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The Best Stag Do Operators of 2018 – Special Royal Wedding Edition

Stag Do, Stag do destinations — By on April 5, 2018 7:41 am

 

Hello and welcome to the 2018 awards for the Best Stag Do Operators.

 

This year, with not one but TWO royal weddings lined up for the summer, I’ve decided to make it a Windsor-themed edition. For those of you old enough to remember ‘It’s a Royal Knockout’, one of the most spectacular telly disasters of the 1980s, I’m sorry to disappoint, it’s got nothing to do with that. But it does feature another royal legend, fifth in line to the throne and first in line for the bar at Boujis, Prince Harry.

 

2017 was a bit of a mad one, right? Jeremy Corbyn rocking the crowd at Glastonbury; North Korea and Mother Nature racing to see who can destroy America faster than the president; Prince Philip and Harvey Weinstein both retreating from public life, one having given the country years of service, the other giving a new and unpleasant meaning to room service. But nothing was weirder than seeing the entire world becoming transfixed by a royal proposal, and newspapers filling page after page with nonsense about the happy couple, when clearly there’s only one thing that anyone can really know for sure. And that is Harry will definitely have an epic stag. But where will it be?

 

Prince Philip will no doubt be spending much of his retirement with his feet up at Balmoral Castle, the Windsor’s Scottish estate, taking potshots at the servants from the bedroom window. And, given the royal family like to spend a few weeks up in Scotland every year, it would make sense for Harry to have his stag north of the border too.

 

The Changing Face of Stag Weekends in 2018

Prince Harry Stag Do | Iamthebestman

Harry is 33, which is the average age for men to get married in the UK nowadays, up from 25 in the 1970s. Stags are getting older, and it’s my guess that their tastes are changing accordingly. A lot of my time is spent fielding questions from best men about how to organise a stag weekend, and there seems to be growing interest in more sophisticated stag activities, and less in the traditional ‘steak, tits and shots’ antics.

 

The format of these reports doesn’t change – I take on a secret identity, and delve deep into the seedy, sordid and sensual world of stag weekend providers to find out who’s on top of their game. The destination does change though, so this year we’re looking at Edinburgh, capital of Scotland and just 45 minutes from Balmoral Castle by helicopter, which means Harry can be back in his four-poster with his shawarma wrap before it goes cold.

 

I’ve worked my way around the same companies as last year, with the exception of Pissup, as they only do trips to Europe. Pissup have been replaced with Freedom Ltd, who have been in this biz for over 20 years now so they should have a good idea of what they’re doing. My prospective stag’s name is Henry – which is Harry’s real name, aren’t I crafty, eh? – and we’re looking at a weekend in July, peak dates and right before the city’s biggest event of the year, the Edinburgh Fringe. Don’t worry Meghan, we’ll look after him.

 

 

Why use a stag agency?

Best Stag Do Operators 2018 | IamthebestmanLet’s make no bones about it – planning a stag do always involves a fair bit of work. That’s even the case if you’re just organising a bar crawl in your hometown, because you’ve got to choose suitable places that will allow stag groups in, and keep your team together all night. When you’re looking at going further afield, adding in activities, accommodation, transport and meals for a large group of lads – it can be a headache for the best man to stay on top of everything.

 

So it’s no surprise that growing numbers of best men are looking to use a stag do agency to help them put everything together. They cover all of the main stag locations around the UK and abroad; they collect payments from the group, which is one less thing to worry about; they can book pretty much everything for you in advance (except transport), and they give you that reassurance that if anything does go wrong, you’ve got a number to call and get it sorted straightaway. It means the best man can fully relax and enjoy the stag weekend as well.

 

The reason I pull together this report every year is because there is such a lot of choice out there, and also because when you’re looking at spending considerable amounts of money on the stag, you want to know you’re going to get a hell of a good time out of it.

 

If you’re organising a stag soon, here’s why I would recommend you at least consider using an agency:

 

  1. Convenience
  2. Peace of mind
  3. Usually pretty good value
  4. Wide choice of destinations / activities
  5. Useful advice about different cities / nightlife

And if you want to compare the price of stag do’s in Edinburgh or anywhere else for that matter then follow the link and you can take your pick.

