Travel Features

Lots of travel writers join coach tours each year and write about their experiences. So what makes journalists like going on coach trips? Travel writer Anthony Peregrine, a long time coach advocate, summed up why he likes going by coach in the Daily Telegraph: “Organised group trips take most of the worry out of holidays. All you do is show up at the right place, bung your bags on the coach and that’s it. Someone else shoulders responsibility for almost everything else. And there is an enormous plus: it comes with built-in company.”

Norman Wight, editor of Choice magazine, said: “One of the best things about a coach tour is you actually get enough time to savour the adventure and enjoy the discovery, nostalgia and romance that’s the reward of travel. Unlike holidaying by air, coach operators treat you like human beings and you don’t have to worry, queue, walk through security in your socks, sit with your knees under your chin or get a bill for forty quid for having luggage a few lbs too heavy.”

Go by coach for comfort, freedom and friendship

Anthony peregrine

Let us make a bold claim: there is no trip you will ever take more moving than a tour round Great War battlefields. Certainly, there are prettier places than Belgium and northern France (in competition with almost anywhere, the Somme…

comes second). There are destinations with better hotels, (much) more sun and brighter night-life. But nowhere on earth so smacks the senses.

To stand where hundreds of thousands of our young men fought and died for a cause they mainly believed in – at Passchendaele, Loos, Beaumont-Hamel or Serre where the northern Pals’ battalions were mown down – is to be in touch with something deeper and better than yourself. And, somehow, it answers a need for decency, even nobility, at a time when the public domain is dominated by renewed barbarity, self-regarding sports stars and brain-dead celebs. It is particularly relevant this year, when we are marking the centenary of the Somme battle.

The best way of tackling such a trip is by coach. This is a coach industry publication, so it’ s unlikely I’ d say anything else. But it is also true. I’ ve done the sites by car, van, bicycle – and, most recently, coach. Coach proved the most satisfactory. It would certainly be so for first-timers.

For a start, as with all coach tours, there is the sheer relief of off-loading responsibility. Get your case to the right place at the right time, and you’ re done. Worries evaporate. Coach comfort, too, has moved on a bit in recent times. On my trip, it scarcely mattered that I was sat next to one of the stoutest men ever to emerge from Shropshire; there was room enoughfor a young hippo. (On the minus side, the provided packed lunches needed attention, though their quality did give the Shropshire lad a break from eating.)

Off-loading responsibility means, too, that it’ s up to someone else to negotiate the country lanes and farm tracks of these essentially rustic areas. There are no howling arguments with the spouse or GPS. You have a driver. Thus are you freed to contemplate the hedgeless, undulating landscape in which “hills” on which thousands died turn out to be the gentlest of slopes. To contemplate, too, villages like Pozières whose names toll through the Commonwealth but which are today insignificant brick and stone smudges amid hundreds of acres of sugar-beet.

But the very greatest advantages of coach tours are two-fold. Firstly, they come equipped with guides. These men and women ensure you’ re taken to the right places, then make sense of them, both on the ground and in the wider context of the war. Doing the requisite research yourself would weigh you down for weeks beforehand. The finest guide I’ ve had was an ebullient Nottinghamshire fellow called Vic Piuk. He worked for Leger and guided around the Great War as around his home country, seamlessly mixing global and anecdotal. Vic pitched the commentaries right, with meat enough for the informed, sufficient lightness for those with a less firm historical grasp. Or none at all. (One chap on our trip hadn’ t heard of Australian, American or even French participation in the war. “I thought it was just us against the Germans,” he said.)

The second of the greatest advantages is the provision of people with whom to share the experience. Touring these sites isn’ t like touring beauty spots. It is getting to grips with something fundamental.

This fosters both fellowship and camaraderie – a bit like war itself but with less mud, better food and enhanced life expectancy. Coach trips supply the necessary built-in company, as other ways of visiting obviously cannot. Effortlessly, one gets involved in other people’ s stories.

