What’s new in 2016 for visitors to leicester and Leicestershire
There will be a huge range of new openings, events and attractions for visitors to see and do in Leicester and Leicestershire in 2016.
Marking William Shakespeare’s milestone 400th anniversary
2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death and a major ‘Shakespeare 2016’ tourism campaign will attract visitors from North America and other key international markets to the East and West Midlands. The campaign will celebrate and promote the region's connections with Shakespeare to globally showcase the heritage sites, attractions and world-class curriculum and literary works such as King Richard III that are linked to the playwright.
Gibbon Forest at Twycross Zoo
Gibbon Forest is a brand new immersive exhibit opening at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire in early 2016. The new exhibit marks the latest phase in Twycross Zoo’s multi-million pound masterplan vision and is the most ambitious animal habitat to date in the zoo’s history.
Gibbon Forest consists of four moated island habitats and a large, two-storey central building that will be home to four different species of endangered gibbons. The building design has been masterminded to provide the gibbons with an exceptional habitat in which to breed and thrive, while educating visitors about the primates and the threat of extinction they face in the wild. Gibbon Forest will enable visitors to observe conservation in action, exploring the winding pathways of the islands that will be lushly planted to create the feel of an Asian rainforest, while hearing the gibbons calling and swinging overhead.
Belvoir Castle celebrates the life and legacy of Capability Brown
A new estates tour has been launched at Belvoir Castle to coincide with the tercentenary of Capability Brown’s birth in 2016. In the early 1800s, the Duke of Rutland’s gardens at Belvoir Castle were largely considered to be one of the finest in the land. Rumoured to be the work of the country’s greatest landscape architect, Capability Brown (1716-1783), they have been forgotten, until now. The tour was inspired by a chance discovery of Brown’s incredible plans for Belvoir Castle in its own archives, which had been lost for nearly 200 years.
The Castle and Gardens will be open from 13 March 2016, Sundays through to Thursdays to individual visitors and group bookings. As well as the existing tours of the grounds, a brand new Capability Brown tour will offer the chance for visitors to experience these stunning views and vistas that Capability had planned for Belvoir over 250 years ago.
John's House - Michelin starred fine dining restaurant
John’s House is Leicestershire's only Michelin starred restaurant. Chef John Duffin has returned to the family farm in Mountsorrel after many years working in some of the country's top Michelin starred restaurants, to open an exciting fine dining restaurant. John's House offers exquisite 'home grown' food using produce grown on the farm and sourced from the local area.
Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival from 3–21 February 2016
Europe’s longest running comedy festival, now in its 23rd year is set to be its most diverse and inventive yet. Highlights for 2016 include Vic & Bob, Johnny Vegas, Katherine Ryan, Josie Long, Steve Hall, Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year winner 2012 Romesh Ranganathan and 2015 Foster’s Comedy Awards Winner Sam Simmons and Best Newcomer Sofie Hagen. The festival continues to pay homage to its original patron comedy genius Sir Norman Wisdom with a staging of the play about his life, Wisdom of a Fool, written and performed by Jack Lane.
Further highlights will include shows from Abandoman, 2015 Foster’s Best Newcomer nominees Adam Hess and Tom Parry, 2015 Foster’s Best Comedy nominees James Acaster and Nish Kumar, Andrew Lawrence, Andy Zaltzman, Chris Ramsey, Dane Baptiste, David O’Doherty, Elis James, Felicity Ward, Gary Delaney, Henning Wehn, Joe Lycett, 2014 Foster’s Comedy Award winner John Kearns, Luisa Omielan and Ellie Taylor, Mark Dolan, Mitch Benn, Pappys, Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee: The Intimate Magic Tour, Richard Herring, Rob Newman, Rory McGrath, Shappi Khorsandi and Tom Stade.
Loogabarooga Festival of children’s illustrated literature
After a successful inaugural event in 2015, the Loogabarooga Festival of children’s illustrated literature will return to Loughborough in October 2016. The Festival will include appearances from some of the nation’s favourite children’s authors and illustrator with a series of other workshops, events, readings, street art and activities focused on new and existing illustrated literature.
During the Festival, visitors can also relax on eight unique, hand-painted BookBenches featuring the cover artwork of some of the nation’s favourite children’s stories including Shopping with Mother, Cinderella and Bunnikins Picnic Party.
Stay Play Explore short breaks
Leicester and Leicestershire’s hugely popular Stay Play Explore short break campaigns for leisure visitors celebrated ten years of success in 2015. Since they were launched in 2005, Stay Play Explore breaks have generated in excess of 125,000 bednights for local for accommodation providers.
