In May 2023, a friend and I took a 24-day coach tour across England. Yes, through each county, England, Wales, Ireland, North Ireland, and Scotland. It was a great adventure. It was a long trip, but we wanted to see everything. And we did, learning quickly how to journey across England on a coach tour.
One tip, book with a good travel company. We booked the tour through Vacations to Go with Globus. We got a pretty good deal on the trip after looking at numerous tour packages. Globus was a bit more expensive, but I think we got the most bang for our buck.
Packing was a challenge because you could only have one bag, which had to be under 50 pounds. The reason for this is that the bags were offloaded at each hotel. There were seventeen hotels. Laundry would also need to be considered because it would help with less packing.
I learned that you can usually find a laundromat in any town you stay in. Just google the area near your hotel, and you will find something that will work. Some hotels have onsite laundry, but this can be rare in England.
A couple on our tour, seasoned travelers, only carried one small bag each. I asked them early on how they managed to do that. They said they only packed enough clothes for a couple of days, and all their clothes were quick to dry, and they washed one set each evening. They always looked fresh and fashionable.
The best thing was that we saw so much that we can now choose what we want to return and experience again.
London on the Thames
We arrived a few days early to do some things we wanted to do in London. Seeing the Abba Voyage show, touring the Tower of London, and visiting Highclere Castle. We arrived at Heathrow the day after the coronation of King Charles and took a car into the city. Thankfully, our room was ready, and we checked into Park Plaza Westminster Bridge and hit the ground running.
We became fans of the Uber boats on the Thames. The boats were easy to board, comfortable, and not terribly crowded, and the hotel was close to the river. One afternoon, we took a tea cruise with City Cruises because who wouldn’t enjoy tea on the Thames? It was lovely.
Things to do in London
The Abba Voyage show was fantastic and loud. Make sure to take some earplugs if you are so inclined. It is a pricy show but something you won’t soon forget.
The Tower of London and viewing the crown jewels was exciting, and we were happy to see that all the items had been returned from the coronation the day before. The tour guides at the Tower are entertaining and informative.
The castle visit was a highlight of the first few days. We woke up late and hustled to get to the train station. Thankfully the tube got us to Paddington Station quickly. Trains can be dodgy things at times in Britain, but we made it to our destination without incident.
While at Highclere, Lord and Lady Carnarvon gave a presentation on her newest book. The Lady and the Pharaoh. We each received a signed book and a tour of the castle. It is slightly different from how it is portrayed in Downton Abbey but no less magical. The entry hall, main hall, and staircase seem a bit smaller in reality because of how the show was shot. The library does not disappoint, and seeing all the family photographs around the room was interesting.
Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside the castle. They want you to buy their book about the house. We took lots of pictures outside. Our ticket included a prepackaged tea which we enjoyed outside the tea shop.
We were chatting with other visitors, taking pictures outside the front door, and rang the taxi driver, who had picked us up at the train station. He said he could pick us up for a return to the station. As we were chatting, the front door opened, and one of the cleaners stepped out, Jason. He was fun to chat with and gave us a few more details about the house. I called him Mrs. Hughes grandson.
The call to the cabbie was not returned, so now a slight panic began to set in. It was getting to be 3 pm, and we needed to figure out how to get a return ride to the station. We asked our newfound friends if they would give us a ride to the train station. “If you can fit in the back seat of the car.” It was a small Fiat, and we made it work. We will be eternally grateful to that couple from upstate New York for helping to get us back to London. The return train tickets were confusing, but we returned safely to Paddington Station and the hotel.
The coach tour begins
Bright and early the following day, we breakfasted at the hotel and then joined 44 other individuals in boarding our coach that we would share for the next 24 days. The age range of the group was 30-80+. Some were family groups, most were married couples, some were companion travelers, and we had a couple of solo travelers. We had yet to be introduced to anyone, but we quickly made friends with our new coach mates. It was a good cross-section of the world, 1/3 Americans, 1/3 Australians, and 1/3 Canadians.
Stonehenge. Yes, it is a famous pile of rocks. A brief hailstorm happened as we were walking around the monument. I was thankful for umbrellas to shield us. We ended the day at Plymouth Harbor and a short boat cruise. The Mayflower had sailed these waters to the New World.
