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Mill Rythe: A fresh look at holiday parks

Mill Rythe Holiday Village is turning the perception of holiday parks on its head with a host of enjoyable and lively entertainment, with the facilities and staff to match

The staff at Mill Rythe Holiday Village are on a mission: To ensure that all visitors have the best time during their stay.

Mill Rythe offers mid-week getaways and a wide-range of themed breaks

Located in Hayling Island, the Away Resorts-owned holiday park is an ideal base for groups visiting Portsmouth and Southampton, while enjoying all that the park has to offer too.

We were invited to stay during the Primo Weekender – an adult-only, three-night break – for a weekend of entertainment, including a British holiday park first with performances by two touring productions, {Priscilla Queen of the Desert} and {Whitney – Queen of the Night}.

A warm welcome

Check-in is from 1600hrs unless the suites are booked, in which case priority check-in is at 1430hrs.

Parking is located close to Reception, with dedicated spaces for coaches.

From 1300hrs-1600hrs staff are on hand to welcome guests, and on selected themed weekend breaks live entertainment plays in the reception area and the Ballroom to get guests in the holiday mood.

For coach groups, complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits are also served in the Ballroom during this time.

New for 2017, on these selected theme weekends, is a ‘no queue check-in’, meaning guests can relax in the Ballroom with a drink and wait for their name to be called once their room is ready, rather than queue.

On check-in, guests are provided with a welcome pack – in an adorable-size tote bag – with site information; including a map, details of the entertainment and activities being held during their stay, and local information.

Room options

Mill Rythe has a number of rooms to choose from, ranging from standard rooms to suites. Each room has an en-suite shower or bath, central heating, tea and coffee making facilities and a flat screen TV with Freeview. Towels and linen are also provided, and there is a choice of single, twin and double rooms.

Rooms range from standard en suite rooms to suites

Guests booked into an Ambassador or an Ambassador Plus Suite also have the use of a fridge and hair dryer; will receive priority check-in; and the suites are serviced every day except Sundays.

The Primo Weekender

At the heart of the holiday village is the Ballroom. Complete with a disco ball, well-stocked bar, seating, and dance floor, guests can enjoy a drink there from 11am till late.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert wowed guests with its dazzling costumes and hit songs

The evening entertainment during the Primo Weekender was varied, ranging from an Otis Redding tribute act, to a ukulele band, to a ventriloquist, and more.

Particularly notable was the ‘Wartime Blackout Party’ at the Boathouse. Now usually closed, the space was fabulously transformed back in time to the 1940s and entertainment included a comedian and the Old Dirty Brasstards – a 10-piece brass and drum collective, playing an energetic mix of modern-day songs.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Whitney - Queen of the Night were as amazing as one would imagine, West End-quality shows with dazzling costumes and hit songs really blowing guests away.

Fitness classes, arts and crafts, quizzes and bingo were also held throughout the weekend, keeping guests entertained during the day.

‘Show of Hands!’ in the Ballroom on the Sunday afternoon was especially fun with the audience being given a number of songs from different musicals to choose from for the entertainment team to perform. Each song included a frenzied and comical costume change, but the performances were excellent.  

Every activity has its own Mill Rythe spin to it – there’s never a dull moment and the staff really do go the extra mile to ensure everyone is having a great time.

Something for everyone

Mill Rythe challenges people’s perceptions of what a break at a holiday park is like, offering mid-week getaways and a wide-range of themed breaks throughout the year that will keep groups of all ages and interests entertained.

There are a number of areas for guests to relax, including the Reception area

On-site facilities will also keep guests occupied. Among other facilities, Mill Rythe has a snooker room, a beauty salon, and an outdoor sports court, as well as an indoor and outdoor pool.

Most of the entertainment takes place in the Ballroom, but singers do perform in the reception area, which provides a quieter, more subdued space to relax. There is also outdoor seating, which is great in the summer – especially in the evening, when rows of fairy lights turn on, creating a really atmospheric setting.

All of Mill Rythe’s breaks are booked on a half-board basis, which means the accommodation, breakfast, evening meal, and entertainment are all included in the price, and so the breaks offer a cost-effective and stress-free holiday.

For groups

Groups of 20 or more can enjoy a number of benefits, including great discounts, half price room upgrades on selected dates, and up to 10% of each group can enjoy single rooms without supplements.

There is also on-site coach parking and coach drivers’ accommodation is free.

Group organiser benefits include a free gift, free room upgrade when available, discounted personal bookings, and familiarisation visits.

Around and about

While there is certainly enough to do at Mill Rythe to keep groups entertained, nearby Southampton offers the ideal destination for a day excursion.

Renowned for being the city in which the RMS Titanic departed in 1912, there are a number of opportunities available for groups to learn all about the ship and its fateful voyage.

SS Shieldhall and the SeaCity Museum have teamed up to offer a Titanic package called ‘In the Footsteps of the Titanic’.

It costs £35.50pp for groups of 10 or more, and remaining dates in 2017 are 22 July, 16 September, and 17 September. 

