Trip Review- England-Scotland-Wales

This was the second leg of a back-to-back trip on Tauck. First, let me say that our tour director, Kori Northrup was Outstanding. Very knowledgeable, friendly, hard-working and basically did more than you would expect from a tour director. Kudos to Kori- The Best! The first leg of the trip we stayed at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh which is centrally located and is a fine hotel. Our time in Edinburgh was well planned and we enjoyed our stay. Next stop was the Lake District. A long bus ride with really nothing to see in the small town we stopped at before going to the hotel. When Kori kept saying "did I mention the hotel was rustic" I knew it would not be on par with the normal places Tauck uses. The staff was very friendly and the food was good but the room was some where out of the 1970s. Next stop was another long bus ride to Northern Wales. Again, Kori was tasked with saying something nice about the hotel with some sort of phrase. We were lucky enough that she put us into a very large suite, since my wife was not feeling well. Next stop was Oxford and poor Kori had to say (again) "did I mention the hotel was old." That was an understatement. The Randolph is literally falling down; there was scaffolding on half of the building and the elevator could hold no more than four people. The floor in our room was so sloped that I almost fell out of bed one night. This place is an old, tired hotel. Our dinner at Pembroke College (part of Oxford) was one of the highlights of our entire trip. Fantastic! We stopped at Stonehedge and even though it was raining and cold it was worth the time to see the monolithic stones. Another long bus ride to Bath where we stayed at the Franscis Hotel. Again, great location but not a top flight hotel. The dining room was dirty with stained chairs that should have been thrown away a long time ago and the food was less than expected in a so called special eatery. Next stop was London with a lot of free time, which was fine for us since we have been there before. We stayed at the Savoy which is a world class top flight hotel. Kori helped us choose an excellent play "Come From Away" and our driver taking us to the airport was right on time. The middle hotels on this tour were not very good and there was not much to see in some areas with way too much free time there. Not the best Tauck tour we have taken.

Comments

  • Thanks for your report. I'm considering this trip for Fall 2020. Kinda sounds like the Tauck Scandinavia trip I did last year. Lots of bus time and a couple of hotels that reminded me of something I would have stayed in when I was a student backpacking across Europe.

  • I don 't mean to sound critical but this reads like a hotel and bus only review. Remember, Tauck (and I) value location over almost every other hotel criteria, but in any case if there aren't 5-star hotels (which it seems you prefer) where you are going, Tauck tries their best to get the nicest places available. What you considered old and tired may be quaint to others. As to what is a long bus ride, that depends on the traveler. Scotland and England are not that large of countries and it takes only about 7 hours to travel by bus from Edinburgh all the way to London. How long were your coach rides, did you have stops? Tauck always plans interesting rest stops. Google maps says it is less than a 3 hour drive from Edinburgh to Grasmere. Did you stop for lunch at a manor house with Penelope and Giles on the way to the Lake District? It sounds to me like you would be much happier on a river cruise.

    We did this tour back in 2013 but looking at the itinerary, it is very similar to yours. There still appears to be quite a few extremely interesting places Tauck takes you to along the way. What about Edinbugh and Stirling Castles, Holyrood. What about Levens Hall, Chester, Caernarfon Castle, Blenheim Palace, etc. etc.? You really seemed to have focused on what you considered the weak points and almost totally ignored everything else! This tour was one of our top 3 and I'm sure there are others who feel the same.

  • I'll echo what Alan says that the tour seems pretty much the same as we experienced in 2017. We found pros and cons to all the hotels on this trip. Yes, the Savoy is tops but I prefer a breakfast buffet and the Sheraton is a very good executive hotel lacking any historical ambiance. And Tauck does have a problem with finding a larger hotel in the Lake District as most tend to be too small to regularly accommodate a large coach worth of tourist. The Randolph and Francis are historical properties in fantastic locations with quirks like a tiny elevator, the undulating floors, etc. We found it was all worth the many fantastic sites we saw and excellent itinerary.

