Find out what happened when I went on a National Holidays Mystery Weekend, and how you can win a holiday for yourself!
I’ll admit it – it’s nearly two decades since I last went on a coach trip. And I also have to admit that since then, I’d never really considered booking another one.
So when National Holidays offered to send me on a Mystery Weekend Tour, I was both intrigued and a little bit sceptical. I mean, coach holidays aren’t really something I do.I always fly or drive when I go on holiday, or occasionally I take the train.
But I happily accepted the challenge, and so at the end of June, I found myself in Manchester city centre at 7am on a Saturday morning. My travel companion (or partner in crime) for the weekend was my good friend and fellow blogger, Mellissa from The Diary of a Jewellery Lover.
Over the course of the next 48 hours, I would discover that my pre-conceptions about coach travel were really outdated. A National Holidays coach is plush and comfortable, and the holidays are definitely not just for the older traveller.
Keep reading to find out how you can experience a National Holidays Mystery Weekend for yourself in my fab new giveaway!
In this post:
- 1 Who are National Holidays?
- 2 Who travels with National Holidays?
- 3 On Board the National Holidays Coach
- 4 The Man in Charge: Gary, our Driver
- 5 Day 1 of my Mystery Weekend with National Holidays
- 6 Accommodation on a National Holidays tour
- 7 Day 2 of my National Holidays Mystery Tour
- 8 Time to Go Home
- 9 The Big Question…
- 10 National Holidays Mystery Tour: The Details
Who are National Holidays?
National Holidays specialise in coach travel, and provide short breaks and holidays across the UK and Europe. They operate across the Midlands and North of England, with several departure points available.
Their range of tours includes thousands of different holidays to choose from, catering for all sorts of different tastes.
In the UK, you could go and see a show in the West End, take a weekend by the seaside or watch a top flight sporting event. And National Holidays’ European breaks cover everything from an action-packed break at Eurodisney to a relaxing stay on the Amalfi Coast. You could even take a river cruise on the Rhine or the Danube.
Every National Holiday break includes carefully selected accommodation, excursions, and of course reserved seating on one of their plush coaches.
But I know what you’re probably thinking – is a coach holiday really for me?
Who travels with National Holidays?
So you might be thinking that coach holidays are only for the older traveller. It’s certainly a common assumption.
And yes, the group that I was travelling with did have quite a few people aged 60+. But there was a real mixture of people on our coach, so I wanted to find out who books a National Holiday tour.
Well, in addition to the senior travellers, there was a family with young children, a group of friends in their thirties, and a works trip from a school. One woman had travelled over from Canada to take her Mum away for a National Holidays weekend.
Caroline and Ryan are a couple in their thirties who have been on several National Holiday tours. When I asked them why they keep coming back, the cost of the trip was one of the big attractions.
The 2 day Mystery Weekend costs as little as £59 per person based on two people sharing a room, which is fantastic value for money!
Caroline told me that they had visited Isle of Wight during the school holidays, and paid around £170 each. She said “You just can’t beat it for value, and the beach was right outside the hotel!”. They also visited London between Christmas and New Year. Ryan was really impressed that although the cost of the trip was reasonable, the hotel was in Canary Wharf, just a quick train ride into town.
And then there were the ‘golden girls’ – Rita, Jane, Sylvia, Anne and their ringleader Kath from Buxton. These seniors love to go away on regular girls’ weekends to get a break from their husbands!
This was their first National Holidays trip, and they told me that they will definitely be booking another one.
“They’re such great value,” said Kath, “and I definitely want to do another mystery weekend. We’ve really enjoyed it!”
On Board the National Holidays Coach
If I was surprised by the mix of people on board a National Holidays coach, then the coach itself was another surprise.
The last time I travelled by coach was nearly 20 years ago, and they’ve really changed since then. Our National Holidays coach was plush and spotlessly clean inside.
National Holidays coaches all have free WiFi on board so you don’t have to eat through your data allowance while you travel. And they will soon be rolling out a new on-board entertainment system. This will allow you to choose from films, music and box sets on your journey.
These comfy seats are all fitted with a safety belt. There’s also an adjustable foot rest and plenty of leg room, far more than I was expecting.
The coaches have air conditioning and tinted windows, which were very welcome on an incredibly hot and sunny June weekend. There’s a small fridge filled with chilled bottles of water that you can buy, and yes, of course there’s a loo on board!
Based upon my previous experience of coach travel, I was expecting to have an aching back by the time we reached our first destination. But in fact I actually arrived feeling fresh and relaxed.
The Man in Charge: Gary, our Driver
Of course, a good coach driver is a vital part of your National Holidays tour.
