Creative conferencing in the south west of England

South westThe south west destinations of Dorset, Wiltshire, and Gloucestershire have an exciting and surprising array of inspirational options for your conference or event. You’ll find plenty of luxurious hotels decked out with modern conference facilities in breathtaking landscapes, as well as some truly unique and unforgettable venues such as grand country houses and private cathedral rooms.

The region’s three world heritage sites, abundance of outdoor pursuits, gorgeous scenery and good transport links can’t fail to attract delegates from the UK and overseas.

For those who prefer the tranquillity of the countryside, Wiltshire offers a great range of choices. Whatley Manor, near Malmesbury, has purpose built conference facilities and a private cinema with 40 Italian leather seats. Bowood Golf & Country Club has enhanced its existing conference facilities with addition of a new hotel and spa, which opened last year. The Five Star Lucknam Park, set in some 500 acres, offers facilities for smaller executive meetings with the chance to add on a range of team building activities such as archery, reverse steer driving and sheep dog handling.

The grand surroundings of Longleat’s 900 acres of landscaped parkland (including safari park) offer a fantastic meeting point for intimate meetings in the Green Library, elegant dinners in the Elizabethan grandeur of the Great Hall or the contemporary atmosphere of the Banqueting Suite, located within the house’s Private Apartments. 

Special venues
Salisbury Cathedral’s Refectory Restaurant offers facilities for evening events with fabulous views through the glass roof to Britain’s highest spire. At Wilton House you can choose from the Visitor Centre in the Old Riding School with its 50 seat lecture theatre or the magnificent surroundings of the 17th century Double Cube Room decorated with paintings by Van Dyck. Many of Salisbury’s hotels, for example the Mercure White Hart and Red Lion, trace their history back to the 13th century when they provided accommodation for those building the Cathedral. Today this tradition of hospitality is combined with their modern conference facilities, such as the recently upgraded facilities at the Milford Hall Hotel, which has three flexible and fully equipped rooms.

For training seminars, in-house conferences and day meetings, Swindon has the greatest concentration of accommodation and hotel based conference facilities in Wiltshire, with over 1,400 rooms. In addition to internationally known hotels brands, you’ll also find independently owned properties such as Chiseldon House Hotel, Blunsdon House Hotel and the Pear Tree at Purton. For something a bit different, The Science Museum has a range of well-equipped and inspiring spaces including an intriguing corporate events area that can comfortably seat 500 people for dinner and The STEAM museum, housed in a restored Grade II listed building, boasts excellent facilities for business events, with six different rooms that hold up to 600.

Set in a tranquil part of the south coast, Dorset enjoys charming and unspoilt countryside. Its famous Jurassic Coast has joined the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon as one of the wonders of the natural world. The seaside cities of Bournemouth and Poole have enjoyed a regeneration in recent years and provide a host of excellent locations to hold your event.

If you’re looking to impress delegates in grand surroundings then the elegant Lulworth Castle, East Dorset, is set within 12,000 acres of rolling parkland, woods and farmland that provides conference organisers with such a spectacular backdrop that the scope and diversity of possible events are only limited by their imagination. Kingston Maurward House and Gardens, Dorchester, is a Georgian mansion situated in undulating countryside boasting a lake, sweeping lawns and formal gardens creating an exceptional venue for conferences and seminars. 
Best UK Resort
Winning Best UK Resort at the 2009 Group Leisure Awards for the second year running, Bournemouth is the place where business and pleasure meet. The city boasts the largest venue on the south coast, the purpose-built Bournemouth International Centre (BIC). Its stunning location offers sea views, which mixed with the ability to cater for up to 10,000 people across its four auditoria and breakout space, means the BIC has the flexibility to suit any event. In addition, the Chine Hotel in nearby Boscombe presents contemporary elegance at its very best. It offers all of the conference and training facilities that one would expect from a top 3-star hotel and is perfectly positioned overlooking Bournemouth’s artificial surf reef.

Poole’s bustling Quay, great beaches and stunning natural harbour make it a fantastic location. Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts, houses modern, inspiring and flexible facilities from 150 seat studios, to 1,500 seat concert hall, complete with an excellent support network including audiovisual engineers, catering and event management.

The beautiful art-deco Haven Hotel, is situated on the Sandbanks peninsula with magnificent views across the harbour and bay and boasts its own self-contained business centre (the Studland Suite), gourmet restaurant, and heated indoor and outdoor pools. If a great view is important The Harbour Heights is another option. This luxury boutique hotel with its state of the art conference room commands impressive views over the harbour. The Boardroom can hold up to 50 delegates and the Hytes restaurant can hold up to 120, and for those team-building sessions, they even have their very own water sports academy!

When the work is over there are a wide range of water based activities available in and around Bournemouth and Poole, perhaps most notably Bournemouth’s artificial surf reef. In addition, The Lifeboat College, home of RNLI training based in Poole, is the perfect venue for a unique and challenging team building event, the Sea Survival Experience.

Gloucestershire, which includes Cheltenham and most of the Cotswolds and Forest of Dean, is a beautiful part of the region and is just a stones throw to Bristol, Bath and Birmingham, and less than two hours from London.

The regency town of Cheltenham has a range of great venues in grand buildings that can’t fail to impress delegates such as Cheltenham Ladies College, the Town Hall and the Mercure Queen’s, Chase and Cheltenham Park Hotels. If you’re planning a larger event then the recently opened Centaur centre at Cheltenham Racecourse offers over 2,600m² of multi-purpose conference space with seating for up to 2,250 delegates and can hold 1,200 for dinner. The racecourse also has over 12,500 free parking spaces. 

Gloucester is well located for conferences, near the meeting point of the M5 and M4 motorways. Venues often appeal to organisers looking for facilities in historic venues such as the medieval Parliament Rooms at Gloucester Cathedral (the city knows a thing or two about meetings having been the Norman King’s winter court of England), and there are also state-of-the-art facilities at the University of Gloucestershire’s Oxstalls Campus and GL1’s multi-purpose Glevum Hall.

The nearby Forest of Dean is a fantastic resource for team building and motivation sessions with Go-Ape, caving, river adventure or even llama trekking on offer. The internationally known Cotswolds are strewn with historic houses, gardens and ‘one-offs’ such as Tewkesbury Abbey which will add real appeal for delegates attending your event.

Recent additions to the area include the 220 room Four Pillars Hotel at the Cotswold Water Park, near Cirencester, which has added rooms to become the largest hotel in the South West of England – conference facilities are for up to 800 delegates. As a new 4-star hotel, facilities are state of the art. Calcot Manor is a Cotswolds country house hotel with health spa that has won tremendous respect locally for its new conference venue The Barn, a beautiful and intimate space. 

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