Exquisite Sights and Spots Beyond London

London, meetings
The sumptuously appointed French Dining Room at Cliveden House.

A world of exciting experiences await meeting and incentive groups within an hour of downtown London.

For groups that have seen and done London, a host of charming experiences and properties lie within an hour’s drive of downtown. One example: the sumptuous Cliveden House, a 47-room Relais & Chateaux property located in Berkshire, an hour outside of London. Built as a hunting lodge in 1666 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, the House has hosted every British Monarch since George I. Queen Victoria was also a frequent guest. In 1893, it was purchased by William Waldorf Astor, America’s wealthiest citizen at the time, who passed it along to his son and daughter-in-law in 1906. During their years there, they played host to many famous guests, from Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt.

Today, intimate meetings and events can be held in a variety of elegantly appointed spaces, from the exquisite French Dining Room to the screening room to our favorite, the Cellar Dining Room, which was once Lord Astor’s private wine cellar. Or groups can set sail from the Cliveden Boathouse on vintage launches, enjoying afternoon tea or champagne and sweets on a beautiful stretch of the River Thames.

Another special spot on the Thames is the town of Eton, located just across a cobblestoned pedestrian bridge from the town of Windsor and known for its famous public college of the same name. Eton’s High Street is a popular spot for antique shopping. Or groups can participate in a treasure hunt organized by Wildgoose, which uses GPS technology and image recognition to help teams explore the town.

windsor, meetings
The view inside the walls of Windsor Castle, which is essentially its own small town, with residents who support the Queen living there year-round.

Windsor itself is just as quaint, and now home to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and their tiny new arrival, who have recently taken up residence at Frogmore Cottage, situated on the grounds of Windsor Castle. A must-see excursion is a tour of this massive castle—the largest occupied castle in the world—which towers over the streets of the historic town and serves as the official residence of the Queen during the Easter season, as well as on many weekends. (Locals will tell you that she even makes occasional visits into town.)

Itineraries should also include time to explore Windsor’s many shops situated along the narrow cobblestone streets and lunch at one of its many charming restaurants, such as the Brasserie at the Sir Christopher Wren Inn. The historic Inn, which sits right on the river by the Eton Bridge, includes 133 traditional and contemporary rooms, and features a modern conference center that can accommodate a maximum group size of 65 people theatre-style.

Hampton Court Palace, meetings
Champagne at the ready during a gala reception at Hampton Court Palace.

There are a number of other castles and palaces within a short distance from London that can be woven into an itinerary. The organizers of the MeetGB trade show in April did exactly that. On the second evening of the show, attendees in formal attire boarded coaches for the 45-minute drive to the sprawling Hampton Court Palace, home of Henry VIII, who is famous for sending two of his six wives to death by hanging at the Tower of London. The group was greeted by re-enactors of Henry and his various wives, then led through a series of courtyards to a spectacular banquet in the medieval Great Hall.

 

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Barbara Scofidio is editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In 25 years of covering the industry, her articles have spanned topics ranging from social media to strategic meetings management. She is currently the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee and was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of Site, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. A familiar face at industry events, Barbara often leads panel discussions or speaks on topics close to her heart, such as green meetings or how the industry can help combat human trafficking. She is also on the board of ECPAT USA, the human trafficking organization. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.

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