They do far more than just get you from A to B safely. They’re also responsible for building the excitement, keeping you informed about where to go, and when to meet back at the coach.
Without a good driver, the whole experience could be a let down.
Luckily we had a fantastic driver on our Mystery Weekend. Gary has been driving for National Holidays for over 28 years, and his partner drives for them as well – it’s a real family affair!
Gary built up the anticipation for our weekend brilliantly. Every time we reached a point where the motorway split, he’d tell us where each of the motorways could be taking us. But the actual destination wasn’t revealed until we were just a few miles away from our first stop.
As Gary told us on board the coach “I never tell you where you’re going, because that way it doesn’t matter if I get lost!”
I chatted to Gary about what it’s like working as a National Holiday driver for so many years. He told me that he used to think he would have driven every tour that the company does by now. But they keep adding on new routes, so there’s always somewhere new for him to visit.
And the mix of the group always varies, so a route is never exactly the same each time. Gary told me that some groups really gel together and that makes it even more fun. And he loves it when passengers have a joke back with him!
But has he got a favourite route from all the different options that National Holidays have?
“No, I couldn’t pick a favourite, as they are all so good!”
Day 1 of my Mystery Weekend with National Holidays
So what happened on our Mystery Weekend?
After a slow start to the journey, while the rest of the passengers joined the coach, we headed down the motorway towards the Midlands. And of course, our driver kept on teasing us about where we might be heading.
I even thought for a few minutes that we might have been en route to Shrewsbury – that’s only about 25 minutes from where I live!
Stratford upon Avon
But in fact the first stop on our Mystery Tour was the historic town of Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire.
And when we arrived at the town, we discovered that the River Festival was in full flow. So the town was absolutely buzzing with street entertainers, market stalls and much more.
Of course Stratford upon Avon is famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. You can tour the actual house where he was born and grew up, and at the other end of the scale, you can visit the place where he was buried.
And of course you can watch his works being performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
On the day we visited, an open air theatre company was performing Much Ado about Nothing in a park. What a lovely way to spend a summer’s afternoon!
But our itinerary only allowed for a few hours in Stratford upon Avon.
So rather than spending time indoors, Mel and I decided to investigate the River Festival. As you can see from the bridge above, the town was absolutely teeming with people.
And what a fantastic event it is, definitely one that I’d love to return to in the future.
Away from the crowded parts of the festival, the River Avon was host to several small rowing boats and narrow boats.
I love being near the water, and for me this peaceful view really was heavenly.
We had time for a spot of lunch in Stratford as well, and there is a wide range of places to choose from.
As well as well known national chains like Carluccio’s, you’ll find plenty of small independent eateries. I can highly recommend the Garden Cafe on Sheep Street. The service was very speedy, which is great on a flying visit and my sandwich was stuffed full of guacamole, hummus and grated carrot. It was so good!
After a few hours of sightseeing in Stratford, we returned to the coach for the journey on to our hotel.
Accommodation on a National Holidays tour
Each National Holidays tour includes accommodation on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis. The standard price is based upon two people sharing a room but if you prefer, you can book a single room by paying a small supplement.
On a Mystery Weekend you won’t know exactly where you’re staying until you get there. But you can work on the assumption that you will stay in a 3/4 star hotel.
On our weekend, the accommodation was at the Holiday Inn Northampton, not far from the motorway.
I was staying in a double room on my own, and the room was very clean. The bed was comfy, and there were plenty of pillows and crisp white bed linen.
The room had free WiFi and 24 hour room service was available. It was actually a very comfortable place to rest my weary feet, and I slept very well at this hotel!
Although the decor in the bedroom looked a little dated, the hotel had obviously had the bathrooms remodelled recently.
My bathroom looked fresh and modern, had a fantastic shower, and was spotlessly clean.
Dinner at the hotel was a buffet meal, with salad and soup as a starter. There was then a choice of three main courses: Spaghetti Bolognaise, chicken Tikka Masala and Four Cheese Ravioli with Spinach. And a selection of cold puddings rounded off the meal nicely.
I was really impressed by the level of service at the hotel, all of the staff were very friendly and helpful. And although drinks are not included in your holiday price, it was very easy to set up a tab on my credit card to cover anything else I needed.
Day 2 of my National Holidays Mystery Tour
I woke up early the next morning, feeling refreshed and ready for the second day of my mystery tour.
Breakfast at the hotel was also served as a buffet, with everything from fruit and yoghurt to a full cooked breakfast.
After packing up, it was time to get back on the bus and discover where we were heading next. This time, Gary let us know straight away that we would be visiting two idyllic villages in the Cotswolds.
Bourton on the Water
Our first stop was the popular village of Bourton on the Water.
