Rabbie’s Coach Tour
South West England
3 Day Tour
Reviewed by David Savage
In June 2012 What’s Good To Do were asked to review Rabbie’s Coach Tours. Rabbie’s are a Scottish company and their tours are well known in Scotland. They offer small group coach tours with a maximum of 16 passengers. They have recently started new routes departing from London and it is one of these I went to review.
I was asked to review the 3 day tour of South West England departing from London which takes you to Exeter with visits along the way to Stonehenge, Durdle Door and Dartmoor. This tour costs £179. You have to pay for your accommodation separately but depending on your budget Rabbie’s have a variety of choices from hostels to hotels and will book this for you.
Having never been on a coach tour before I was expecting to get on a large coach, be driven to the various drop-off points, look around and be picked up again. What I actually got was a far better, enjoyable and personal experience. The bus is a very comfortable 16 seater minicoach and the tour tries to use the least amount of motorway as possible to give you a much more scenic and enjoyable route. The driver wears a headset and talks about things you see along the way, what you can expect to see during the stops but this is not read from a standard prepared script so is keep light, fun, entertaining and the passengers are encouraged to give their input as well.
Day One – Saturday
I arrived at Victoria Coach Station in London on a Saturday morning, The 3 day South West England Tour departs at 9am. Our driver, Pete, met us at the coach stop and introduced himself. He loaded up the luggage and then we boarded the coach. Once onboard he explained all the various safety details such as wearing your sealtbelt and where the emergency exits were. Once we started our journey he explained a little bit about the people he worked for, Rabbie’s, and where our first stop would be.
Our first stop was Stonehenge – the most famous Neolithic standing stone circle. I found this to look much different than it does on the television. Although the stones themselves are huge the circle itself I found smaller than expected.
After about an hour of walking around Stonehenge we boarded the coach and headed to Lulworth Cove for some lunch. After a nice lunch in the small village we went over to Durdle Door, we decided to drive nearer rather than take the scenic walk over the hill as the weather in the South West wasn’t great that weekend.
Durdle Door has a natural rock arch in the sea and as Pete explained it looked like a dinosaur dipping its head into the water, and I’m afraid I have to agree with him but you may think differently. The views from here are absolutely outstanding and would be even better on a summer’s day especially with the sandy beaches and if you don’t have lunch in Lulworth Cove this would be an excellent place to have a picnic. Even though the weather was bad it was still a popular attraction and had people paddling in the sea and some even enjoying the mud on the hills by taking it in turns to run and slide down. Everybody was having fun.
We then boarded the coach again for to be taken to our final destination for the day, Exeter. We stayed in a wonderful B&B just near the town centre. The Park View is a wonderful place to stay. A small family run guest house in a Grade II listed Georgian building. The staff there were all very polite and helpful and made you feel right at home. My room was at the very top of the house giving a wonderful view (and yes you can see the park opposite). In each room was a welcome book with details of restaurants and telephone numbers. The room was very comfortable and very clean and tidy. The room has its own toilet and shower, TV and facilities to make your own tea/coffee. There was free wi-fi available for all guests. If you ever go to Exeter I highly recommend staying here. I was made to feel very welcome and at home, a good choice of accommodation by Rabbies.
Day Two – Sunday
After a very comfortable sleep I went down for breakfast. There was a choice of things to choice from: cereals, toast, fried breakfast options, hot drinks or juice. I skipped cereal and went straight for the fried breakfast which was cooked beautifully.
The weather had improved from the day before so we boarded the coach and set off for Dartmoor National Park where we could see the ponies and sheep just roaming around. Again the scenery is absolutely breath-taking. Our first stop was the ancient Clapper Bridge at Postbridge (large slabs of stone resting on stone piers). Despite being hundred s of years old this bridge is still complete and you are able walk across it.
We then got back aboard the bus heading towards Tavistock, the home of Sir Francis Drake. While driving past Dartmoor Prison the sun decided to disappear and the fog and mist came rolling in. It looked very eerie and reminded me of something out of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
We then stopped off at Buckfast Abbey – home to Benedictine Monks. This is a wonderful building and is still used today for services open to everybody.
We then went back to Exeter for the afternoon to explore this historic Roman city with lots of things to see like the 12th century Exeter Cathedral, the ruins of Rougemount Castle, its underground passages, ancient walls and Royal Albert Memorial museum.
Then back to the B&B for another well-earned sleep before setting off in the morning for Glastonbury and Bath.
Day Three – Monday
The final day of our tour. We set off for the small town of Glastonbury to see the Glastonbury Tor. We could see the Tor from miles away on top of a big hill said to be King Arthur’s Avalon. When we got there we walked upwards to the bottom of the hill and then had a steep 158 metre climb to the top (there are steps up to the top). When reaching the top the Tor is smaller than perceived while climbing but the views from the top are amazing, you can see for miles around in all directions and as the weather had been bad we could see where there had been flooding.
After heading back down the hill by the second route we boarded the bus for Bath.
When we arrived in Bath we had a couple of hours to get some lunch and enjoy the sites the city has to offer. There is Bath Cathedral, the Roman Baths and the wonderful architecture of the old buildings. After a couple of hours wondering around the old city we boarded the bus arriving back in London at 7.30pm.
Overall, I found the Rabbie’s tour very interesting. The driver was very knowledgeable and helpful. Along the way he gave plenty of information about what you were going to see and what you had seen. Although there is a schedule to keep to you were never made to rush so you could enjoy the sites and get a good look round and enjoy the places that you had visited. The selection of drop off sites and the routes seem to have been well thought out and with the smaller bus you get to places the larger tour buses cannot.
Although you are on the bus for long periods of time the bus is very comfortable and the seats do recline a bit for better comfort so you do not get off the bus feeling stiff.
As well as the 3 day tour I tried there are various other tours ranging from 2-5 days covering England, Ireland, Wales and, of course the home of Rabbie’s, Scotland.
Having never been a coach tour before I would certainly do one again and would use Rabbie’s as they seem to have done their research into the places they visit and accommodation. With knowledgeable drivers, not just on the history of the various places you are visiting, but with local knowledge of restaurants and places to eat it was made to feel much more personal. Not only did you get to see wonderful views, learn about some of England’s history, you also get to know your fellow passengers and the driver.
The only downside, it you do not like walking or can’t walk very well this tour is not for you but some of the others offered by Rabbie’s may be. Visit their website www.rabbies.com or give them a call on 0131 226 3133 for more information or advice.
For more information or to book a tour visit: www.rabbies.com