Inspired by internet genealogy, or old photos kept in a biscuit tin, many fellow travellers are seeking signs of (great) grandad or a much-forgotten great uncle. On my trip, at least three family groups were on such a search. They were mainly female. Battle tactics and war buffery may be male preserves but, when it comes to keeping tabs on grandad, women are tenacious. We eventually found the names of two of the men sought on the mega-monument at Thiépval. The name of the third grandad was inscribed among thousands on the Menin Gate at Ypres. A Northamptonshire lady had led a family group out to seek him. “When we ‘ found’ him, I just said, ‘ You were part of our family, and we’ re here for you. That’ s all. We’ re here’”. Perhaps only a coach tour affords the opportunity to exchange such raw and powerful moments. I shall remember that one for quite some time.

Discovering the delights of touring by coach

Barry Cooper

Whisper it quietly, but apparently, nobody under the age of 50 seems to enjoy going on a bus, let alone a coach. And the prospect of embarking on a coaching holiday is probably something that would be laughed at, followed by an expletive or ten.

So when the chance of taking a coach trip around London came up a couple of summers ago, there were not too many takers in a newsroom dominated by those under 30. Well, I’ll be more precise, there were none.

It was left to me to question why nobody would want a few days in the capital, but let measure you, their loss has proved to be my gain. For reference at that point I was 31, thus comfortably falling outside of the ‘under 30’ bracket.

Ever since that trip to our great capital, taking in the likes of theatreland’s Jersey Boys, tours around the BBC, Kew Gardens and a guided tour of the city’s Wetherspoon’s hotspots from the CTA’s supremo, Chris Wales, things have gone from strength to strength.

That trip proved to be a watershed moment for me and opened my eyes to the fun and enjoyment you can actually have on a coach tour.

It’s so much more than going on a big fancy bus. Young people understandably have a perception that these trips are primarily for those of a certain age, and I refuse to use the term ‘old fogies’, because let’s be honest, you’re never too far away from a group of golden oldies stood at a bus stop awaiting collection. Or when on a day trip to the seaside, there’s always lots of coaches dropping off the ‘old folks’ for their fish suppers and mug of Yorkshire Tea. They often conform to stereotype.

Unless you’re on a school trip or travelling away with your football team, when needs must, why would you travel on a coach for actual pleasure?

Well, here’s the thing. You get taken around in smart, comfortable transport, often picked up from your door, taken everywhere, fed, watered and stay – generally – in very nice hotels. And if like me you love a cup of tea and a biscuit when the clock’s hand moves, you’re never too far away from just that.

There’s a couple more things to note. I went on holiday to Scotland a few years ago. It was fantastic but I did all the driving bar a few hours when I wasn’t feeling so good (nothing to do with the whisky), thus not really seeing too much of the scenery. Fast forward a couple of years and a coach trip to the Borders, I saw everything and didn’t have to worry about pulling over for a glance at Scotland’s breathtaking views, or finding 50p for the parking meter. For someone who lives to a deadline, the only thing I had to concern myself with was being on the coach at a certain time in the morning, and what time to be down for dinner in the evening. I didn’t have to think, plan or organise anything – and I spend my life doing those things, so it made a refreshing and compelling change.

There’s another big thing that would be remiss of me to ignore – the company. Naturally when you spend a fair amount of time in the clutches of others, be it on a coach or sipping a pint in the bar, you get to know them well. It’s a beautiful thing and as humans, believe it or not, we were born to interact and make friends. Even at the age of 33, I’ve still got the ability to do just that despite the fact people seem less intent on communicating now than ever before.

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy trips to Guernsey, the Isle of Wight, Devon and Cornwall among others which have all been hugely rewarding. None more so than when in Devon, I was afforded the chance of fulfilling a childhood dream and driving a steam train on the South Devon Railway.

While coach trips might not be for everyone, and like anything else, have their pros and cons, my eyes have been opened to what a pleasurable world it can be. Many things in life deserve to be tried at least once – this is most certainly one of those and I’m convinced if more young people tried it, they’d actually enjoy it. Just like me

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