Review: Houghs of Lincolnshire
Travel Service - Tour Operator/Travel Provider
Middlethorpe Road DN35 9PR , Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, DN35 9PR , United Kingdom
An overview - The brochure looks really good, but the reality doesn't live up to it
Houghs of Lincolnshire are a family firm based in Cleethorpes specialising in coach holidays and day trips. They have a loyal following in Cleethorpes with many repeat customers. You can’t book via their website, it is either on the phone or by visiting their office. Locals do this and are well known and on Christian name terms with the proprietors and drivers.
They serve quite a large part of the northern end of Lincolnshire with several different pick up points. Fortunately Scunthorpe is the last one, as some people have been on the coach for 1-2 hours before then.
Their 2016 brochure looked very good so I rang up and booked three trips – the Dutch Bulb Fields in early May, a short break to "Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwickshire ":http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/travel-service/167206-review-houghs-of-lincolnshire in late May and Mull and Iona in October.Dealings with Hough’s on the phone were mixed and several times I got the feeling they weren’t used to being asked detailed questions and didn’t like it. They could be quite curt and unhelpful.
I found this cavalier attitude to be common on the trips as well. It was impressed upon us that the toilet on the coach was for emergency use only and then just for wees… After that, no-one dared use it. Don’t risk being late as you might get left behind. Hough’s also like to run with full coaches and the Dutch Bulb Fields trip was cancelled three weeks before we were due to go as there weren’t enough passengers booked. I gather this isn’t an isolated occurrence. I tried to get a feel for how many passengers it needed for a trip to be viable but didn’t get a definite answer as it all ‘depended on the hotel and the deal’.
The coach driver can make or break a holiday. Many of the passengers were regulars and well known to each other and the driver. I felt little effort was made to welcome or involve newcomers. I was not impressed by either of the drivers. The first lacked customer skills. He could be quite taciturn and was always first off the coach to light a cigarette, rarely made eye contact and made little effort to help passengers on or off the coach. Many of the passengers were elderly with mobility problems. I was assured by regular customers that he was OK once you got to know him.
The second could be very garrulous and we were treated to a running and often unnecessarily critical and quite unkind commentary about other road users. He was also a self-professed expert on everything, although some of the facts he spouted were dubious and others plain wrong. He was on first name terms with many of the passengers and cultivated his little fan club who thought he was wonderful. The rest of us were ignored. I found he would talk over my head to people behind.
Hough’s run several bargain two day breaks over the year. At £59 they are cheap – the hotel alone would set you back that much and they are very popular. Cheap doesn’t necessarily equate with good though. They regularly use the Royal Court Hotel near Coventry for a lot of their breaks.
This has seen better days and although clean, routine maintenance isn’t a priority. It caters mainly for coaches and there were three booked in for the night we were there. This meant we were on a rigid timetable for meals, which were decidedly uninspiring. It was not a place I would want to stop again
Another lesson I learned was to look at driving times and how long spent in the coach compared with time at places being visited. Allowing for stops it took us 4-5 hours to get to Stratford from Scunthorpe, plus another hour to drive to the hotel afterwards. We had about three hours in both Stratford and Warwick. This is probably ample for those who just want to have a meal and look round the shops, but not long if you are wanting to do a lot of sight seeing. Travelling much further could well reduce these times even more. Hotels used are often quite a distance from places visited.
I also found this on the five day trip to Mull and Iona. Again, I couldn’t have done the trip for the cost. I knew we had a full days travel at either end. Nearly 12 hours is a long time… As a bonus, the hotel was good and the food excellent. Apart from the day we went to Iona, when we got back to the hotel at 4pm, I felt the other two days were very short, as the coach was back to the hotel just after lunch, leaving us to amuse ourselves. I appreciate that many people were happy to sit and chat in the hotel, but I do expect a bit more for my money.
Looking at details of other breaks, I have a feeling that many of them could be like this – short days and not much activity. This is fine if you are prepared and able to make other arrangements for things to do during your stay. You do need to read the itineraries carefully.
I also got the impression that negative feedback, even if given in a constructive manner, was not welcome. Questions are not always welcome either. Hough’s knows best. Their many repeat customers suggest they are must be doing something right, but not for me.
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.