You don’t have to travel far to trip over a fabulous conference venue in the south-east of England. The capital has some spectacular spaces but a hop, skip and a jump away in the home counties, and beyond, you’ll find barns, luxury hotels, palaces and private islands to choose from. Most of these venues are easily accessed from London but they offer the space, fresh air and tranquillity that comes from escaping the city.
When researching venues, remember to keep the objectives and target audience for your event in mind. If you plan to include team-building activities within the event schedule, making sure your shortlisted venues have spacious grounds should be high on the list of priorities. Don’t forget to check if there are any restrictions (in terms of what activities are allowed) with the venue too. For upcoming summer drinks parties, think about rooftop locations with spectacular views and for conferences with jam-packed agendas, it’s advisable to have accommodation and meeting space all under one roof. Always check accessibility and consider the eco-credentials of venues too if you want to ensure that they reflect your organisation’s own environmental ethos.
At Octopus, we’ve got great relationships with venues across the south-east, London and nationwide. If you’d like us to organise your conference, we can negotiate excellent rates on your behalf while taking into account all of the finer details that will make your event memorable for all the right reasons.
Without further ado (and in no particular order!), here are our Top 10 most exciting conference venues in the south east.
10. Chewton Glen
5-star Chewton Glen hotel and spa needs no introduction. Set in 130 acres of Hampshire countryside on the edge of the New Forest, minutes from the sea, it’s somewhere to treat guests to quintessential luxury and exceptional service. 72 bedrooms can accommodate up to 140 guests for a celebration, dinner or conference and there are 6 light, stylish and comfortable meeting spaces to choose from. The food is incredible with celebrity chef James Martin at the helm and there is also an on-site cookery school. There are plenty of fun teambuilding activities at the hotel, or close by, including duck herding, sheep dog trials, archery, private Sunseeker yacht excursions and rib boat rides At the end of an action-packed day, your delegates can hit Chewton Glen’s award-winning spa for some much-needed R&R.
9. Blenheim Palace
If you’re looking for the WOW factor, it doesn’t get much more unique and awe-inspiring than a historic palace set in 90 acres of formal gardens. As well as smaller traditional meeting rooms, Blenheim boasts four large event spaces as well as the option of erecting marquees in the parkland to accommodate up to 1000 guests. The palace and grounds make a spectacularly memorable backdrop for an exclusive product launch, awards dinner or company celebration. Blenheim Palace doesn’t offer accommodation but there are several boutique hotels and B&Bs in nearby Woodstock and Oxford is less than half an hour’s drive away.
8. Monkey Island Estate
Offering timeless glamour on a private island in the Thames near the foodie mecca of Bray, Monkey Island Estate is blissfully secluded but only 10 minutes from Windsor and less than an hour’s drive from Central London. As your guests cross the footbridge on arrival they’ll feel like they’ve entered a tranquil paradise. There are four flexible event spaces of varying size, including the stately Ballroom which can seat up to 200 delegates theatre-style. A few beautifully appointed guest rooms can be booked for overnight accommodation and there are several modern British dining options with idyllic river views. There’s even a floating spa barge to make the experience even more magical.
7. Sheepdrove, Lambourn
Sheepdrove Organic Farm in the west Berkshire countryside is a green events venue that runs operationally at net zero carbon with all electricity used on site coming from renewable sources. The magnificent Oak Room seats up to 150 for a daytime conference or dinner, and 170 for a standing reception. There are five additional breakout rooms and an outdoor amphitheatre that seats 30. Overnight stays are available for smaller groups in a renovated farm building that can accommodate 18. The converted barn has a communal kitchen and dining area, a sheltered courtyard and private garden. It’s a great choice for a more environmentally-friendly one-day conference or event and sheer rural escapism.
6. Williams F1 Experience Centre
If you’re looking for something a bit different and would like to create a memorable and unique bonding experience for your teams, head to the Williams F1 Experience Centre in Oxfordshire. Take part in the pit stop challenge, compete on the F1 simulators, race against each other on the giant Scalextric track and you can even have a private tour of the onsite F1 museum. When it’s time to knuckle down to some work, there’s a choice of seven high-spec, high-tech event spaces including the Frank Williams Suite which can accommodate up to 200.
