Tuesday, June 18, 2024

I tried the mystery coach trips that take you to a secret UK seaside destination

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IF YOU think coach trips are only for school kids or OAPs, you may want to think again.

Earlier in the year, I signed up for a mystery seaside excursion to see whether we should all carry on coaching.

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I signed up for the Wowcher-style mystery coach trips that take passengers to a secret destinationCredit: Catherine Lofthouse
I paid £34 for my return ticket, which included free refreshments in the cosy departure lounge

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I paid £34 for my return ticket, which included free refreshments in the cosy departure loungeCredit: Catherine Lofthouse

I had no idea where we were heading, or whether it would be somewhere I’d been before, but the bus was full, so I wasn’t the only one who was up for a surprise.

I felt like I’d bagged a bargain at £34 return, given that the nearest coast is at least two hours away from my East Midlands starting point.

In my family, I’m the one who makes all the travel plans, books the days out, and checks the weather forecast to see whether we need to change our plans.

So it was great not to have to give any thought to where we were going, how to get there, or when to head home. 

Read More on Bus Journeys

I absolutely loved not being in the driving seat, both literally and metaphorically.

I was hoping for North Wales, but it wasn’t to be.

When the coach started to head east along the A14 towards Norfolk, I was a bit apprehensive, given the fact that I’d recently come back from a week in Great Yarmouth and have family who lives near there, so it’s somewhere I’ve visited a lot over the years.

It would be ironic if the mystery tour ended up in a place that you visit all the time, but it’s just the luck of the draw. 

I was hoping our bus would divert off to somewhere like Southwold on the Suffolk Coast, but we ended up in Essex’s Southend-on-Sea, home to the world’s longest pleasure pier stretching 1.3 miles out to sea.

I’d never visited before and I enjoyed strolling along the pier, visiting the lifeboat station and cafe at the end and then heading back to land on the little train.

Best of British: Margate’s beach and numerous attractions make it the perfect getaway

Just a stone’s throw away is the cliff lift, which is the UK’s shortest railway at just 40m long.

This free funicular is manned by volunteers and takes a dozen passengers up or down the 17m cliff.

Adventure Island looked good, if you’re into rides and rollercoasters, and there’s also an aquarium and plenty of amusement arcades.

The beach isn’t the best, given it’s shingle and mudflats at low tide, but families can paddle and enjoy the playground at Three Shells Lagoon off the esplanade – even when the sea’s out.

I can’t see myself heading back to Southend any time soon, as it wasn’t really my cup of tea and a day trip was more than enough to potter around and enjoy what it has to offer.

But it’s also not a place I would ever have thought about visiting, so it was good to give it a go.

One of the unexpected joys of taking the coach was the companionship on the journey to and from the seaside.

Before we even set off, we gathered in a cosy departure lounge at the Roberts travel depot, with hot drinks on offer and a chance to have a bit of fun by taking a guess at where we were going for the day. 

One of the unexpected joys of taking the coach was the companionship

Once on the coach, I had a good long natter with my seat companion and then we had plenty to talk about on the way home, comparing stories about where we’d been and what we’d seen during the day.

She’d already booked a day trip to Southend with the same coach company a month later, so that is one of the potential problems with signing up for a surprise destination – you could end up heading somewhere twice in a short amount of time.

If you fancy a day trip without any driving, catching the coach to the coast could be a comfy and cost-effective option.

No wonder more than six million passengers hop on board each year.

The £1.75 bus journey past London’s top landmarks

Even though most visitors to London simply use the city’s iconic red buses to get from one attraction to the next, there’s one public bus route that passes by several famous landmarks, and tickets cost less than £2.

The number 24 bus runs from Pimlico to Hampstead Heath, and it passes by landmarks like Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and Camden Town.

To make the most of the bus journey, passengers will want to board the bus outside Victoria train station.

The bus then travels eastwards past Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben.

It then pootles along Parliament Street passing Downing Street as well as memorials and statues like the Cenotaph and The Women of World War II.

At the end of Parliament Street, the bus arrives at Trafalgar Square where passengers will be able to spot Nelson’s column.

The bus then travels past the National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square, and Camden Town before arriving at Hampstead Heath.

Meanwhile, you can ride a London tube train with sea views on this British island.

And these are some of the most beautiful railway journeys in the UK.

If you fancy a day trip without any driving, catching the coach to the coast could be a comfy and cost-effective option

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If you fancy a day trip without any driving, catching the coach to the coast could be a comfy and cost-effective optionCredit: Catherine Lofthouse

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