Following the news from VisitBritain that a tour of Wales’s castles is now the number one must-do attraction for overseas visitors to the UK, it’s no surprise that North Wales, with its unique selection of UNESCO World Heritage sites, has a spring in its step.
The new Groups North Wales 2011 brochure and website puts culture and heritage centre stage, offering a number of new ideas for group travel buyers looking for destinations with a difference. The brochure will be officially launched at the Group Travel Buyer Roadshow in Manchester’s Lowry Centre on Monday, 31st January.
Groups North Wales has hand-picked five tourism champions to fly the flag for its new marketing campaign and brochure for 2011. The champions include Adam Partridge, antiques supremo, Troy Scott-Smith, Head Gardner at Bodnant Garden, Chris Neaum, Head Chef on the Welsh Highland Railway; Jones the Boats who navigates the historic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Alan Grey and his spectacular coastal cruises; each of whom offers a personal insight into why they believe North Wales is a giant amongst UK tourism destinations.
A new initiative will see the first antiques weekend coming in early June to North Wales. Adam Partridge, who stars in the hit BBC series, Flog it!, and runs his own auction house will be bringing a group to attend the large antiques fair at Mona Showground, using a 1950s vintage coach and also including a guided tour of Beaumaris Castle into the bargain.
Adam, says, “I’m really looking forward to my new role and I’ll be able to offer my comments as we visit the fair and castle. North Wales is a place of great beauty. I know all the major towns and so it should be really exciting.”
If gardens are your thing then you may like to meet Troy Scott-Smith, Head Gardener Bodnant Garden. He came to Bodnant after spending time as Senior Gardener at Sissinghurst; Head Gardener at The Courts and Curator for the RHS at Hyde Hall. Quite a horticultural CV!
“I first came to north Wales and Bodnant Garden as a young seven year old with my parents on holiday. I still vividly remember the garden, in particular the trees and the Dell. I then returned as a student gardener and here I am today as Head Gardener.
“There’s lots going on. The autumn colours of the Japanese maples, rowans and birches can be magical and it’s a great time to visit. We also now stay open later than ever, until mid November. We’re planting a new Rose Garden, a pink flowered garden and a garden in recognition of the contribution of the Puddle family. Three generations of Head Gardeners from 1927 to 2005. Amazing if you think about it!
Chris Neaum is Welsh Highland Railway’s Head Chef. Think of it as North Wales’ own Orient Express. The views cannot be beaten as your carriage snakes its way through the mountains of Snowdonia. Feeling peckish? No problem. Food is now served on board and is as fresh and locally sourced as can be. All served under the watchful eye of the Head Chef and his culinary team. He says, “Preparing meals on a train is a completely different experience. You’re moving and so’s the train! It’s great fun. No really!
“I’ve been fortunate to work in a Michelin star restaurant and I’ll only accept the best. My ingredients are sourced locally with fresh bread from Morris Brothers, Cwm y Glo, meat and cheeses by Owen Glyn Owen in Caernarfon and eggs from Beddgelert. It all helps make the experience as authentic as possible. Our first class customers also get their food served on real crockery and stainless steel knives and forks. Food as it should be. Our Welsh afternoon teas are very popular. Think mouth-watering Bara birth and fluffy scones with jam.”
Perhaps the most intriguing of characters is Jones the Boats.
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is big news. A wonder of engineering. Wales’s newest World Heritage Site. You can cross the “stream in the sky” on foot, but if you don’t have a head for heights a canal boat may be more your style. Jones the Boats. The name tells you who he is and what he does.
“Getting World Heritage Status has been great news for the area. We’ve already had to increase the number of trips to accommodate the extra passengers. These are exciting times. Our 45-minute trip is an experience not to be missed. But we do offer a range of routes and even all-day tours which are very popular. We’re also adding another restaurant boat so as you drift serenely along the canal, you can enjoy fine dining with the spectacular backdrop of North Wales' magnificent scenery by your side”
Alan Gray runs Shearwater Coastal Cruises. Born just a couple of miles from the sea, Alan Gray’s boyhood fascination for everything maritime and a love of the natural world shines through. He’s got the ideal mix of business and pleasure going on thanks to his successful marine tourism business, Shearwater Coastal Cruises, based in Llanbedrog near Pwllheli.
“The fantastic wildlife of the southern Llŷn Peninsula is incredible. There’s something different to look at every minute of each cruise. The seals are a hoot but having tea surrounded by hundreds of puffins is quite an experience. We’ve also seen turtles on a few cruises. You don’t need to go the tropics! “We now have the boat described as the ‘Ultimate charter cruiser’ which is far superior to anything found around the shores of the UK and most other places in the world. This 50ft luxury catamaran was designed especially for me with groups in mind and offers comfortable seating on the stern deck, upper stern deck and in the lounge.
Carole Startin, Tourism Partnership North Wales, said: “Over half of the most visited castles in Wales can be found in North Wales and VisitBritain’s research backs up our own findings that culture and heritage is now a big draw for visitors from both home and abroad.
“This year the Groups North Wales brochure is working closely with our own Giants North Wales culture and heritage campaign to deliver articles to really entice the reader to come to the area. This is an important campaign aimed directly at the travel trade.
“I’m thrilled that we have our tourism champions on board and hope they will inspire the travel trade to take a new look at what North Wales has to offer.”
For more information about what’s on offer go to: www.groupsnorthwales.co.uk or call the groups north wales booking line 01492 539065
For further information please contact Rhodri Ellis Owen, Cambrensis Communications on 029 20257075 or firstname.lastname@example.org