We stayed overnight at the Crowne Plaza Plymouth for two nights. The hotel was located near a memorial park high overlooking the harbor. The view was spectacular. We had dinner in a pub with some of our new friends. The next day, it was off to Cornwall and the town of St. Ives and back to the hotel.
It was off to Bath to see the Roman Baths. It was quite a visit, with the central plaza buzzing with ‘buskers’ performing for the crowds. We ended our day in Newport, Wales, at the Coldra Court by Celtic Manor.
We were off to the ferry for a three-hour crossing to Ireland. We arrived in Waterford, and that evening, we were treated to an Irish Coffee demonstration after dinner at our hotel, the Granville. While it did not disappoint, the dinner service and Irish Coffee demo were less enticing than expected. But then I discovered Bailey’s and Hot Chocolate. Game changer for ending a meal.
Waterford Crystal beckoned after a morning walking tour of the city. During the tour, I was astonished by the craftsmen and the crystal. Then we headed to Blarney Castle. Blarney Castle is not really a castle but a ruin. But the shopping area was fun, and we had a lovely pub lunch. We arrived at the Trident Hotel in Kinsale that evening. This was a beautiful hotel with views of the harbor. We walked into town and visited some of the shops. That evening we enjoyed another group dinner with terrific service.
The next day we drove the Ring of Kerry, enjoying the Irish landscape and the narrow lanes as our driver negotiated the coach. We arrived at the Scotts Hotel in Killarney for two nights. This was also our first opportunity to do laundry. We took a cab to the nearby Tesco, where there was a laundromat at the petrol station. It sounds unusual, but it worked out fine. In fact, when we arrived, two of our coach mates had already found the place. The husbands were doing the laundry. On the second night, we were treated to a lovely meal at the Arbutus Hotel and some Irish songs and dancing at dinner.
It was off to Dingle Bay, where we had our first bit of rain for the tour. We had another pub lunch as a group, where I tried the fragrant, tasty Dingle gin. I wish I could have found a bottle! Then we ended our day in Limerick at the Clayton Hotel. We walked into the city but decided to try the restaurant at the hotel instead when it started to drizzle. We drove to the Cliffs of Moher the following day and marveled at the landscape. Then it was onto Sligo, where we ran into a big wedding at the Radisson Blu Sligo hotel. I used the spa facility for a massage.
The following day, the Giant’s Causeway provided one of the most unusual, naturally occurring sites I had seen. I was also glad there was a tram to take us down and back on the side of the mountain. It was quite the hike. We overnighted at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast and had another group dinner. The hotel’s cute mascot was a little rubber ducky.
On Sunday, we toured Belfast and learned about ‘the troubles. We visited the Titanic Museum, which was built where the ship was constructed. Then it was time for Dublin. We arrived in the late afternoon and had dinner at a local pizza place near the university.
The Hilton Garden Inn had an onsite laundry, so everyone was trying to wash clothes. I understood some people may have done some late night spin cycles.
We were provided a Dublin city bus tour on the coach, which was tedious because navigating Dublin can be difficult. We could have used our time better on foot to do our exploring. In the afternoon, we made reservations to view the Book of Kells and the Library at Trinity College. It is something not to be missed.
Dinner at the Guinness Storehouse was enjoyable, and I enjoyed a pint where the amber ale was created.
The next day it was another ferry ride to North Wales and the tour with a difficult name to pronounce and too many letters to remember. There had been an accident on the motorway, so we were delayed here for a while for some food, drinks, and shopping.
We ended our day at the Pullman Liverpool, where we could see the Liverpool Eye from the hotel room. The next day we visited the Beatles Story just down the street. We drove through the Lake District, one of England’s loveliest places. We lunched, walked, and found Wordsworth’s grave and garden in Grasmere. I would love to return for an actual stay. Then it was on to Gretna Green, where millions of people have wed throughout the years. We ended the day at the Clayton Hotel in Glasgow.
In Glasgow, we had dinner with our coach mates in the hotel. I had chatted with some of my coach mates about concocting the ‘ducky’ award. We had all picked up the little yellow ducks from our rooms at the Stormont. One of our coach mates, a school principal, decided we would award a ducky to whoever had the best story of bringing fun to the entire group.
Scotland was magical. The terrain is rugged and beautiful. We transversed the water again on a small ferry ride to the Isle of Skye. It was on to Inverness, where we spent two nights in Inverness at the Mercure Hotel. I was not impressed with the hotel, but a laundromat was nearby, meaning we could wash some clothes.
