Management Training Centres: 10 of the Best

Stephanie Siegle reviews the venues chosen by clients such as 02, Microsoft and Prudential.

AVIEMORE HIGHLAND RESORT

Contact Susan Libecks, 0870 124 4124

Web www.aviemorehighlandresort.com

Number of meeting spaces 22

Largest space holds 650

Situated in the foothills of Scotland's Cairngorm Mountains, the Aviemore Highland Resort opened less than a year ago and already Adidas, Chivas Regal and the Bank of Scotland have made use of this residential conference and training venue.

The Macdonald Hotels & Resorts property features a dedicated conference centre designed to take smaller training groups, but there is also an auditorium for larger conferences of up to 650 in its auditorium, while the Osprey Arena can hold 610 classroom-style. Eight spaces are available for board meetings, training sessions and workshops, with classroom-style capacity ranging from 14 to 35 delegates.

The on-site accommodation comprises deluxe three-room lodges in the Caledonian Forest. Delegates can unwind by participating in the resort's activities, which encompass clay-pigeon shooting, quad-biking and fishing. The golf course is due to open later this year.

BEAUMONT HOUSE, BERKSHIRE

Contact Karen Ward, 01753 640000

Web www.hayley-conf.co.uk/pages/beaumont

Number of meeting spaces 87

Largest space holds 180

Euromoney, ICI, Panasonic, PA Consulting and O2 are just a few of the regular corporate clients attracted by the exclusivity offered by day-delegate centre Beaumont House, part of the Hayley Conference Centre portfolio.

"We take groups for training sessions at Beaumont House regularly, firstly because it's local to a couple of our Slough offices, but also because everything is included in the day-delegate rate," says O2 training course co-ordinator Amanda Browning. "The food is wonderful and the service, particularly the after-care provision, is excellent."

In addition to the 180-capacity Balmoral Suite, which offers technology such as a touch-pad control unit to operate the light projector, TV, video, DVD and the lighting system, there are four syndicate rooms for training or coffee breaks. By next summer, the venue is expected to have completed a £15m extension that will add 134 bedrooms to complement the current 196, a 400-seat restaurant and a function room for up to 600.

ELAN VALLEY LODGE, POWYS

Contact Roy Davies, 01597 811143

Web www.elanvalleylodge.co.uk

Number of meeting spaces 3

Largest space holds 40

In the heart of Powys, mid-Wales, Elan Valley Lodge, a four-star residential purpose-built management training and outdoor activity centre, has just completed a total refurbishment of its facilities as it looks to achieve five-star status. Set in a privately owned 73 square-mile estate, its conference venue, which has been used by companies such as British Airways, Lloyds TSB, Whitbread Restaurants, Jaguar and Lucent Technologies, offers a fully equipped training suite with a lecture room for 40 delegates, plus two syndicate rooms, each with a capacity for 12. In addition to its 24 bedrooms, the lodge's location provides ample opportunity for groups to take part in outdoor pursuits.

Microsoft EMEA director of sales and marketing readiness Wayne Phillips has been taking graduate recruits to the lodge for three years for week-long training programmes to cover team learning and personal development.

"The venue has a great team of staff members and a wonderful range of facilities," he says.

HORSLEY CONFERENCE CENTRES

Contact Alison Kennedy, 01483 284211

Web www.initialstyle.co.uk/venues

Number of meeting spaces 15

Largest space holds 130

Nestled in more than 70 acres of Surrey parkland just off the M25, Initial Style Conferences' Horsley Conference Centres offers three venues: Horsley Towers, Horsley Management Centre and Horsley Court.

Horsley Towers, a Victorian mansion, completed a £2.5m refurbishment at the end of last year. As a result, it can now offer an extra 28 bedrooms, bringing the total to 128, and four main meeting rooms with a maximum capacity of 120, ideal for board-level meetings. Pricewaterhousecoopers, BP, Hotel Brokers, Coca-Cola and Oracle are just a few clients to have used the centre recently. "The relaunched Horsley Towers has filled a gap in the management meetings market that no other national training centre provider offers currently," says Hotel Brokers sales director David Taylor. "It has the feel of a luxury private country house with the benefits of a dedicated management training centre."

