Mike Le Caplain

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It is time to visit Manchester, because if you've never been to The Caravan and Motorhome Show, Mike Le Caplain thinks you're missing out on a rare treat

Think ‘Caravan Show’, and for most of us, ‘NEC’ immediately pops up, unbidden, from our memory banks. And that’s fair enough – the long-standing jamborees in Birmingham are rightly regarded as one of the best in the country, if not the whole of Europe.

But there are other big UK caravan shows, and the Manchester event I’ve just got back from is an excellent case in point. Obviously, it’s not as central as Brum, but for those who live in central or northern England, north Wales – or even the more southern reaches of Scotland – The Caravan and Motorhome Show is easily reached.

Back in the day, this show – the traditional New Year season opener – used to be hosted at a venue slap bang in the middle of the city, which made access and parking a bit of a nightmare. But these days the show takes place at a relatively new exhibition centre called EventCity. It’s on the outskirts of Manchester – a stone’s throw from the colossal Trafford Centre, in fact – and is easily reached by motorway. There’s loads of parking, too, and from there it’s just a short stroll into the building – no packed NEC-style buses here!

And while the NEC’s sheer scale is inevitably lacking here, it makes the whole show feel much more manageable. Even after a full day here, the dreaded, but traditional, NEC Aching Foot Syndrome was conspicuous only by its absence. And while I may be famous for my inherent lack of a sense of direction, even I didn’t get lost. Not once!

And don’t think for one moment that the exhibitors comprise mostly local dealers, with no manufacturer support: all the major companies had stands this year, together with both major clubs and a host of smaller accessories companies.

That said, this was the perfect opportunity to see the latest raft of dealer special editions, and one of the highlights for me was Kimberley Caravans’ new range of Kensington specials, based on the latest Compass. I was particularly taken by the French bed/end washroom 540, with its exclusive and very smart-looking upholstery, Snuglux bed linen and enormous spec. Factor in the Evo Mover and inflatable awning that Kimberley was throwing into the deal at Manchester, the price – less than £19,500 – looked like serious value at nearly £2200 off the full asking price.

Over on the Glossops stand, visitors could examine the latest Swift, Elddis and Coachman-based specials. The Coachman Festival 560/4 looked very smart, with a spec list that stretched to an 80w solar panel, exclusive upholstery and a remote-control alarm. At £19,290, it represented over £1800 off the RRP.

More impressive still, was the Elddis-based Chatsworth 550 – more high spec and unique soft furnishings, allied to a cracking island rear bed layout, complete with central convertible split washroom and shower. Its £18,490 asking price marked an RRP saving of over £2000.

There are lots of caravans for sale and many other bargains to be had, too. Kimberley Caravans had a brand new 2014 Hymer Luxusline 541 on offer for £24,850 – £1765 off the RRP and a useful saving over the equivalent 2015 MY Hymer Nova GL 541.

We were taken by a couple of new accessories, too. Snooper’s new Bluetooth-controlled Tyre Pilot tyre pressure monitoring system can be used as a standalone unit, or in conjunction with its latest caravan-specific Ventura Pro S6800 satellite navigation system, and allows you to keep a close eye on all your outfit’s tyres – including those on the van! This might become another must-have item for my caravan holidays.

It is clear that The Caravan and Motorhome Show at EventCity, Manchester, is a show to take seriously – we’ll see you there next year!

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