Bus tours are a relatively quick and easy way to sightsee in the United Kingdom. Perfect for day trips that utilize cities like London or Cardiff as home bases, a bus tour can get you from point A to point B more efficiently than if you rented a car and learned to drive on the left side of the road. Over the Christmas holidays, my friends and I took tours of Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Lacock, and Bath via Premium Tours.
Windsor Castle—Located just 20 miles from central London, Windsor Castle is lovely. The town itself is a picturesque remnant of bygone days. Settled around the time of William the Conqueror, its old English name was Windles-ore (which roughly translates to “by the riverside”). Appropriate, since the town is just south of the Thames. The castle, which is the longest occupied palace in Europe, is also the town’s largest tourist attraction.
One reason many people know of the castle nowadays is because it is famed for being Queen Elizabeth II’s preferred place to live, particularly on weekends. As Her Majesty wasn’t in residence during our visit, we got to see a few rooms that tourists aren’t allowed into when she’s there. The stately, grand rooms all begin to blur together after a while, but I do vividly remember seeing two paintings which I immediately recognized—the famous portraits of Richard III and Princess Elizabeth I.
Stonehenge—From Windsor, we headed to Stonehenge, which I have longed to see since I can remember. That’s terribly cliche, but true. It’s really a shame that there are so many tourists because you can never get a people-free picture. But the sky was blue, and the sun was out, and I was elated to be crossing something off my bucket list.
Stonehenge is one of the more fascinating stone circles in the world (certainly the most famous), and one which has puzzled archeologists and historians for centuries. There are various theories about its original function, and new discoveries are constantly being made. But one thing is for sure. When you stand on Salisbury Plain and feel the wind at your back and the sun on your face, you don’t care what the stones were used for. You simply want to soak in the strange, archaic beauty.
Lacock—A highlight of our tour was that it included lunch in the very old town of Lacock. (We were running behind schedule, so lunch became dinner, but it was tasty all the same).
Part of Lacock’s claim to fame is that the village has changed very little in few hundred years. It is so historically accutate that scenes from Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice were filmed there. Another interesting facet is that it is home to the only remaining tithe barn in England. Our guide was very informative, and explained that although there are buildings scattered across England that claim the title of “tithe barn,” this is the only real one. He may have been biased, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless. A tithe barn was exactly what it sounds like—a barn where tithes (in this case, the produce of local farmers) were stored for the church.
Bath—The final stop was, of course, the Georgian city of Bath. Since I had already been to Bath, and we were only there for about 45 minutes, I got myself a cup of coffee and relaxed by the river. Bath is not only perfect for sightseeing, but also for simply absorbing an easy going atmosphere. No one in Bath ever seems to be in a great hurry, and the feeling is catching.
Before you go: Do some research and compare prices. There are a great many bus tour services that go to different destinations for different prices. Your trip should depend on what you’re willing to spend, and how long you’re willing to be on the road. Also consider if your tour includes a meal. Here are some highly rated companies to check out.