  • We did this tour last year, and I could not agree more completely with Claudia and Alan about hotels and activities, so I will not add too many details there (I liked all of them and found the locations to be outstanding). I will, however, comment about the long bus ride from Edinburgh to the Lake District. I HATE long bus rides, and when we left Edinburgh, I was prepared with a myriad of bus activities...books, crosswords, Ipad, etc. I am happy to report I never touched one of them. I was actually fascinated with the beautiful countryside and the small towns we passed through! I loved the rolling green farmlands, the intermittent fields covered in yellow canola flowers, the stone walls, following Hadrian's Wall and interesting farms and farm houses. It was one of those Tauck "Yellow Roads" trip. The trip from Grasmere (a pretty important Wordsworth connection here) to the Langdale Hotel was an adventure (think riding in a coach on a road barely wide enough to fit one car...and then you meet a truck coming the other way...kudos to Joe, our driver, who navigated this road 4 times). A number of us walked part way back to the hotel along a river trail that was lovely. Yes, the hotel is rustic (and, those who have been on this trip will attest to the room safe...we had a lot of laughs about it), but you are in the countryside. Shame on your TD for downplaying it (I am not big on rustic either, but it was part of the experience) ...and tainting your opinion. And, by the way, the Randolph seemed to be good enough for Russell Crowe when we were there. Furthermore, if your room is unsuitable (floors slanted enough to cause one to fall out of bed would fit into this category, in my mind), you can always ask to be moved. I am sensitive to cigarette smoke and even asked at the Savoy to be moved from a room that had a lingering odor. They were very nice about changing our room.

  • edited June 18

    On the trip from Edinburgh to the Lake District we had a restroom stop in an ordinary car park, but it was next to this ruined church abbey. It had an interesting story which I no longer remember- a victim of Henry VIII purge? I found it! It was south of Edinburgh in the small town of Jedburgh.

    Bishop Ecgred of Lindisfarne founded a church at Jedburgh in the 9th century, and King David I of Scotland made it a priory between 1118 and 1138, housing Augustinian monks from Beauvais in France. The abbey was founded in 1147, but border wars with England in the 16th century left it a ruin. That is pretty darn old! Aren't Google maps and Wikipedia great!! Read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jedburgh

    Then we made two stops along Hadrian's Wall, the first one at the ruins of a Roman fort which had a wonderful little museum filled with Roman artifacts :

    The second stop just had great views of the wall coursing the countryside. (FYI, you can actually see and follow much of the 70 miles of wall on Google Earth satellite view !)

    Then we had a wonderful lunch and visit with the owners of a country manor home where we learned about what has happened to the landed gentry- they have to rent out their houses or offer lunch and lectures to tourists to be able to pay taxes and keep their homes! It wasn't Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) but was interesting just the same.

    And let's not forget Grasmere and Dove Cottage!

    Nope, nothing to see and do on the long and boring ride from Edinburgh! Say what!?!?!?!

  • The last time I was in England we were traveling with a big group of friends and were bused from Yorkshire to Edinburgh. The scenery was beautiful but most people chose to sleep. They missed so much. Some of my most favorite memories of Tauck tours are the bus rides, thinking India, the ride from Krakow, Patagonia, Iceland to name a few.

  • edited June 18

    During one of the early bus rides on Ultimate Alsps a few years ago our TD said she would stay quiet for awhile so many (most) in our group decided to doze off. They missed so much. Along the way there was so much beautiful scenery and I got some great photos from the bus of castles, monasteries, interesting churches, etc. I didn't know what I was seeing until we got home and I used my photos, time stamps, Google maps, etc. to research and identify them. Everything I saw and photographed had a story and historical significance! It was fun playing detective and the process allowed me to re-live part of the tour.