IMAGO AT BURLEIGH COURT, LEICESTERSHIRE

Contact Lucy Swift, 0845 036 4624

Web www.welcometoimago.com

Number of meeting spaces 22

Largest space holds 240

Ford and the Audit Commission are among clients to have used Imago at Burleigh Court. The centre, situated on the campus at Loughborough University, is currently undergoing an £8m expansion. Due for completion in May 2006, the work will turn Burleigh Court into a day-conference centre with 185 bedrooms, and add larger syndicate and meeting rooms, an extended lounge, private dining facilities and better parking. The leisure and spa facilities at Burleigh Springs will be completely rebuilt.

The existing meeting facilities are equipped with high-speed internet access and digital data projection, while the site offers a 240-seater restaurant. Burleigh Court is within walking distance of two other Imago centres; Imago at Loughborough, which has meeting rooms for up to 2,000, and Imago at Holywell Park, which has a lecture theatre for up to 160.

Loughborough has a selection of hotels including the Ramada Loughborough and Quality Hotel Loughborough.

LUSTY BEG ISLAND, FERMANAGH

Contact Mary Hughes, 028 6863 3300

Web www.lustybegisland.com

Number of meeting spaces 3

Largest space holds 300

Lusty Beg, a 75-acre privately owned island in the Fermanagh lakelands near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, is an ideal venue for training groups looking for seclusion.

Its main conference room boasts a capacity for up to 300, its Cedar Lodge can accommodate up to 50, while the purpose-built conference suite, Ned's Cottage, is suitable for smaller numbers.

Ulster Bank, Procter & Gamble, Clerical Medical and Northern Bank have booked the venue recently. The centre also offers on-site accommodation.

Rooms are available in either the Courtyard Motel, the lakeside self-catering lodges that each sleep up to six people, or within ten self-catering chalets.

After an intense day's training, delegates can unwind with on-site activities, including off-road driving, cycling, archery, orienteering, hill walking and team-building exercises.

SCALFORD HALL, LEICESTERSHIRE

Contact Allison Lewis Cooper, 01664 444654

Web www.scalfordhall.co.uk

Number of meeting spaces 24

Largest space holds 85

This Edwardian mansion set in the heart of rural Leicestershire has been frequented by clients such as Bendicks of Mayfair, the Citizens Advice Bureau, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Midlands Co-operative Bank. It is in the process of a rolling refurbishment of its 88 bedrooms.

But it is the centre's location that attracted NUT professional administrative assistant Rosie Lee to the venue. "We like to hold our training meetings in a rural retreat, and Scalford Hall, set in 12 acres of landscaped gardens fulfils that criterion."

Its nine management training suites, ranging in capacity from 16 to 85 theatre-style, are supported by 15 fully serviced syndicate rooms. Private dinners can be catered for in the two secluded dining rooms.

Delegates have the chance to socialise at the end of a training session with team-building activities such as laser shooting, driving eight-wheel argokats and treasure hunts by car.

SLEBECH PARK, PEMBROKESHIRE

Contact Geoffery Philipps, 01437 752000

Web www.slebech.co.uk

Number of meeting spaces 1 (presently)

Largest space holds 18 (50 on full opening)

Slebech Park - a privately owned dedicated meetings venue in the heart of the Slebech Park estate near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire - has completed the first of four phases of development. Due for completion in 2006, it has opened the first of its conferencing facilities to non-residential delegates and the first three luxury apartments are ready for occupancy.

The Orangery, situated within a waterside Grade II-listed coach house, caters for up to 18 delegates. It has its own kitchen and private cloakroom leading out onto a secluded terrace. Adjacent to the Orangery is the Bistro which offers delegates a dining space, along with two additional break-out areas.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA) are among the first clients to use its facilities. MPHA chief executive Ted Sangster says: "Slebech Park's idyllic setting makes it an inspiring place to do business."

Once it opens fully next year, the venue will offer facilities for up to 50 residential delegates and their partners.

WHITTLEBURY HALL, NORTHHANTS

Contact Peter Montague, 01327 857 857

Web www.whittleburyhall.co.uk

Number of meeting spaces 56 including syndicate rooms

Largest space holds 400

The 211-room Whittlebury Hall will open its new spa facilities this summer, but the Northamptonshire venue's main focus remains management training and it extended its meeting facilities last year. Two extra training rooms were added bringing the total to 14, a further 12 syndicate rooms were built to make 35 in total and it opened an additional 90 bedrooms. It's these facilities, as well as its six meeting rooms, executive boardroom and three private dining rooms, that have attracted clients such as Deloitte, Audi and Britvic.

Hotel Brokers International account director Jayne Vaughan uses the venue for training, large conferences and team building. "The rooms are of a good four-star standard, the conference rooms and syndicate rooms work well for large and small groups, it has fantastic leisure facilities and its location means that it is an ideal alternative to a hotel," she says.

