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Review: Houghs of Lincolnshire

Travel Service - Tour Operator/Travel Provider

Middlethorpe Road DN35 9PR , Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, DN35 9PR , United Kingdom

Escorted Tour: Stratford and Warwick 2 day weekend - working to the lowest possible price

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2167 reviews

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  • May 2016

27 people found this review helpful

I don’t drive and since husband died I’ve had to radically rethink holidays and consider the ‘dreaded coach tour’. This was my first trip with Houghs of Lincolnshire. Actually I tell a lie there as I should have gone with them to the Dutch bulb fields at the beginning of May but that was cancelled due to lack of bookings. Talking to others on the coach, I gather this isn’t an isolated event as Houghs like to have a full coach. There were 56 of us, so no problems this time.

It was a two day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick, stopping at the Royal Court Hotel in Coventry at the end of May for £69. It sounded too good to be true.

Bookings can’t be made by the internet, so I rang up to book, having ascertained that I would have a reasonable length of time in both places. I got the impression they were surprised to be asked that. I was given a pick up time from Scunthorpe but no estimated time of return. I rang up to ask about this just before we went and got a very shirty response that they didn’t know as it all depended on traffic. While I accept this, it didn’t help me as I needed to arrange a pick up from the bus station home. I was eventually told that we would be leaving Warwick between 3-3.30 and the phone was put down before I had chance to ask any more questions.

Although Houghs make a point on their website about their newest coach which is the newest touring coach in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, we didn’t get that. Instead it was a ten year old coach although it was comfortable and did the job.

I didn’t warm to the driver although I have a feeling that may have been mutual. He lacked interpersonal skills and came across as being offhand and unhelpful. As soon as we stopped, he was off the coach to light a cigarette. There was no attempt to help passengers on or off the coach or talk to them. There was little rapport between him and most of the passengers. Regulars assured me that he was fine once you got used to him.

There were six of us waiting to be picked up at Scunthorpe Bus Station and our first stop was Woodhall Services on the M1 where we had 45 minute break. Fortunately the sun was shining and there were picnic tables outside. Unfortunately I had packed my book in my suitcase.

We arrived in Stratford and parked up behind the Leisure Centre and were told there were toilets there. I was one of the first off the bus, which was just as well as they weren’t designed to cope with bus loads. I was thankful I had a map of Stratford as the instructions given by the driver were confusing and seemed to bear no relationship to what was on the ground. This wasn’t the most convenient of places to be dropped off, especially for any one with mobility issues and there were quite a few on the coach, as it was a good 15 minutes walk to the centre of Stratford.

I had a clear plan of things I wanted to do and had bought tickets for the Shakespeare Town Properties on the internet. First on the list was Shakespeare’s Birthplace as guide books warn that can get busy. It was lunchtime and I was surprised (and pleased) that it was fairly quiet. It is a lovely timber frame house which was heavily restored by the Victorians and apart from a first folio there is nothing directly connected to Shakespeare left. It is top of the tick list though for people who want to just stand in the room where Shakespeare was born. There is no information available in English about the house although there are leaflets in a variety of different languages. There is also little information about the house and it is sparsely furnished. Fortunately the two costumed interpreters were knowledgeable. I came out feeling a bit cheated.

I then headed to "Hall’s Croft ":http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/stately_homes_castles/england/westmidlands/hallscroft/index.html which is away from the town centre and was the home of Shakespeare’s favourite daughter Susanna and her husband Dr John Hall. Again there is an A3 information sheet. This is a lovely timber frame building and feels very much as well loved family home. It receives fewer visitors even though it is close to Holy Trinity Church were Shakespeare is buried. It also has a cafe and I can recommend the scones, eaten sitting in the garden.

