As stag and hen dos become more lavish, the heat is on to make your event super special. Jaine Blackman comes up with some fabulous local options.


One for the girls this and with the double benefit of being entertaining and useful. With a Katherine Elizabeth Millinery Hatiquette afternoon or soireeguests can make their own headwear for the wedding.

Hens can create a bespoke masterpiece using ethically sourced feathers, beads, trims and vintage fabrics. They get step by step expert tips and instruction on faultless hat etiquette.

Prices start from £42 per person and can be held at a private venue or can be arranged at Oxford’s Malmaison hotel. See for more details or call 0207 490 0303.


“Hiring out a property for your hen or tag allows you to hang out with your friends in a flexible and relaxed manner, without the rigidity of hotel meal times or being separated into individual rooms,” says Kate Stinchcombe-Gillies, spokesman for Holiday Lettings ( based in Oxford.

“It also allows for privacy as the whole venue is yours – to party the night away in! You can also choose homes that are located close to a fun event – such as horse racing or the boat race – so you can go out and celebrate and then come back to your private home to relax in style.

“It’s also ideal if you have a mix of age ranges – as the option is always there to relax at base if you don’t want to take part in any activities.”

Some properties in Oxfordshire boast hot tubs, pools and home gyms: one even has its own cinema.


“Boat charter is a classy alternative to a night on the tiles for a hen or stag party,” says Gracie Davies of Le Boat ( which has a base in Benson, near Wallingford, from where clients can cruise the Thames as far as Kingston – with plenty of chances to stop at one of the many pubs that line the river.

“After a quick lesson in boating, clients are free to cruise at their own pace, stopping where they like, when they like,” says Gracie.

“Perhaps pack golf clubs and head north to Wallingford and enjoy a round of golf. From there you could continue towards Oxford and moor directly outside The Old Anchor Inn and enjoy a drink at the water’s edge or walk into town and enjoy the buzzing atmosphere of the busy King’s Head with its classic pub food menu, or try The Broad Face for rustic charm and gastro-pub fare.

“Head south for refined dining and day trips to remember, from real ale and revelry at Eton Waterman’s Arms, a 16th-century pub and comedy club, to refined merriment, foie gras and flaming sorbet at Heston’s theatrical Fat Duck restaurant just 300m from the riverbank in Bray.

“For a lively atmosphere, cruise to the student town of Kingston-upon-Thames where there are plenty of clubs with free entry and drinks offers to lure you through the door.”

Or how about a narrowboat? Oxfordshire Narrowboats based at Heyford Wharf, Lower Heyford, (, 01869 340348) has dayboats from £150 for the day, with longer breaks available.


Spa breaks are another popular choice for hens. “Unlike a night out on the town, a spa hen party leaves you refreshed and radiant for the big day so you can take your day any time,” says Jason Goldberg, founder of which offers days and breaks in Oxfordshire.

“You can make it as fun and relaxing as you like. Some of our guests dress for the occasion with tiaras and special costumes enjoying a champagne tea, others simply prefer to spend some relaxing time catching up with their friends and family.” From £19 per person.


For the more energetic, Henley Canoe Hire offers hen and stag groups the opportunity to take a Canadiancanoe (open canoes – three people per canoe) down the River Thames, north or south of Henley-on-Thames. Enjoy paddling about before stopping for lunch at one of the many popular riverside spots along the way. From £25pp including canoe, paddles and life jackets ( or call 0118 328 2458).


Lush’s store in Oxford’s Cornmarket Street ( offers a range of hosted parties, like its 90-minute Beauty School event, where guests get consultations, learn skincare routines and techniques to practice on one another and receive tips on how to turn their bathrooms into relaxing retreats (£25 per guest including £10 towards buying products).


Oxford Castle Unlocked offers a fantastic murder mystery option for hen and stag parties and this can be combined with dinner in a restaurant located just a stone’s throw away in the Oxford Castle Quarter (options include Malmaison Brasserie, The Living Room, La Tasca and The Big Bang),” says spokesman Ellie Stokes.

“The venue adds to the atmosphere of the evening (guests will explore an ancient crypt, saxon tower and Georgian prison wing on their journey) and the story played out throughout the evening is based on characters that would actually have been imprisoned in Oxford Castle.

Cost is £35 per person, including two glasses of house wine, After Dark Dinner prices start from £20 (0845 070 6255 or


The Old Swan and Minster Mill, in Minster Lovell, near Witney, (, call 01993 774441) is located right beside the River Windrush.

The hotel has a ghillie on standby who can tailormake fishing courses and currently has a two-day Cast a line package from £525 which includes two rods (consecutive days) and two-nights in River Room with a private outdoor terrace directly onto the river.


The Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons ( in Great Milton is the only one in the world to offer visitors the chance to watch, learn and practice in the kitchens of a two-Michelin starred restaurant. “It’s the perfect idea for a truly special hen party,” says spokesman Felicity Thompson. “The seasonal dinner party courses, explaining how to entertain guests with minimal effort and maximum effect.”

Prices start from £365 per person for one-day course tuition, morning and afternoon tea and an informal lunch in the cookery school.


Malmaison in Oxford’s Castle Quarter ( provides cocktail master classes for hen and stag parties. The classes are £25 per person and a mixologist will teach the class how to make three cocktails to consume. New cocktails include the Pomme D’Happy, pictured, served in a coupette with apple slice and cinnamon garnish made with Daron Calvados, Belvoir Apple Plum Cinnamon cordial, ginger ale and dashes of Jerry Thomas Bitters.


One of the UK’s leading stag & hen providers with 12 years experience and more than 250,000 previous clients offers everything from pamper days and pole dance lessons to tank driving and nude art classes. There are more than 60 activities for hens in Oxford ( and plenty of choice for stags too (