by Paolo Camera
Do you ever find you get tired of doing the same old same old and wish you could think of something different to do on a girls’ night out, or for a weekend away? Preferably, this will be something that isn’t going to cost the earth or involve too much hassle in arranging etc. After all, there are only so many bars, clubs and restaurants you can go to – and it’s nice to plan ahead and have something a little bit different to look forward to now and again.
And planning ahead is the key to success here by the way. If you’re anything like me, you try to organise something and one or two people tend to back out at the last minute – so agreeing something well in advance and, preferably, getting the participants to make a small financial commitment up-front is ideal.
Anyway – without further ado – here are some idea for nights and days out, and maybe weekends away, that you may not have thought of.
A day at the races
Having a day at the races can be an absolute hoot at any time of year. If this is a new thing to you – then a short lesson in racing first. There are two types, flat racing and National Hunt. Flat is self-explanatory, National Hunt basically means jumps and hurdle races, which tend to be longer, on the whole, than flat races. Flat racing generally takes place in the warmer months of the year (though there are various all weather courses up and down the country) whilst the opposite is true of National Hunt racing.
Flat racing is what happens at Ascot and Royal Ascot, the Epsom Derby and Glorious Goodwood etc. This is where the ladies get dressed up and it’s often all champagne and strawberries etc.
With National Hunt racing – think green wellies brigade, Land Rovers, headscarves, hunting and dogs etc. and you’ll be on the right lines.
Each has its own merits and the great thing about racing is that there are meetings more or less every day in all parts of the country. Just have a look at one of the online guides to UK racing, pick out a course you like the look of for a day out and see which meetings are good for your schedule. Alternatively – making it a part venue for a weekend away also gives the weekend a little added spice sometimes.
During the summer months, there are a lot of evening meetings up and down the country. If you’re within striking distance of London, for example – as close to a third of the UK population are – then Windsor racecourse is an a beautiful setting and hosts loads of evening meetings throughout the warmer months of the year.
As for betting – well there’s a whole new lexicon of terminology for the uninitiated, but a flutter certainly makes the races a lot more interesting. Placing a few bets on the horse racing with the exchange Betfair is relatively quick and easy, and the odds are usually better as it’s an exchange with no traditional bookmaker involved. It’s a good idea to place a small bet on each race before you go then you aren’t distracted during the course of the afternoon or evening and you can concentrate on the bubbly, or whatever else takes your fancy!
If you don’t know how to place the bets etc., then ask someone who does. It’s all very easy and you’ll soon get used to it and there are usually free bets available for new customers etc., so remember to take full advantage of these.
A day at the races is as much fun as you make it. Just remember to get the dress code right and to book a table and facilities if that’s what you’re looking for. This is usually worth the extra money if you want to do it in style – but be sure to book well in advance if it’s a well-known and popular meeting you’re going to such as the Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival, the Epsom Derby, and Glorious Goodwood, the York Ebor meeting or Royal Ascot etc.
A day ON the horses
Staying with our equine theme – how about getting on the horses instead of watching from the side-lines and cheering them on?
This is great fun and is even more fun if you’ve never done it before, or only once or twice when you were younger perhaps. These days, the horse riding facilities provided up and down the country are a lot better than they used to be and more imaginative.
There are many places you can try this and it’s an absolute ball if you do a group booking with your friends.
An afternoon in the sky
Or how about looking up to the skies for inspiration? If you’re feeling brave enough as a group, why not try a parachuting for beginner’s type class? This is one of the most exhilarating things a human being can do. This is, of course, because jumping into seeming oblivion runs contrary to every instinct in your body but you have to override this with logic knowing you are completely safe. That’s where the real fun lies.
Again, there are lots of places around the UK that you can try this out. It’s one of those things many of us intend to do one day – but have never yet set a firm date to do so; so why not do that now? This life is no dress rehearsal and a parachute jump is on many people’s bucket list of things to do before the die.
On a same but different basis – how about a bungee jump? Now this is, in many ways, even more scary the first time than a parachute jump. The beauty of this is that it needs no training and drawn-out safety courses etc. You get the basics only in what to do then you simply have to launch yourself over the edge. Look for the different places you can bungee jump in the UK then close your eyes and go for it. This is an experience, like parachuting, that will truly be with you forever. This is truly living your life to the full!