The Stay Play Explore short breaks for couples and families include Family Fun, Family Adventure, City Treat, King Richard III, Gourmet Taste, Glorious Heritage and Vegetarian. The breaks provide individuals, couples and families with a choice of fantastic local visitor attractions and activities, and high quality accommodation. New offers for 2016 will be announced in December 2015 and will be available from www.stayplayexplore.co.uk
King Richard III Visitor Centre
Using great storytelling, beautiful design and 21st century technology, the state-of-the-art King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester celebrated its first anniversary in July 2015. The centre tells the fascinating and moving story of the King’s life and death, and reveals one of the greatest archaeological detective stories ever told.
The story of King Richard III in Leicester and Leicestershire recently featured on the Smithsonian’s 21st Century Life List of 25 Great New Places to See. The King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester Cathedral and Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre were all mentioned in the article.
Diwali – Hindu Festival of Lights
In November 2015, 41,000 people of all faiths from across Britain, Europe, the United States and Canada gathered in Leicester to celebrate Diwali: a five-day Hindu festival celebrating light, knowledge and good nature. Diwali, also referred to as the ‘festival of lights’, marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. Leicester's Diwali celebrations are the biggest outside of India and see the city's ‘Golden Mile’ decked with garlands featuring 6,500 lights with stage performances and fireworks.
45 Gin School – ultimate experience for gin lovers
Learn the art of distilling and create your own bottle of gin with world-renowned master distiller, Jamie Baxter. Set in picturesque Leicestershire countryside, your 45 Gin School experience includes:
• a tour of the craft distillery
• learning the history of gin and distilling
• choosing and blending botanicals to create your own unique recipe
• distilling your gin using a traditional copper pot mini still
• bottling and sealing your personalised gin ready to take home
Artisan Cheese Fair – UK’s largest cheese fair
The UK’s largest cheese fair will return for its sixth year in 2016 when the Artisan Cheese Fair takes place in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire from 30 April to 1 May. Last year, over 8,000 cheese-lovers visited the Cheese Fair and with over 50 cheesemakers showcasing in excess of 250 different products at this year’s event, visitors will have the opportunity to taste and buy some of the UK’s rarest and most popular artisan cheeses.
Visitors can learn about cheese in the daily programme of talks, demonstrations and tastings given by industry experts, as well as enjoying other local produce including pies, wine, cakes, cider, champagne and Melton Mowbray’s famous Pork Pies.
Birthplace of modern tourism – Thomas Cook anniversary
Visit the city of Leicester, the birthplace of modern tourism where Thomas Cook began his international travel company in 1841 with a successful one-day rail excursion at a shilling a head from Leicester to Loughborough on 5 July. 2016 is the 175th anniversary of this first-ever package tour.
New venue at Mythe Barn
Mythe Barn is a new wedding venue, available for exclusive unique weddings and is a stylish fusion of traditional and modern structures. For 2016, a variety of outdoor activities and team development programmes will be added to the corporate events taking place at Mythe Barn.
Along with Mythe Barn, the facilities at Mythe Farm also include a recently refurbished warehouse space. The 150 acres have recently been used for a mud run and a festival– style corporate event with 100 glamping tents. The facilities at Mythe Farm are ideal for a wide range of events and have also be used for a luxury car launch, digger launch, awards evenings and numerous conferences.
British Pie Awards - who judged all the pies?
The 8th British Pie Awards will take place on Wednesday 9 March 2016 in the usual venue of St Mary's Church in Melton Mowbray, to coincide with British Pie Week. Announcement of the winning pies and their makers will be at a splendid Awards Luncheon on Friday 11 March, also in St Mary's Church.
The Woodlands – luxury treehouse accommodation and self-catering snugs
A quirky new village-style event venue and woodland accommodation has opened in Leicestershire. Multi-million pound development, The Woodlands, designed by celebrity favourite, Blue Forest, is now welcoming its first guests for celebrations, weddings, meetings and short breaks. Located in the wooded grounds of manor house, Hothorpe Hall, it provides a distinct alternative venue to the original Georgian manor house.
Comprising a function room, lounge bar and dining room within the venue, this unique timber and glass-built venue is complemented by 23 en suite bedrooms within a series of quirky woodland lodges, snugs and a luxury elevated treehouse. Also in 2016, 23 bedrooms in the newer wing of Hothorpe Hall - Welland Court - will see a complete refurbishment and the Manor House bedrooms will also be having a makeover.