  • We did this tour back 2013. Kori was our TD and I agree that she was one of the best (nice that we can put TD names in now without them being censored). As someone who has traveled to Britain several times, I think Tauck has done a really good job of putting together an itinerary that covers the three countries that make up Great Britain. Yes, some of my favorite places aren't on the tour, and there are parts of Britain that are more interesting than others, but a good smattering. Yes, the bus rides in Northern England / Southern Scotland can be tedious for some, but much of that area is farmland and there's only so much to see. As to the Randolph in Oxford, while it was a bit rickety, you could not get a better location. Across the street from the Ashmolean Museum in the heart of Oxford! Plus, the hotel bar is where the fictional Inspector Morse did the Times crossword, while sipping his whiskey.

    People definitely have varying tastes and Tauck does their best to satisfy the most people. When we took one of the trip highlights for me were staying in Portmerion village in Wales. This resort was built over a period of 48 years by the Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis as a model village. It was also the setting for the 1960s TV series, "The Prisoner" with Patrick McGoohan.

    At that time the final dinner was in the Wakefield Tower at the Tower of London. Afterwards, we got to see the Ceremony of the Keys (the ritual locking of the Tower for the night).

    For me, the visit to Portmerion and the dinner at the tower were the reason to book with Tauck, as opposed to doing another trip on my own. Both of these have now been dropped from the tour. While I loved these, apparently most people didn't appreciate them. What a shame.

    Here's a picture of Portmerion village:

  • We did E,S, W in July of 2013. All Ken said and more!

  • My wife and I took the June 2, 2019 tour of England, Scotland and Wales . First, Kori was our director and was excellent, cheerful, energetic, knowledgable and fun. This is our fourth Tauck tour and while all the directors have been excellent, Kori really stood out. The tour had wonderful variety, first Edinburgh which was beautiful despite the weather which was a bit cold and rainy. (Important to bring some warm clothes, umbrellas and ponchos if it gets windy which it did even in the beginning of June). The landscapes that we passed through when we had travel days were generally beautiful. It is England after all. Very green and with a lot of sheep! While traveling Kori gave us a lot of interesting details about the history of England, its rulers and people, and did so in a lively entertaining way. We were able to see bits of the Hadrian wall and stop at what was left of one of the Roman forts the first travel day. We made a great stop to visit a manor house for lunch and to meet the owners. Then entered the Lake District which is a particularly beautiful part of England. We took a "ramble," which is a walk, along a river in the Lake District and I got some of my best landscape photographs of the trip! We felt that each of the places we then traveled to, Wales with beautiful castles, Stratford where we were able to visit Shakespeare's cottage, Oxford with its magnificent University (Randolph Hotel excellent), Bath where we saw intact amazing Roman baths, and Stonehenge with its mysterious construction of huge boulders were important and interesting in their own way. Hotels varied but as Tauck explained not all of the areas we traveled to had Savoy level hotels which was our last hotel in London. And we did get to stay at the Savoy for three days as part of the tour. There was more down time in London to do what we wanted which made sense as many people have been to London. Also a lot of choice in the offering for our theatre night. Food throughout was high quality and varied with many different venues such as high end dining rooms, Pubs, a University dining hall in Oxford, a private home, a food school and so on. In all we thought the trip was excellent, with a great itinerary, variety, well chosen stops and time used wisely to see as much as possible. We had a brand new Tauck bus driven by our great driver Mick who got us safely through some very twisty and narrow roads! There also was a good balance between down time and activity most of the time. This was a full tour not a small group tour. And a lot of friendly and interesting people which is generally the case with fellow travelers we have met with Tauck.

  • Great review. You just gotta love the Tauck buses and their mural wraps- the best looking buses in the UK, heck all of Europe!

  • We have returned from this trip in August. We enjoyed it thoroughly and I would like to recommend the play we saw in London. "Come from Away" is a musical based upon the planes that were forced to land in Gander Newfoundland on September 11. I was a bit apprehensive because of the nearness of the events of that day. However the play was well done and a good representation of the events of that week. My boss was on one of those flights. The presentation was true to what she told us about the time in Newfoundland.

  • We have seen that play on Broadway twice, the second time very recently. It’s now one of our top favorite musicals, we are theatre crazy people.

  • We saw it in Chicago last month and would also highly recommend it. I read The Day the World Came to Town after seeing the play - it was also very good.

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