WOODLAND GRANGE, WARWICKSHIRE

Contact Ann Overfield, 01926 336621

Web www.wgrange.com

Number of meeting spaces

Largest space holds 180

Located in tranquil grounds near Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, Woodland Grange offers nine meetings spaces that can be configured in a variety of formats. The largest of these, the conference suite, can hold 180 delegates theatre-style. There is also an array of syndicate rooms, 72 en suite bedrooms and a restaurant with a capacity for 160. Recent visitors to the centre include engineering company GKN and the Law Society. There is currently a £5m refurbishment programme underway that will add a further 42 en suite rooms, six training rooms and leisure facilities, including a fully equipped leisure centre offering a gym, sauna and solarium, along with a games room.

FIVE VENUES WITH A DIFFERENCE

Badgemore Park Golf Club - www.badgemorepark.com, Tel: 01491 637300

Badgemore Park Golf Club's 18-hole course is less than a sand wedge away from a dedicated management training centre, located within its own walled garden. Guests needn't travel far to find accommodation - the centre itself boasts six bedrooms. Located close to Henley-on-Thames, the centre's four conference rooms accommodate between four and 90 delegates, with additional syndicate rooms for break-out sessions.

Nottingham Racecourse - www.nottinghamracecourse.co.uk, Tel: 0115 958 0620

Link a morning training session with an afternoon of racing. The purpose-built conference and training centre, set within the 280 acres of Colwick Park and only two miles from the city centre, offers panoramic views of the racecourse. The venue provides a range of suites with capacities for 12 to 200 delegates, many with balcony access suitable for coffee breaks.

Shoreditch Studios - www.shoreditchstudios.co.uk, Tel: 020 7909 1808

At this funky, contemporary training centre in London's trendy Shoreditch, delegates can choose from three colour-themed meeting rooms ranging in capacity from eight to 17 delegates. There are also two research studios with viewing rooms with space for up to ten. The emphasis is on providing a creative environment coupled with state-of-the-art technology, including plasma screens, wireless broadband internet access, a video link and an internet cafe to check emails during breaks.

The Shakespeare Centre - www.shakespeare.org.uk, Tel: 01789 201 808

Absorb the Bard's genius while training in modern meetings facilities. The Shakespeare Centre, set alongside Shakespeare's Birthplace attraction, offers space from six to 250 delegates, with further capacity for break-out sessions. Delegates can organise a visit to Shakespeare's Birthplace on the day of the meeting, or if they'd prefer,they can explore the sights and shops of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Wyboston Lakes - www.wybostonlakes.co.uk, Tel: 01480 212625

Who said team building had to be on land? Try out water-skiing and jet-skis at the water-sports centre set between two 12 hectare lakes at Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire. Team-building days now account for more than 40 per cent of the centre's business and, after a day on the water, delegates can relax in the spa and enjoy an Indian head massage.

CASE STUDY - PRUDENTIAL ASSURANCE COMPANY

Company: Prudential Assurance Company

Event: Customer services departmental conference

Group size: 300

Date: 25 May 2005

Venue: Stirling Management Centre

Budget: Undisclosed

When Prudential's Stirling-based office decided to hold its customer services conference, focusing on both presentations and team-building, the company needed to choose somewhere accessible for staff. On that basis, Stirling Management Centre was selected, initially for its proximity, but also for its ability to accommodate a large number of people across its 24 meeting rooms. "The centre is situated on a lovely campus, you don't have the problems of access and parking that you would encounter if staging an event at a hotel in town," says Prudential events executive Patricia Bolam. "And the fact that the presentation equipment was already on site and that the centre could also do the catering gave me the peace of mind and confidence that everything would run to plan." The day consisted of a number of presentations and Bolam explains why a management training centre was more suitable for the event's requirements than a convention centre. "The separate dining facilities are a bonus as the food is not served in the same room so you don't have to clear people and disrupt the meetings," she says. "Plus, the options of the added-value activities (which include the University of Stirling's sports facilities, as well as a nine-hole golf course) certainly make it a more attractive venue. Although we didn't require those on this occasion, we would bear this in mind for future events."

Accommodation wasn't a requirement for this event either, but the centre does offer 76 bedrooms.

"The centre's not the cheapest option but you pay for the quality you get," adds Bolam. "It was able to accommodate a large number of people at short notice due to the size of the facilities and this really helped us out. And the staff were really helpful, nothing was too much trouble."

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