Experience the Titanic

The day begins at the SeaCity Museum, where groups have 1.5hrs to have a look around the museum, which includes Southampton’s Titanic Story.

The Titanic Story is a poignant tribute to the Titanic’s victims and survivors

This permanent exhibition is a poignant memorial to the 1,500 people who died on board the ship, but also an informative look at what Southampton would have been like in 1912.

As visitors make their way round, they learn all things Titanic; from the ship’s hierarchy, the identities of some of the passengers, right through to the investigation as to why the ship sank.

A 1:25 scale model of the Titanic, interactive exhibits, and artefacts on display really make for a fascinating, yet touching visit.

Particularly moving is the Disaster Room, where guests can hear real-life accounts from survivors who describe the events that took place once the ship struck the iceberg.

Shaping Southampton

Groups can also view the permanent gallery Gateway to the World, which introduces visitors to the people through history who have helped shape Southampton – from the Romans to the Victorians.

A number of temporary exhibitions run throughout the year. For instance, Wildlife Photographer of the Year will be on loan from the Natural History Museum and exhibiting at SeaCity from 30 June-24 September.

Groups are welcome all year round at the SeaCity Museum, with pre-booked guided tours available. Self-guided tours are also an option with group rates offered.

Lunch can be enjoyed at the museum’s café, The Gallery, which serves light lunches, hot and cold drinks, cakes and pastries.

Walk through time

Groups will then be taken on a guided walk through Southampton’s Titanic Quarter. The walk takes around two hours and an expert guide will recount tales of the crew and passengers, pointing out Titanic memorials and buildings associated with the liner along the way.

Guides from See Southampton are also on hand throughout the year offering various walking tours that will please groups of any interests, not just the Titanic, including The Story of Southampton; Vaults and Vino; and Southampton Ghost Walk.

Access-all-areas

The day ends with a three-hour cruise on-board the SS Shieldhall.

It is the largest working steam ship in Britain – run by a team of knowledgeable volunteers – offering an access-all-areas look at how the ship works.

SS Sheildhall runs a number of group-friendly cruises throughout the summer

Passengers can explore all areas of the ship, including the boiler and engines rooms. Access to these rooms are down steep narrow stairs, but there are interactive touch screens on the lower deck for those who are unable to access the rooms, which demonstrate how the boiler and engine rooms work.

Groups should be advised that walking around the ship includes stairs, steps in and out of rooms, and narrow passageways.

Tours are free flow, but guided tours can be arranged with larger groups being separated into smaller groups.

There is also an on-board commentary pointing out various landmarks and providing information about the ship, including the process of the ship being driven by steam – the same process that would have driven the Titanic.

Catering options

The SS Shieldhall has been granted a £1.46m heritage lottery grant, which is allowing essential repairs to be undertaken, including the renovation of the saloon, which has an AV system and seats 60.

Passengers are able to access all areas of the ship

Groups can opt to eat on-board the Sheildhall. There is a licensed bar, which has also be recently renovated, offering various alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including Titanic beer, and light hot and cold snacks.

A covered awning area and an open deck with seating provide areas for groups to sit and enjoy the views while learning all about the unique heritage vessel.

There are a number of themed cruises held during the summer that groups can enjoy. Visit ss-shieldhall.co.uk/excursions for more details.

Portsmouth’s heritage

Located just 11 miles away from Mill Rythe Holiday Park, Portsmouth is another ideal daytrip destination.

The city has an array of shopping centres, markets and boutiques, offering a great day out for groups looking for some retail therapy, as well as lots of options to explore Portsmouth’s naval history.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is home to a variety of attractions, historic ships and museums, presenting a fascinating insight into historic ships and the Royal Navy.

Groups can now view the Mary Rose from all nine galleries 

New for 2017 is the Mary Rose, where groups can now view King Henry VIII’s warship from all nine galleries of the museum. Groups can meet the crew, and thousands of Tudor artefacts can be viewed at the new-look museum, offering a captivating new experience for visitors.

Other attractions include the HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860, National Museum Royal Navy Portsmouth, Action Stations and Harbour Tour.

Exclusive to groups

There are also exclusive tours available to groups, which provide behind-the-scenes guided tours, and out of hours options, of selected ships.

Coffee and cake is available in Costa, or The Mary Rose Café serves light meals. Boathouse 7 offers heartier meals, which can accommodate groups who wish to sit together.

A combined price for coach drop-off and pick-up and all day parking in the city is available, and coach drivers receive free entry and a £5 lunch voucher.

There are discounted rates for groups of 15 or more visiting the dockyard, and full-day or one-attraction tickets are available – offering flexibility to the time a group has available.

A spectacular view

Joint group tickets for one-day entry to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Emirates Spinnaker Tower are available.

Group tickets at the 560-foot landmark observation tower include:

There are also a host of group benefits, including: Discounted rates for 15 or more people; ‘fast track’ admission; free meet-and-greet for pre-booked coaches; and, new for 2017, 15% discount on guide books, souvenir photos, on sale at the shop and Waterfront Café.

Group catering is also available, with cream teas and high teas on offer.