Williams F1 Experience Centre, Oxfordshire
5. Ardington House
Just down the road from the Williams F1 Experience Centre is Ardington House, a beautiful historic property with a stately home feel, deep in the bucolic North Wessex downs. It ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for a high-end, exclusive corporate venue with a difference (arriving by helicopter? Not a problem!). Its idyllic riverside grounds, complete with tennis courts and an outdoor pool, are particularly appealing in the spring and summer months. There are two beautiful event spaces on the ground floor – The Imperial Hall and Oak Panelled Dining Room – suitable for smaller meetings and dinners. There is also a permanent marquee set up in the grounds that can accommodate 200, banquet style. Ardington House is perfect for exclusive team building, away days, company conferences and executive development meetings. The House can sleep up to 23 adults and there are plenty of other accommodation options locally including the luxurious Barton House in East Lockinge.
4. Heckfield Place
An elegant Georgian hotel near Hook in Hampshire, Heckfield Place has 45 luxurious rooms and suites. The light, characterful event spaces are suitable for smaller conferences and offsites as well as exclusive use events – the largest space can accommodate 100. It has the most stunning screening room we’ve ever seen on our extensive venue visits, perfect for launches, lectures and film nights. There are lots of outdoorsy activities to enjoy in the grounds and local area, including willow weaving workshops and private visits to Chicane Aston Martin. Heckfield Place has strong sustainability credentials without any compromise on quality and luxury.
Screening Room at Heckfield Place, Hampshire
3. Oxford University Event Venues
Sometimes the more unusual venues are the most memorable and Oxford University is home to some of the most architecturally impressive event venues we know, all in the heart of the city. The Examination Schools is one of the largest venues in Oxford, ideal for conferences, awards dinners and talks. It contains several splendid rooms spread across two accessible floors, one of which can seat 440 theatre-style. The majestic Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Sir Christopher Wren hosts 717 with a range of lighting and layout options to transform the atmosphere to suit the occasion. There aren’t many conference centres that boast golden eagles, flying cherubim and gilded thrones for guests to marvel at! The famous rooftop cupola with panoramic views of the city’s skyline is the ideal location for a buzzy drinks reception.
2. Ellenborough Park
Ellenborough Park, in the Cotswolds near Cheltenham, has perfect views of the famous race course and when we last visited, we heard they could arrange private tours for you and your guests. The luxury 5-star hotel has a country chic style and friendly, efficient service with 61 individually designed beautiful bedrooms and suites. The largest meeting room can accommodate up to 120 for a conference or dinner. It’s somewhere to bring four-legged friends too, so if your organisation has an office dog, they can come along. Hounds even get their own delicious doggie menu! With 90 acres of grounds and lawns, you can combine meetings and conferences with outdoor activities. There’s a beautiful spa, heated outdoor pool and the hotel is proud to produce their own signature gin, which we at Octopus have, of course, sampled for research purposes and can attest that it was absolutely delicious!
1. Lainston House
A Luxury hotel near historic Winchester, Lainston House has a fantastic choice of cosy wood-panelled meeting spaces to a 17th-century barn conversion elegantly converted into flexible meeting space for up to 166 guests. The hotel also boasts its own kitchen garden and an onsite cookery school called Seasons. This is the place to come for team building activities too as there really is something for everyone. Outside you can choose from motorised sports, tank driving, giant football, dodgems, clay pigeon shooting, archery and fishing. Indoors, there’s a wealth of gastronomic activities to delight in including wine tastings, cocktail demonstrations, cookery classes, cheese tastings and chocolate making classes with the hotel’s very own Chocolate Master. Bon appetit!
This is just a taster of the huge range of corporate venues available in the south-east. At Octopus we’ve got plenty more up our sleeve, many of which we’ve worked with directly, so get in touch today to talk about your upcoming events.
There’s no obligation, a discovery call with Octopus is a chance to talk about your goals and how we can use our extensive event management experience to help you achieve them.
Sarah, Founder & CEO, Octopus Events