Stags and Hens go large
A night in the pub with a few friends just doesn't cut it any more. Will Hide provides the lowdown on some great escapes that should be as memorable as the big day itself
What's the attraction?
"Just a few pints down the local." Not that long ago a stag night was just that – your friends buying a few rounds before the big day. Then some adventurous souls decided to make a weekend of it, to Dublin or Amsterdam, and then, as communism collapsed and Michael O'Leary rose, to Prague and Krakow. As far back the 5th century BC Spartans toasted comrades who were about to be wed. Now it's estimated that 80 per cent of those tying the knot have a pre-wedding celebration: stag and hen dos of course – and now "hag" weekends for those who don't want to exclude friends of the opposite sex.
The active option
If you'd rather not be stuck in a pub, the Preseli Venture Eco Lodge (01348 837709; preseliventure.co.uk) in Pembrokeshire can arrange a weekend of coasteering, sea kayaking, hiking and surfing for groups of four to 40. The price of £229 for two nights' accommodation includes meals but not alcohol.
More into yoga than pink cowgirl hats? Canopy and Stars (01275 395 447; canopyandstars.co.uk) has a "Babes in the Woods" champagne camping weekend in Devon for 10-20 hens. A one-night all-inclusive package (except alcohol) costs from £195 per person.
Cheap and cheerful
For a quiet getaway, the Craigellachie hotel in Speyside (0844 414 6526; oxfordhotelsandinns.com) has a two-night, whisky-tasting break. Settle in with a few drams in the Quaich bar with its 750 single malts. The next morning there's clay-pigeon shooting and quad biking before you visit a range of distilleries. The two-night dinner, bed and breakfast package costs from £190pp. If the Only Way is Essex, Red Seven Leisure (0800 970 2744; redsevenleisure.co.uk) offers two nights' room only in Brentwood. The price of £157pp also includes a spray-tan and entry to Sugar Hut and Faces, from the TV series.
Las Vegas is perhaps the only place where you could successfully have a stag or hen do, wedding and honeymoon all in the same week, with a divorce thrown in for good measure. However, there's more to Sin City than putting it all on red. The Grand Canyon is within driving distance, there is fantastic food on offer and flirting by the pool is always free. Travel City Direct (0844 557 6965; travelcitydirect.com) offers a week room only at the Riviera hotel with Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick for £699 per person; groups of 10 or more get nightclub passes.
Lie back and think of England
Who says pampering just has to be for the girls? Well-behaved stags could enjoy a 75-minute bubbling mud and hot stone treatment at the Feversham Arms hotel (01439 772930; fevershamarmshotel.com) in Helmsley, North Yorkshire for £110. If, on the other hand, you're a woman who wants nothing more than to lounge around in a dressing gown all weekend, breaking a sweat only for an intense pedicure and a post-lunch poach in the hot tub, Champneys Tring (0843 316 2222; champneys.com) in Hertfordshire has half-board rates from £169 per person with treatments from £30.
The cultured option
Try a champagne weekend in Reims, where Grape Escapes (0845 643 0860; grapeescapes. net) has a two-night B&B break at the Hotel de la Paix for £489pp. Also included are Eurostar tickets and transfers, tastings at Moët & Chandon and elsewhere, a three-course dinner, spa visit and the chance to buy fizz and even have labels personalised.
Gentlemen can whip their culinary repertoire into shape at Lucy Cooks (01539 822 507; lucycooks.co.uk) in Cumbria. Courses for stags start at £35; there's even a brewery next door, which offers tours.
First stop for anyone considering a stag event in Eastern Europe should be the travel guide inyourpocket.com. It gives the low-down on cities from Druskininkai to Veliky Novgorod. Belgrade in Serbia (tob.rs) is a top pick. Wizzair (0906 959 0002; wizzair.com) flies there from Luton. Or consider Wroclaw in Poland (wroclaw-life.com). It's Krakow minus the crowds; Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flies there from Stansted, or Wizzair from Luton and Doncaster. Ladies could hop on Ryanair, easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) or Monarch (0871 9405 040; monarch.co.uk) for a weekend in Ibiza.
Who said that?
"Let's have a bachelor party with chicks and guns and fire trucks and hookers and drugs and booze!" – From the 1984 film Bachelor Party starring Tom Hanks
"A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he's finished." – Zsa Zsa Gabor
"Marriage is a gamble, let's be honest." – Yoko Ono
In Newcastle you can learn how to handle six-wheel-drive cranes. One of your tasks is to lift the groom-to-be 20ft, rotate the crane and then make him abseil to the ground. Stagweb (0845 130 5225; stagweb.co.uk) offers the option from £115 per person in a group of 12, including B&B accommodation and nightclub entrance. More than 120 hotels and 30 guesthouses welcome stag and hen parties in Blackpool (01253 478222; visitblackpool.com).
Life drawing classes are available from Hen Heaven (01273 225 075; henheaven.co.uk) in several cities including Leeds, Bournemouth, Nottingham or Norwich from £29 per person.
If you want a base for a party in Edinburgh, take over an entire hostel. Haggis Hostel (0131 557 0036; haggishostels.co.uk) is near Princes Street and accommodates up to 34 people for £25 per person.
Get a group of friends together in Cardiff to design your own bespoke perfume. GoHen (0845 130 5225; gohen.co.uk) can fix it from £135 per person if there are 12 of you. The price includes accommodation at the Radisson Blu hotel and nightclub entrance.
"If you have an accident on your stag do after 10 pints of lager, you should expect that your insurance claim will be refused. Some good advice: stay away from balconies and swimming pools at night, and leave your phone and wallet locked away." – Greg Lawson, Head of Retail, Columbus Direct Insurance
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