Written by Deryn van der Tang
(A Runner-up entry in the Travel for Seniors Writing Competition.)
“Everybody out and go to the toilet before we head down the Inversnaid Highway,” said Eddie our coach driver as we arrived in Aberfoyle. “This is the bladder test!” he said before we set off down a very narrow lane that ran along the edge of the loch, on which he proved his skill as a driver, by trying to overtake another vehicle!
I am a widow and still want to travel and go on holidays, with no one to share the driving with, I decided to try coach travel. My first trip absolutely sold me on the idea. I booked a holiday through a company that owned its own coaches and hotel chain in Scotland. Apprehensive of travelling on my own, I was soon put at ease at the pick-up point as I chatted to other people from my area also going on the trip, so felt quite at home as the coach driver assigned us our seats.
With adequate stops for comfort breaks at interesting places along the way and fascinating stories to keep us entertained, Eddie drove us to the Scottish border. It was such a relief to hand over all responsibility to the tour company until we got home again.
That was one of the major enjoyment factors of coach travel as all I had to do was to turn up at the right place at the right time, everything else was taken care of.
My first trip was to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs area with its beautiful forested hillsides and green glens. On a trip into Glasgow, I enjoyed visiting the Art Galleries. Each day we were taken to see some spectacular scenery or historical place, Eddie was knowledgeable and livened up the days with his narrative.
On one occasion, the hotel electricity was cut off by heavy snow, we were made comfortable on the coach and the driver managed to find a way through to Dunoon a small town on the coast, where we were able to get a hot meal.
On another occasion I took a tour to Edinburgh to see the Tattoo, again a tremendous advantage as the coaches were allowed into the centre of town to drop off and collect their passengers where no cars were allowed. It was a lifelong dream to experience the pageantry and bagpipes of the Tattoo.
I would not have attempted to do this if I had been on my own but with people that I knew from the trip, we all looked out for each other. I was also able to get to the Edinburgh Literature Festival another item on my bucket list!
Once I had experienced the freedom of coach travel, I got more adventurous, I took a trip to France to see Monet’s Gardens, a must for any artist. I was fortunate enough to be paired up with another artist lady so we had a marvellous time sightseeing together in Paris, the Artist’s Quarter and Fontainebleau and sailed down the Seine together.
On another coach trip to Holland to see the Keukenhof bulb fields, I fell and hurt my knee, I was shaken, but not injured, again a fellow traveller – also an artist took care of me until I was over the shock. We stayed in Rotterdam, and visited Volendam and a cheese factory as well.
I have taken trips down to Devon and Cornwall to see the Heligan Gardens and Eden Project. I also did a Welsh Railways coach trip getting to see places I would never have seen on my own.
I have never been disappointed yet. Some coach drivers are more knowledgeable than others, but they go out of their way to make sure you have an enjoyable time.
I travelled with a family member to the island of Saaremaa in Estonia and to Sweden. It was an experience I would not have missed for the world and was able to find English literature for most things I was interested in.
I found travelling alone as a widow can be even more enjoyable than going as a couple. There was not a time I travelled when I could not find someone to team up with, the hotels were accommodating and often put single travellers together at a table to get to know one another.
The real benefits of travelling this way, are that all the arrangements including tickets, are made by the tour company, all you have to do is enjoy yourself.
POSTED 28th JANUARY 2018 by STEVE HANSON on behalf of DERYN VAN DER TANG. The photographs were supplied by the author after the competition had been judged.
Deryn has had two previous articles published on the Senior Travel Expert site. These are: Castles and Caverns (Finland) and Cowboys, Indians and Hot Water in Big Horn Basin, Wyoming.