We toured Uruqhart Castle and had a boat tour of Loch Ness in the afternoon, looking for ‘Nessie.” She did not make an appearance, but we found her likeness onshore. On our second night in Inverness, several of our fellow travelers met up to find a place for dinner on Friday night. Luckily, our patience won out, and we found Johnny Foxes near the hotel. We had the most kind and energetic waitress from Poland, who was attentive and funny.
We reached St Andrews on a Saturday. What a fantastic place to see! I had watched the British Open for years, so standing on the bridge on the 17th fairway was a bucket list item for me. We lunched at the Rusacks Hotel overlooking the 18th green and watched the not-so-good golfers finish their rounds—iconic time for me.
We attended a Scottish Evening featuring the haggis, bagpipes, and Scottish dancing in Edinburgh that evening. It was a loud evening. I did enjoy meeting Andy, the bagpipe player, who happened to be the Queen Mum’s favorite. In Edinburgh, we stayed at the Marriot Courtyard near Princess St. It is a bustling city.
On our second day, we did a morning tour of Edinburgh Castle. I had enjoyed the haggis at the Scottish dinner, so I had it again when we lunched at the Balmoral Hotel. In the afternoon, we toured the Royal Yacht Britannia. It was old school and not as elaborate as I thought it would be. Considering the Queen and Prince Philip designed much of the vessel, it’s easy to see why it was so hard for her to let it go.
Heading back to London
The following day on our way to York, we toured Floors Castle. It was a beautiful visit. But again, no pictures inside. I found the best shortbread cookies I have ever had here. If only they shipped to the States!
After arriving in York, we had a walking tour which included a lovely Abbey. After the tour, we found some excellent Chinese food at Happy Valley Chinese. Sometimes you want what you want. It was a historic find. The restaurant was housed in a building that was in the oldest surviving row of houses, built in 1316. That evening we stayed in a Doubletree Hotel with some oddly shaped rooms. Some of my travel companions were none too happy.
The next day we visited Stratford upon Avon, where we visited the home of William Shakespeare. It was a fitting end to our journey. We stayed in the Crowne Plaza in Stratford and had a final group dinner at a pub outside of Stratford. During dinner, we awarded the ducky to the best travel story on the coach tour.
On returning to London, we toured Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill was born. Blenheim is a beautiful place with enormous grounds and gardens. We stayed at the Park Plaza Waterloo Hotel, a short walk from the hotel where we began our trip.
On our final day in London, we toured Windsor Castle. Well, we tried to. There were severe traffic issues in London, and we had to stop at multiple hotels to pick up other attendees. It was so crowded when we arrived that we barely had two hours on site. Windsor is a large place. You need time to see everything, and we didn’t have it. It was shoulder-to-shoulder when we did try and see some of the rooms. It was so uncomfortable that we decided to find a pub and wait until our return time. At least we got some pictures.
The tour was easy and comfortable, but having a different hotel nearly every day and repacking for an early departure each day became tedious. Honestly, it was a bit long. We are both seasoned travelers, but by day 18, the bus was getting a bit tiresome.
We, of course, overpacked and didn’t need some things we brought. Every time I travel, I learn something else, not to pack and that laundry is usually available.
The Globus personnel were attentive to our needs. Our tour director and driver were both seasoned professionals. We made some good friends on the tour that we will stay in touch with. When we returned to London, we learned a rail strike was happening, so we were glad we had gotten our sightseeing done when we a
Would I do it again? Yes, but not for that length of time. Why? Because there is nothing I would have given up seeing on the tour. Each stop was interesting and gave me plenty of ideas for another visit. As always, you must manage your expectations.
Our tour guide and driver were experienced and knowledgeable. They were able to have things corrected quickly. Especially when it came to managing 46 individuals. One traveler left their phone at one of the hotels, and they arranged for it to be delivered to the next one. There was a charge for the service, but then he needed his phone. Globus delivered, and I liked that there’s an app for travelers with tour details available.
- Try a short duration trip before you sign up for a large haul. Traveling in a foreign county is always different than you expect. Health and medical issues can flare up. Be prepared for that and pack what you need if the unexpected happens. Overall, you need to be able to enjoy your journey.
- Travel with someone you know. Twenty-four days is a long time to be together.
- Be kind to your fellow coachmates. You might make some real friends.