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How to organise a Stag Weekend in Edinburgh

 Edinburgh is one of the best places in the UK for a stag weekend, and that’s saying something.

 

It’s easy to get to, with excellent road, air and train connections to the rest of the UK. It’s also very easy to get around – Edinburgh is a compact city, with good public transport including, finally, the tram system which was notoriously over-budget and behind-schedule, but now goes as far the airport, six miles from the city centre.

 

 

Where to stay on an Edinburgh Stag Weekend?

Edinburgh has a superb range of stag-friendly accommodation available, from modern self-catering apartments to mid-range hotels that offer breakfast and parking if you need it. Most places are within a short walk of the centre, and will be perfectly happy to accept well-behaved stag groups.

 

One important point to note: the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival spans most of August. Accommodation throughout the city books very early, and is obviously a lot more expensive than the rest of the year. Bars and clubs will also be a lot busier than usual.

 

Where to go out on a stag night in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Stag DoEdinburgh nightlife is insanely good, with cool bars clustered around the Old Town and streets such as Candlemaker Row, Victoria Street and Grassmarket. You’ve also got stylish cocktail bars around the George IV bridge, upmarket bars on George Street in the New Town area, and plenty of raucous places with ridiculous drink deals around the regenerated docks of Leith, where ‘Trainspotting’ was set. ATIK and Espionage are especially good nightclubs for stag groups in Edinburgh, and several providers will include in their quotes, free-of-charge, guest list entry to either or both. Use it or don’t, but it leaves you safe in the knowledge that there’s always somewhere you can get in without difficulty.

 

Edinburgh Castle, atop Castle Rock, dominates the skyline and is the city’s most famous landmark. From there it’s a straight walk down to the Royal Mile where you’ll find plenty of pubs and restaurants. Many popular stag activities in Edinburgh can be reached on foot, while others are out of town – be aware that you’ll need transportation, which some providers are happy to arrange for you, while others can do little more than give you a number for a minibus firm.

 

You’ve got all the usual stag activities in Edinburgh, as well as a few distinctively Scottish diversions such as whisky tasting and Highland Games. Combined with lots of suitable accommodation, an enviable range of bars and clubs, and a generally welcoming attitude to stag groups, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option for organising a UK stag weekend than Edinburgh.

 

 

Best Stag Do Operators 2018:  Edinburgh

Right, let’s crack on shall we?

 

If you’ve read my previous reports from 2016 and 2017 then you’ll know how this goes. I’ve contacted 11 stag weekend providers around the UK and asked them all to give me a quote for the same details, which are as follows:

 

  • Two nights in July
  • Central accommodation, preferably self-catering apartments
  • Based on a group of 8
  • Including some activities that would be up Harry’s street: clay pigeon shooting, whisky tasting and Highland Games.

 

In a slight change of format this year, and in a bid to mirror other awards ceremonies, I’m going to shine a light on just five of the nominees before revealing the winner. These companies were the top scorers across ten metrics measuring their customer service.

 

So in no particular order here are the nominees for the best stag do operators of 2018….

 

Best Stag Do Operators Nominees 2018 | Iamthebestman

 

Maximise

The first nominee, Maximise, have recently undertaken a change in ownership, joining forces with an events group based on the continent. Why’s that of interest I hear you ask? Better pricing is the answer. These guys now have SCALE which means they have greater buying power and an ability to navigate thorny issues like exchange rates. If this exercise is anything to go by, this appears to be passed on to the customer which makes Maximise an attractive agency for anyone looking for great value. At £215 vs an average of £252, Maximise were the most keenly priced of any of the 11 agencies.

 

The activity package I received from Maximise included archery, which is on the same site as their clay pigeon shooting and Highland Games, keeping things entertaining. We talked over the various bars and clubs they offer guest list entry for, and my agent was upfront and knowledgeable about the option of white water rafting (not recommended in July) and the apartment details. Not bad I thought given this gang are based some distance from Edinburgh.

 

The agent was not too pushy and the next steps I needed to take in progressing the booking were clearly laid out. The overall quality of the activities Maximise included was fantastic, it looked really good value to me.