Out of this world experience at National Space Centre
The National Space Centre is the UK’s only visitor attraction dedicated to space and is holding a series of fantastic events in 2016 including: Destination Space (discover the highlights of Tim Peake’s mission as he travels at over 17,150 miles per hour on board the International Space Station), Stargazing Live, Science of the Time Lords, LEGO© Brickish Weekend, Small Space Toddler Day, Grossology, World Gin Day, Return of the Garrison, Astro Camp Summer, World Space Day on 9 October and Steampunks in Space.
UK’s newest conference & exhibition venue opens at Bruntingthorpe
The UK’s newest conference and exhibition venue has opened. Hangar ’42 proudly served the RAF during WW2 and the USAAF during the Cold War. Today it has been totally refurbished and transformed at a cost of £2 million into a modern, practical and fully-equipped 36,000-sq-ft venue adjacent to Bruntingthorpe Airfield and Proving Ground.
With its marble-floored 3,000-sq-ft main entrance and reception – an addition to the former aircraft hangar – the new conference and exhibition centre is equipped to accommodate significant numbers. It has the capacity to accommodate 1,500-plus people and there is parking for more than 400 vehicles.
The BoilerHouse at Foxton Locks
The BoilerHouse is now open to visitors following a major investment and development of the facilities at this world-famous lock staircase and Inclined Plane in Leicestershire. The new exhibition space includes immersive and interactive digital technology to showcase the rich history of the Inclined Plane, together with a new app that virtually recreates and simulates the boat lift.
The BoilerHouse at Foxton Locks shows how the Inclined Plane worked and brings to life what it was like to live and work on the canals and locks of Victorian waterways. The BoilerHouse displays a fascinating range of exhibits including an interactive game where visitors can stoke the boiler to create the right conditions for the Inclined Plane, an immersive theatre and the app that recreates the famous boat lift using virtual reality.
Glamping with the stars at The Dandelion Hideaway
The Dandelion Hideaway is launching a series of family focused Astro Camp weekends in conjunction with Mad Science and the Leicestershire Astronomical Society starting in September. Space enthusiasts and novices of all ages can learn about astronomy and science through hands on activities; including creating space pods and building and launching rockets. Two Astro Camps are scheduled for 23-24 April and 11-12 June 2016.
The Dandelion Hideaway is also launching the Woodland Explorer’s Club in association with The Royal Forestry Society. Aimed at helping children (from 5-12 years) to appreciate the environment, hands on activities led by ranger Nicki Jempson include identifying trees and birds, treasure hunts, orienteering and map adventures. The two-hour complimentary course, exclusively for guests, will take place in the farm’s ancient Spinney Wood and the Den on Thursday afternoons in April, May, July and August 2016.
Fine dining at Scalford Hall
Located near the famous market town of Melton Mowbray, Scalford Hall country house hotel is opening a fine dining restaurant in its beautiful Colman room in 2016. The room is named after Colonel Colman (founder of Colman’s Mustard) who purchased Scalford Hall in 1944 and lived there happily with his family until his death in 1969.
New marina at Bosworth
Bosworth Marina is a new marina with traditional values. The marina basin and building construction commenced in 2013 and welcomed boats in during the autumn of last year. It is anticipated that the first phase will be completed in 2016. There is permission for a second building on the site, adjacent to the Ashby Canal.
Tea tasting at eco-friendly tea room
The eco-friendly tea room, the Old Brickyard Tea Garden, near Melton Mowbray is opening a new 'Tea Discovery Centre' in 2016. Here, you can discover the fascinating world of tea with Anna Stasinska, owner and designer of the Old Brickyard Tea Garden. Anna has travelled extensively, including Darjeeling and Japan to learn about the art of tea. She offers tea tastings and talks at her tearoom
and elsewhere for various groups.
City Festival - Leicester
Taking place from 19-29 August 2016 at sites across Leicester city centre with activity for all the family. Featuring well-established favourites such as the Leicester Belgrave Mela, Sky Ride, Sports Fest as well as popular events such as Journeys and the Old Town Festival. The festival will make the most of the attractive new streets and spaces including Jubilee Square, Leicester Market, Humberstone & Gallowtree Gate, the Clock Tower, Orton Square, Town Hall Square. There will also be a city-wide Arts Trail throughout the festival.
The Richard III Visitor Centre will be celebrating being open for one year and 2016 will also mark one year since King Richard III was Reinterned in Leicester Cathedral where his tomb is on public view. There will be plenty of free activities for all ages including sports, culture, music, art, heritage and much more, the City Festival provides lots of great reasons to visit Leicester this August.