Report from Coach Tours UK’s editor Matthew Inglis
Nestled in the very heart of England, the county of Warwickshire is home to some of the UK’s best museums, stately homes and rolling countryside.
The area includes the county town of Warwick, with the famous view of the magnificent Warwick Castle towering over the placid River Avon, the historic city of Coventry, timeless Stratford-upon Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare, and Royal Leamington Spa where lawn tennis was born back in 1872. Perhaps the most fascinating of all is Coventry, which was one of England’s most beautiful medieval cities with its fine, half timbered buildings, until one terrible night in November 1940 when Hitler unleashed the massive destructive force of his Luftwaffe upon this beautiful city. Most of those irreplaceable buildings, along with thousands of lives, were lost in the heavy bombing and subsequent firestorm that followed. The casualties included Coventry’s glorious cathedral. The city that saw the birth of Britain’s motor industry was down but certainly not out and was completely rebuilt in the post-war years in a mammoth reconstruction project that included a magnificent new cathedral built in the shadow of the ruins of the old building. Nobody who visits this poignant place can fail to be moved by the triumph of peace and reconciliation over the destruction of war. It’s easy to see how you and your groups could spend plenty of time exploring this and many more hidden gems. Coach Tours UK’s editor, Matthew Inglis, went along to find out what the City of Coventry has to offer, and started by visiting Coventry Cathedral . . .
My recent visit to the wonderful city of Coventry was a real eye opener as I discovered just how much the area has to offer visitors. Coventry is busy with preparations for when it becomes the 2021 City of Culture, but it has so much more to offer already, with a great selection of attractions and accommodation options for groups. My day started with a visit to Coventry Cathedral. It’s easy to see why Coventry Cathedral is so popular for group visits.
The sheer brilliance of this historical building hits you as you approach and make your way through the main visitor entrance. The original building dates back to the 11th century, but was rebuilt in medieval times and was known as the Parish Church of St Michael until it gained cathedral status back in 1918. It was all but destroyed by Nazi Germany’s infamous blitz on the city in November 1940, but a magnificent new cathedral was built among the ruins. A guided tour is really the best way for groups to discover everything this stunning historical building has to offer. Guided tours are included in the entry price of just £8 per person for groups, and offer a fun way to learn the history of the cathedral, including the wonderful casket of jewels, before being taken on a trip through the years, hearing the story of the blitz and including fascinating information on the city of Coventry itself and its connection to the cathedral, before finishing with the story of today’s cathedral. Last year there were 4500 group visits. The tour will take a group around an hour and a quarter, with a knowledgeable tour guide on hand, and there are plenty of opportunities to ask questions as you make your way around. The tower climb is also available and gives you some stunning panoramic views across the City. The climb costs groups £4 per person, and £2 for under-18s; groups wishing to take part should make this known at the time of booking. Pre-booking for groups of five or more is required when visiting the cathedral. I made my way around with Carla Crawley, who is the cathedral’s tourism and visits manager. Carla’s passion for the attraction was plain to see as she told me: “The cathedral is the most stunning building, with so many aspects. If you want to understand Coventry, you need to visit the cathedral: “The cathedral is the most stunning building, with so many aspects. For any groups visiting Coventry and wanting to understand the city, you need to visit our cathedral.
Need to know:-
Location: Sat Nav postcode for coach access is CV1 5FB
Contact: 02476 521234
Accessibility: Being a listed building groups with access issues are advised to flag this at the time of booking.
Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre is situated close to the heart of the busy city centre. It dates back to 1958 as the huge reconstruction programme of the blitzed city continued and was the first civic theatre to be built after the Second World War.
Today the venue has an excellent live entertainment programme throughout the year that is sure to suit groups of all ages with shows ranging from some of the UK’s top tribute bands through to the end-of the-year show, Puss In Boots which runs from November 27 until January 11 and is a sure-fire hit with every member of the family, young and old. The Belgrade Theatre seats 858 people in its two-tier main auditorium, as well as 250 to 300 in the flexible new second space, known as B2. It is one of the largest regional producing theatres in Britain and is Coventry’s most important arts and cultural facility. The Belgrade Theatre offers some excellent discounts and packages for group bookings of all sizes. For more information, contact the box office to discuss what packages are available for your groups. Groups wishing to enjoy refreshments whilst visiting the theatre are well looked after at the on-site café and bar, which offers a great range of hot and cold snacks, while its city centre location means there also several excellent restaurants in the vicinity to consider. Coaches can drop off and pick up in the bus lane on Upper Well Street and wait in White Street Coach Park during performances.
Need to know:-
Location: CV1 1GS
Prices: From £2.50 per ticket no booking fee
Contact: 02476 553045
Coventry Transport Museum
My final visit of the day was to take in the Coventry Transport Museum, which is part of Culture Coventry – a charitable trust that manages three of the city’s main visitor attractions (the other two being Lunt Roman Fort and the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum).
The Coventry Transport Museum boasts the two fastest cars on the planet and is home to some superb interactive and highly immersive temporary exhibitions from across the globe. The Transport Museum opened in 1980 and displays the world’s largest collection of publicly-owned British vehicles – which is only appropriate, as Coventry was the birthplace and crucible of the nation’s motor car, motor cycle and bicycle industries. Visitors to the museum can take in 14 galleries and see some of the world’s fastest and oldest vehicles, with exhibits from the last 250 years on display. Groups visiting the museum can expect to see not only cars, but also commercial vehicles, cycles and motorcycles as you make your way around and enjoy the many interactive galleries available. You don’t have to be a petrol head to appreciate this remarkable collection.
There is always a warm welcome for coach groups at the Transport Museum, which offers a number of incentives for group Coventry Transport Museum visits, including a discounted entry price per person, as well as a free tour for pre booked groups, which is usually charged at £5 per person. The museum offers free coach parking and a meet-and greet-service by staff who are happy to board the coach and explain to visitors what they can expect to see and find inside. Bespoke packages can be offered if required.
Need to know:-
Location: CV1 1JD
Accessibility: All areas fully accessible
Prices: Entry Price for Groups discounted from £14.00pp to £10.50pp
Contact: 02476 237270