If either of these are just too scary to contemplate for you or your friends, then how about something a little more sedate – like a ride in a helicopter? Believe me; there’s nothing too sedate about this and it can be the thrilling part of weekend.
One such tour takes places in and around the wonderful and historic city of York. York is a great city to visit any way and at any time of year. But add a helicopter ride into proceedings and now we’re really talking! A helicopter ride above the famous sites of York and around over the Yorkshire Dales where Emmerdale Farm is produced, and much more, can be done on a superb 45-minute flight. The flight even takes you over Harewood House for an aerial view of the set built for the ever popular ITV1 soap. You’ll see other famous venues including Home Farm and The Woolpack as you hover over Emmerdale.
This is just one idea – you can book similar helicopter flights all around the country.
Murder and Mystery Walks
Another great thing you can do for your weekender in York or many other of Britain’s most historically interesting cities are murder and mystery walks. These really are spooky and great fun. If you decide to go up to Edinburgh for a weekend, for example, you’ll be able to visit the races and the wonderful city that ‘Edina’ is – and do a great murder and mystery walk as well.
One excellent walk is conducted by the “late” ghostly highwayman Adam Lyal. The real Lyal was executed in 1811 but he’s still able to take you around the old city on an award-winning one hour and 15 minute spooky evening walk around the auld Scottish capital. You’ll see the alleys and courtyards of Old Town Edinburgh as Mr Lyal tells you haunting but true tales of torture, body-snatching and witchcraft. Just remember to keep an eye out for the “jumper-ooters”!
If you prefer something a little more historical without being scared out of your wits in the dark into the bargain – then a guided walking tour of a city that is also great to visit for the weekend anyway is a good idea. A Chester city walls walk is one such good example – whilst other walks have literary themes. For example, you can do a Jane Austen walking tour of Bath that takes you to where the great authoress lived, along with various locations covered in novels including ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’. This particular tour takes an hour and a half but there are many other similar tours up and down the country which make a nice addition to a weekend away.
Who doesn’t love chocolate? So why not enhance and indulge that love with a chocolate tour? These really are fascinating and all the more so if you love the stuff. There are walking tours of the best chocolate shops London has to offer, for example. This particular London tour is organised and led by a chocolate expert who shares secret tips and facts about chocolate and you get discounts in the stores toured along with lots of free tastings.
Or how about a tour of one of your favourite TV shows? Again, there are many to choose from – from the famous Granada Studios Tour if you’re vising Manchester (which is something that never lets you down).
However, if you prefer something a little more sedate and rural – you might want to choose the Midsomer Murders locations tour. The show is actually filmed in several different counties including Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. One day-long tour for Midsomer lovers includes the main sights along with lunch in the Midsomer village, which was also used in the ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ movie and ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ TV comedy. Oh yes – and you also get to see a few of the churches used as locations for the ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ movie.
Last but certainly not least – if you’ve never been to Blackpool you’re missing out on one of the most amazing places on the planet – seriously! There’s only one Blackpool and seeing is believing. Whether you come here tongue in cheek on a “kitsch” basis as so many people do these days – or just to use the famous Pleasure Beach – Blackpool is an experience you will surely never forget.
Britain’s own take on Las Vegas; Blackpool has something to entertain you at every turn and at all times of the year. Have a look at the What’s on guide before you come, but do make time for a trip up the famous Blackpool Tower (modelled originally on Paris’s Eiffel Tower) and for an afternoon at the Pleasure Beach. We spoke about bungee jumping earlier – well the famous “Big One” roller-coaster at Blackpool makes you feel like you’ve just done one!
A trip to the famous Sandcastle indoor water park is always a hoot for everyone as well. This is the country’s biggest such park and something well worth doing as part of a weekend away.
You can even make a trip to Blackpool a cultural and wholesome weekend if drinking too much in Kiss-me-quick hats and eating hot dogs on the prom isn’t really your cup of tea. Many people don’t realise that the countryside around Blackpool is beautiful and you’re only down the road from the Lancashire side of the Dales which are truly beautiful at any time of year. Similarly, the Lake District with all it has to offer is only half an hour up the road – so it’s easy to kill two very different birds with the one carefully aimed stone!
Have a ball whatever you decide to do.