Monday, 13 September 2010

Leeds sightseeing tour good value at weekend

“Seven pound fifty, that’s a lot” quiped my seventy four year old dad when I told him of my plan to literally road test the Leeds city sightseeing tour by bus and boat. I was filled with some trepidation when I looked at the online timetable at only to discover that the bus we wanted to catch for the hour long tour (outside the Playhouse,12.20 pm) didn’t arrive at the next stop (Clarence Dock) until 1.15 pm. Also some of the reviews that I read had been less than favourable but I needn't have worried.

It was with the powerful knowledge that that the 12.20pm Playhouse stop was not the best starting point that we embarked on the 13.27 pm from Leeds City train station. Tickets were purchased from the Tourist Information office and staff were very helpful.

The bus itself was only a few minutes late, quite remarkable considering Leeds United were at home to Swansea, and there was a considerable police presence in evidence to control some rather bemused looking welsh fans, who appeared to be trapped behind a huge iron barred gate. We hurried to the top deck as we intended to take some photos. The bus was clean, comfortable and not at all crowded.

The tour began at quite a pace and the commentary, which started immediately, it quickly became apparent was going to be quality and interesting. In addition the perspective we were getting of my home city was totally novel. I had no idea there were so many beautiful statues on the roofs of the victorian, city centre buildings.

As we picked up the bus from stop 4, the Railway Station our circuit comprised of : 5 – Millenium Square, 6 – University, 7 – Woodhouse lane, 8 – The Light, 9 – City Square, 10 – Boar lane, 11 – Victoria Quarter, 12 –West Yorkshire Playhouse, 1 – Clarence Dock, 2 – Crown Point Road and 3 – Boar Lane.

A cacophony of interesting facts about the city of Leeds, from the origins of the Civic Hall to the achievements of Cuthbert Broderick, entertained us throughout the tour and continued when the bus was stationary. Our transport slowed down too making it feasible to take photos throughout. An added bonus was that the sun was shining and we felt like royalty as we headed down Boar Lane gazing down on the little people!

We alighted at Clarence Dock (Royal Armouries) as this was where to catch the city cruise from. This is included in the price of the ticket at the weekend only. We had a little while to wait but you can pop in to the free Armouries museum or stroll along the towpath to kill the 45 minutes. When our boat arrived it was a traditional canal barge, modern, comfortable and cheerful inside with soft cushions and fairy lights. The choice of muzac was a little strange being a sort of Dizzee Rascal meets Chuck Berry fusion but this added to a nicely sedate party atmosphere.

There was a drinks menu and our orders were taken very quickly, just as well as the cruise is only 30 minutes long but what a fantastically relaxing experience. This part of the river is so peaceful and attractive with some of the more authentic new developments to admire. Despite being in the heart of the city we couldn’t hear a thing even with the windows open.

The route took us from Clarence Dock to Brewery Wharf then Granary Wharf. Not far at all but our barge went really slowly giving plenty of chance to admire all that we sailed past. I came away thinking that I would definitely hire this boat for a special occasion and took a leaflet supplying details.

This was a fabulous way to spend an afternoon. Having the river cruise as well as the bus tour really provided value for money. Had we paid £7.50 for the bus tour alone I’m not sure we would have been quite as enthusiastic. However if you begin your tour in the morning then you would be able to use the bus to visit a variety of different attractions in the city throughout the day,being able to get on and off at hourly intervals.

Users should be aware however that there is no service between 12.20 and 13.15 when the driver has his lunch and the service then becomes more infrequent in the afternoon. However overall I would recommend this experience as eminently suitable for the over thirties and a must do for anyone visiting leeds for the first time.

You will need to be quick though as the season finishes for this year on 31st October 2010.

Leeds City Sightseeing – Phone 01423 566061

Leeds City Cruisers – Phone: 0845 388 4901

Tickets can be purchased from Leeds Tourist Information at Leeds Railway station or on board the bus.

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I have always enjoyed problem solving for friends and family and as a teacher for the last 18 years this is part of what I do every day. During the last year I have been rediscovering a passion for writing and I have recently produced a short story and several reviews for my blog - Places to visit and eat/drink in Leeds, Yorkshire UK. I am also offering my services as a freelance writer.