An ITCM group enjoyed it all at Goodwood, West SussexYou are planning corporate hospitality in the UK and you offer a choice to your guests or award winners. They can go round one of the nation’s finest stately homes and come face to face with priceless paintings by Van Dyck and Canaletto; or they can go flying over glorious countryside in Cessna light aircraft and actually have a go at the controls, combined with a memorable visit to an aircraft museum to see a spitfire that still flies; or they can drive fast cars round a dedicated 3.2-mile racing circuit; or they can visit a working farm, see cheesemaking in progress and buy the finest quality home produce at a farm shop; or they can play golf with a choice of two 18-hole courses, finishing with a cordon-bleu meal in a magnificent 18thC clubhouse; or they can opt for relaxing treatments in a beautiful spa.
Now, what if your guests choose all of these different activities, some one, some another? What do you do?
Simple! You book your event at Goodwood!
Guests on ITCM’s recent Fam Trip to this 12,500-acre (5,000 hectares) estate were continuously surprised as facility after facility was unveiled during a memorable 24-hour visit. Most of the guests had known of Goodwood for just one of these activities. Some had heard of its Festival of Speed or of the glamorous race days at Glorious Goodwood or knew of the world-famous art collection of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond – but none had imagined that all those options were available on a single estate in West Sussex.
However, in spite of these remarkable opportunities, at the end of the visit, when asked what they found most impressive, the Fam Trip guests unanimously said it was the quality of the hospitality. The head of every department and the Head Office staff who showed us round were without exception brimming with enthusiasm and were so obviously sincere in their pride in what the estate has to offer.
‘They showed amazing flexibility and readiness to meet the needs of every kind of event’, was one person’s comment and it was wholeheartedly backed up by the others.
We were accommodated at the Goodwood Hotel on the estate which can hold its head high in comparison with the best country house hotels in the UK. With 91 rooms and suites, it has very flexible and convenient meeting facilities, especially the Cedar Suite, which is self-contained with its own entrance, 150-pax meeting room, three break-out rooms and relaxing networking areas. The hotel General Manager Sarah Stacey was our guide. The hotel serves a highly recommendable buffet-plus-waiter breakfast and has chefs that enjoy dazzling their guests with artistically presented dishes at dinner.
Close to the hotel is Goodwood House, home of Lord and Lady March. It would be worth anyone in the world, no matter where they are based, making the journey just to be allowed to walk round Goodwood House, a glass of champagne in hand, viewing truly dazzling 17th century rooms and halls elegantly furnished and lined with priceless paintings. Lord and Lady March and family appear to be quite happy for visitors to tour what is still their home. And they are also happy to allow organisers to hold receptions and dinners in those unique settings.
From 9am to 4pm we were able to visit every part of the estate, which still houses the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, parents of Lord March. We were either transported by car or driving ourselves in golf buggies.
Nothing in Goodwood is ordinary. Even the buggies are designed like vintage cars.
At one end of the estate was the horse racing, with an impressive grandstand- then via some of the most gorgeous English countryside, we drove through thousands of acreage of farmland that raises sheep, cattle and pigs and is the source of almost all the vegetables, herbs, milk and cheeses required by the hotel and the estate.
Our lunch was served in the Goodwood Kennels. We were intrigued to see this on our itinerary, but when we arrived there it was to find a mansion-sized building that housed not only a fine dining restaurant but also a beautifully equipped and furnished golf house; an open-air atrium that is not only a putting practice area but also serves as an event space; and a golf shop that is one of the very rare private but official outlets for Ralph Lauren sportswear.
A ride around the golf courses with Stuart Gillett, the Golf General Manager, was fascinating. Even if there were no tees, fairways or greens, it would be worth the ride, because it gives the visitor the most impressive views of the Sussex Downs, with panoramas that take in the spire of Chichester Cathedral and the Isle of Wight.
Our lunch was overseen by Lise Hutton, General Manager of The Kennels. In place of the normal à la carte menu, she had decided to show us what her chefs could do. We had a sort of English dim sum, with a series of house specialities, one delicious surprise following another.
As The Kennels originally housed the packs of hounds for hunting, Goodwood has maintained its connection with dogs. Members are permitted to bring their pets with them. In fact, the first unusual sight to greet visitors through the front door is an array of large-sized bowls, each bearing the name of one of the many dogs that are frequent visitors.
The whole day at Goodwood was a series of highlights. After lunch there was a visit to the motor race track, where we watched enthusiasts speeding round in Ferraris, BMWs and Porsches. The circuit goes round the airfield where the Goodwood fleet of sparkling Cessna aircraft is lined up. Alongside is the estate’s own aircraft museum. This, apparently, is the only location where qualified pilots can learn to fly an original Spitfire, a veteran heroic machine from World War II. The problem, of course, in learning to fly a Spitfire is that you basically have to teach yourself, as there is only room for one person in the cockpit!
We took leave of the Goodwood Hotel and all the marvels of the estate, but on the way out most of us drove via the Goodwood Farm Shop. The blue-veined cheese, the home-cured bacon and the estate-reared fillet steak meant we could still have a taste of Goodwood after our departure.
An event organiser’s view
“Thank you once again for inviting us. I had a great weekend, met some very nice people and had some amazing food. What more can you ask for!!
We enjoyed Goodwood much more than I ever imagined, I don’t think I have ever come across such a diverse and beautifully maintained venue. I just cannot wait to spread the word!”
From the Head of Corporate Events of a multi-national group