It’s known as ‘the Venice of the Cotswolds’ because the River Windrush flows right through the middle of the town, spanned by several little bridges.
It’s ridiculously picturesque, and there were gorgeous honey-coloured buildings at every turn.
As well as the beautiful scenery, there is a miniature village and a car museum to visit, amongst other attractions.
It’s very popular with tourists though, so it’s worth heading away from the main High Street. Down the quiet side roads, you’ll find plenty of chocolate box cottages with gorgeous gardens.
And of course you’ll find lots of places to indulge in a cream tea. I definitely recommend the Green and Pleasant tearoom, which also has a fantastic shop full of gorgeous furniture, homewares and ornaments.
After a couple of hours in Bourton on the Water, we got back on our coach for the short journey to Broadway.
No, not Broadway in New York City!
Broadway may not be as well known as Stow on the Wold or Bourton on the Water. But it’s quite possibly the loveliest village in England, and I definitely fell in love with it.
It’s a little quieter than Bourton on the Water, with fewer tourists around. Again, you’ll find quaint cottages built from Cotswold stone, and Hollyhocks growing in every nook and cranny.
My lunch at the Tisanes Tearoom was a home-made cheese, tomato and rocket quiche, still slightly warm from the oven. It was served with granary bread and a fresh crisp salad – just what I wanted on a hot summer’s day.
There are several shops to look around in Broadway, and a selection of tea rooms and restaurants. But there isn’t much else to do, so it won’t take too long to visit.
The two day Stratford upon Avon and the Cotswolds tour really is a flying visit to each of the locations. If you want to look around at a more leisurely pace, you may like to consider the four day version of the tour.
Time to Go Home
We started back up the motorway towards Manchester around 3pm, and the journey went without a hitch.
By now lots of the passengers were chatting amongst themselves, playing guessing games to while away the journey. It was strange to think that we had only met less than 48 hours ago. I could really see what Gary had meant when he said that the holiday is even more fun when the group gels together.
By early evening we were back in Manchester and it was time to say ‘Goodbye’ to Gary and the rest of the passengers. I headed back to the train station with one question on my mind…
The Big Question…
I really enjoyed my first National Holidays tour – the first coach holiday I’d been on in over 18 years.
The coach was incredibly comfortable, the company was excellent, the hotel accommodation was very good and I enjoyed the places that we visited.
And of course, the holiday was exceptionally good value. I travelled as a guest of National Holidays, but my 2 day Mystery Weekend Special, with the single room supplement, would have cost just £73. The hotel room and meals alone would have cost at least that much if I’d booked it myself.
So the question is, would I consider taking another National Holidays tour?
Of course I would!
I throughly enjoyed my trip, and would definitely love to go on another coach holiday with National Holidays. I’ve already been browsing through some of their European holidays, and I’m also quite tempted by the Christmas market tours.
If you’ve never considered a coach holiday, or think that they’re just for the older traveller, I really urge you to think again. A National Holidays tour is great fun and great value – what more could you ask for?
National Holidays Mystery Tour: The Details
Visit the National Holidays website to check the range of holidays available and current pricing, find the latest special offers and book your National Holidays coach tour.
Thank you to National Holidays for a fantastic weekend!
And one lucky SallyAkins.com will win the chance to experience their own Mystery Weekend with National Holidays, in my fantastic giveaway!
Yes, you could find out for yourself how much fun a National Holidays Mystery Weekend is. National Holidays will be sending one winner plus a guest on a Mystery Weekend for two, worth £118.
There are a few extra terms and conditions for this giveaway:
- The holiday must be taken within 12 months of prize winner being announced.
- The prize is one Mystery Weekend Special break with National Holidays for two adults.
- The dates and pick-up destinations are limited based on availability.
- The prize includes transport from the selected pick-up destination to the hotel and return travel back to the original pick-up destination with reserved seating, one night dinner, bed and breakfast in select hotel accommodation and a full inclusive touring itinerary.
- The prize is as stated, non-transferable, and cannot be exchanged for an alternative trip or a monetary value.
- Travel to the departure point is not included
- The competition is only available to people 18 and over
- It is the winner’s responsibility to ensure they have travel insurance
To enter this fantastic giveaway, you simply need to log into the Rafflecopter below and answer the simple question. There are a number of optional social media entries that you can use to boost your chances of winning.
You can get an extra boost by following National Holidays on Instagram. Using this entry method will give you an additional 4 bonus entries into the draw!
So take a look at National Holidays’ range of tours and let me know: which of their destinations would you most love to visit?
This competition will close at 11.50pm on 12th August 2018 and entries after this date will not be counted.