Next was Holy Trinity Church which has a lot more to admire than just Shakespeare’s tomb. There is the ancient font where he was christened and the splendid tombs in the Clopton Chapel, as well as some of the nicest misericords I have seen. The church is free to enter, although there is a donation of £3 to visit Shakespeare’s tomb. This was the first church to charge for entry when they started charging visitors 6d in 1906.

My last visit was to the Guild Chapel which has some lovely wall paintings. By then I had achieved all on my tick list and it was time to scamper back to the coach.

We stopped the night at the "Royal Court Hotel ":http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/accommodation/164816-review-royal-court-hotel on the edge of Coventry. First impressions were good, of an attractive part timber frame house with a large modern addition. It didn’t bear closer inspection. It is popular with coach tours and there were three parties that night which meant we were given a rigid timetable for meals. There was no chance of sneaking in early as we had to queue outside the dining room waiting to be let in. It reminded me of being back at school. Come to that, so did the evening meal. Breakfast was marginally better although there was no fresh fruit.

Rooms were clean but beginning to show their age. There was no map of the hotel on the back of the door showing fire exits, just the instruction to follow signs and congregate on the front lawn. Furniture was dated and a bit chipped and scuffed. There was a hugh whirlpool style bath in the bathroom. There were no rails to hang onto and I found it almost impossible to climb in and out. Bath towels were skimpy and only average and there was no where to hang towels. The bath panel was loose and the wooden panel beneath the sink was missing a screw. Maintenance doesn’t seem to be a priority here, which may explain why my bedside light wasn’t working and the 2015 calendar in the rack with details of room service etc…. Worst bit were the two large mirrors on the wardrobe door which were in direct line with the toilet!

We spent the next day in Warwick. Coach parking in Warwick is difficult, and the driver had been told to use the castle car park as we would be going into the castle. I wasn’t. It costs £20 to get in and is now owned by the same people who own Alton towers and is being turned into a theme park experience. I headed to the town and "St Mary’s Church ":http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/west_midlands/warwickshire/mary_warwick/index.html with the wonderful Beauchamp chapel and the Warwick tombs. After that it was the "Lord Leycester Hospital ":http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/presocialhistory/socialhistory/social/social/lord_leycester/index.html a lovely timber frame building which is the home of ex servicemen.

Following this, I headed to Hill Close Gardens. These can best be described as Victorian allotments. The townsfolk lived above their business and had backyards filled with workshops, wash house, privy and a stable. If they wanted to grow crops or keep animals they had to rent a plot of land on the edge of the town. These plots were once common in all big towns and cities but most have disappeared under housing or become overgrown and lost. Hill Close is a rare survivor. Sixteen of the gardens have been carefully restored to what they might have been like, complete with their sheds and summer houses. Each is different and all are beautifully kept with narrow hedge lined paths linking them. it really is a hidden gem.

I finished off at "Mill Garden ":http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/gardens/england/west_midlands/mill/index.html which is a lovely flower garden just outside the town wall with one of the best views of Warwick Castle.

We had just under four hours and I was pushed to achieve all I’d set out to do. Having been told by Houghs that we would be leaving Warwick between 3-3.30 I wasn’t best pleased when the driver told us all to be back to the coach by 2pm.

We had a stop at the"Friendly Farmer Shop ":http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/167189-review-fiendly-farmer-farm-shop on the edge of Newark on the way home for the statutory 45 minute break. We arrived at 3.30 to find it shut at 4pm. Toilets weren’t geared to coping with a coach load and at that time of the afternoon were feeling very well used. Still the Plum Bread from the cafe was good.

Overall, the jury is very much out on Houghs. I enjoyed my time in Stratford and Warwick but felt the hotel let them down. Checking reviews after I’d got home, many of them are very negative, highlighting issues I’d found. I felt the trip was being run at the lowest possible cost. I would think carefully before using them again, particularly with the issue of cancelling trips. There is also the consideration of how long you spend travelling on a two day break against the amount of time in the place. Looking at some of the other breaks on offer, it looks as if most of the time will be spent travelling.

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