 

 

Last Night of Freedom

LNOF have been in this industry 20 years or more and so it comes as no surprise that they have scored well and enter the nominations list this year. In fact, over the three years that this research has been running, no other company has scored more consistently. What does this mean for you? When you go to LNOF you can expect a solid experience that is highly likely to meet your needs. Here’s what happened this time around…

 

My agent was very friendly, experienced and familiar with Edinburgh. He had plenty of good recommendations about what to do and where to go out at night. He was a little more salesy than others, but far from aggressive with it. Once he’d confirmed the quote was okay, he was happy to agree on a day and time to call and talk it over so as not to hassle me when I was busy. As with most of the other companies, there are no post-sales admin charges to worry about if you need to change an activity late on.

 

He stressed LNOF’s ABTA bonding – that, for those of you who don’t know, means that if some disaster should happen and the company were to go out of business before your stag takes place, your deposits are safe, you won’t lose any money.

 

I also received a separate email alongside my quote, detailing the booking process step-by-step, and how LNOF ensures everything goes to plan. It was pretty useful to understand how they work, and a nice touch. Solid performer.

 

 

Red 7

Our third nominee is Red7. Having won the award in 2016 they dipped in performance last year but have clearly fixed some issues as they delivered an excellent customer experience this time around.

 

Another really likeable sales agent, chatty and helpful, I was really impressed. Again, he had a good working knowledge of Edinburgh and was able to answer my questions convincingly and quickly. There was no trace of sales push, but a clear focus on ensuring the quote was to my satisfaction. Like both of the above companies, Red7 are well-established in this game, you can be confident of a good stag.

 

I picked up some more details on this call about the various activities I was planning for my good friend ‘Henry’. The Highland Games includes stuff like the caber toss, and the tug of war, while there is also the option of canyoning or white water rafting but they’re further out and it’s going to limit what else you can do on the same day.

 

Also mentioned was an Oktoberfest-themed pub in Edinburgh, the Bier Keller. You get big flagons of beer and a bratwurst to munch on. Fancy dress is encouraged too, which sounds fun, but given Harry’s previous form in dressing up as a German, I decided to keep it as a backup only.

 

Generally excellent all-round from Red7.

 

 

Designaventure

Designaventure have a speciality in outdoorsy type activities, particularly in Wales, so it’s perhaps no surprise that they came up trumps given our Highlands theme. This is their first appearance in the top 5.

 

At £366, Designaventure’s quote was by a long way the most expensive of the bunch, and likely to go up further still as the Highland Games was based on a minimum of 12 people. But their apartments were located right on the Royal Mile, with excellent facilities, and the whisky tasting was only a 10-minute walk away too. I guess you get what you pay for in some instances and ol’ Harry Windsor isn’t short of a bob or two is he?

 

I spoke to an agent called Kath, who was extremely friendly and clear on everything. She told me they charge a £20 admin fee for changes later on, and there was a large deposit needed to secure the apartments, £400, so a hotel would have been a better option. This is the type of advice I like – transparent and in the best interest of the customer. Any company that operates by this principle is always likely to perform well in my opinion.

 

Their quote and website are not as flashy as a number of the other competitors, and the price was a lot higher compared to the rest (albeit in part because of the higher quality accommodation and location) but this is more than compensated by attentive customer service that genuinely makes every effort to meet your needs.

  

 

Stagweb

Our final nominee is Stagweb. Joint-second in 2017, this classy outfit were similarly impressive this year. The agent was a friendly guy who knew his stuff and exerted no pressure whatsoever. I would have been happy to book there and then.

 

We talked over the activities, and I mentioned the possibility of swapping the Highland Games for rafting. He pointed out that in the summer the river would be slow-moving and not much fun, and I was better off sticking with the games even though there would have been more profit in it for him. As with Designaventure, integrity trumps profit which goes a long way.

 

The follow-up email was prompt, with clear information about what to do next. Not bad at all, Stagweb.

 

 

The Winner

So there we have it. Five strong performances in a highly competitive market but there can only be one winner of the Best Stag Do Operators 2018, and by a single point, Red7 have claimed the #1 spot. This makes it two wins out of three for the Brighton based outfit so congratulations to them and commendations to the other contenders who performed admirably.

 Winner Best Stag Do Operator 2018 | Iamthebestman

I’ll be back in 2019 with another edition. In the meantime, if you need any help navigating the world of stag dos just drop me a line at oliver@iamthebestman.co.uk and I’ll happily help.

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