Partnering with Meet Beyond London is always a recipe for a great FAM. We love working with them so when we met with the lovely Jane last year to discuss our February FAM which would see us exploring Winchester and surrounds, we knew our members would be just as excited as we were.
Winchester is just an hour’s train ride from central London and is home to not only the famed castle but an abundance of hotels, venues and activity options for events from 10 – 500. More and more corporates are looking for different ideas and locations for their events that have great transport links AND fabulous properties and Winchester ticks all the boxes.
Our FAM started with our group checking-into the gorgeous Lainston House Hotel. Steeped in so much history Lainston House has 50 rooms and suites, all individual in design (like all the Exclusive Group’s hotels and venues) and each member of our group was in love with theirs. After check-in, we met with James (Operations Manager) and Emily Lippiatt (Sales Manager) for a glass of bubbles before our site visit of all the meeting and events spaces. You can read about them here. My favourite is the gorgeous barn and the newly renovated space where you can dine alfresco and where you can sit having a glass of wine watching the hotel’s guests come and go…
Next up we loaded into taxis for the short 20-minute drive to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery (located in Laverstoke) which for a gin lover like me, is as close to a perfect Friday as it gets. The utmost care was taken in the building and development of this site aims to preserve the natural ecology and 1000-year-old heritage. Sustainability is quite rightly HUGE at the distillery. The Distillery has a wide range of self and guided tour options for groups and would make a fabulous activity option as part of your event. We were fortunate enough to do a reduced tour where we learnt about the distilling process, botanicals and the two very different greenhouses were awe inspiring. It really was fascinating and made me a little thirsty so off we went for our very own cocktail making masterclass. This is also a great addition for your group if attending the distillery. We made two different cocktails with all manner of skill level amongst the group and I would highly recommend it (even for those who aren’t very partial to Gin).
All that gin drinking made us a little hungry, so it was back into the taxis to return to Lainston House where we learnt the art of canape making in Season (Lainston’s onsite cooking school). The cooking school is located in a converted well house on the property and its state-of-the-art kitchen facilities paired with some pretty amazing chefs mean a very engaged group that learnt how to make some pretty special canapes. One of our members would keep referring to the kebabs mid-sentence throughout the course of the night… and quite rightly so, they were AMAZING!
Dinner was up next in one of the properties’ private dining rooms. The Mountbatten room famously named so after the late Lord Mountbatten is oh so elegant with its wood panels and fireplace and can comfortably seat around 12 for dinner. We had a lovely six-course dinner paired perfectly with wine from the extensive wine list and accompanied with our very knowledgeable Head Waiter of not only facts pertaining to the menu but indeed of the property overall it made for a lovely evening. After a few cocktails in the bar it was off to bed ready for a semi-early (thanks Jane) start to explore Winchester for the morning.
Our visit into central Winchester took us to Hotel Du Vin where we had brunch with Clare Lean, the properties’ Sales Manager and the lovely Sarah Hatfield from Visit Winchester. Over avocado and eggs, we talked about all things events, Winchester and the property before a site visit of all the bedrooms (the property has 24 in today) and the outdoor spaces which are gorgeous. If you could take the property exclusively your delegates would love it. There is a variety of meeting and events spaces and its central location makes it very accessible from London.
A huge thank you to Jane Chivers from Meet Beyond London for hosting us on this FAM to discover Winchester, we really learnt a lot and I know that only a week later a lot of our members have placed inquires.