additional to admission). You can book for up to 25 people. 

7. Banqueting House - parties from history

Banqueting House in London lays claim to being the only surviving part of Whitehall Palace; a former official sovereign’s residence; and King Charles I’s execution site.

Created for court entertaining, groups can walk in the footsteps of a company of courtiers who once danced, drank and partied beneath the Rubens-painted ceiling. The full story is told by DVD presentation in the Undercroft, plus audio guides are available free of charge.

Banqueting House is open seven days a week, and GTOs can tie in their visit with a lunchtime concert. A range of benefits and services are available to parties of 15 or more people, including guided tours of the property. 

osborne house

Pictured: Osborne House on the Isle of Wight; Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s intimate royal hideaway.

8. Leeds Castle – 900 years of history

In Kent, Leeds Castle offers a blend of heritage and history, gardens and attractions, a restaurant and a programme of events. Its colourful 900-year past has witnessed six medieval queens and visits by Henry VIII, plus it has been used as a garrison, a prison and a convalescent home.

Visiting groups can experience a Below the Stairs tour, which offers a glimpse of parts of the castle which are not usually on show, telling stories of the servants of the castle.

Group travel organisers are advised to pre-book tours. You can also opt for a guided or non-guided group tour (15 people plus). 

9. Osborne House - an island hideaway

Osborne House was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s intimate royal hideaway on the Isle of Wight. It offers a day out in the form of a stunning Italianate house filled with original furnishings, priceless artworks and personal mementos.

Other must-sees include the magnificent Indian-inspired Durbar Room with its elaborate carvings and priceless gifts given to Queen Victoria as Empress of India.

Groups visiting Osborne House will receive 15 per cent discount for 11 or more people. Group travel organisers and a coach driver are admitted free with each group, and GTOs can experience familiarisation trips previous to visits if so desired.

10. Westminster Abbey - where Will and Kate got married

Groups visiting Westminster Abbey can enjoy over 1,000 years of history on a guided tour or on self-led exploration complete with audio guides.

Westminster Abbey is the place where some of the most significant people in the nation's history are buried or commemorated. The abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of 17 monarchs.

The wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine Middleton took place in the abbey in April 2011.

Westminster is open to visit Mondays to Saturdays, with closing times varying due to church services.

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