London sightseeing tour on Stanfords Victorian Horse-drawn omnibus

Tina Hodgkinson of Guided Walks in London hopped aboard our Victorian omnibus for a Blue Badge guided tour of the city.

Left to right:  Basil, Bob and Harney with Tim Wood

Left to right:  Basil, Bob and Harney with Tim Wood

I love exploring London and when I heard that Stanfords, reputedly the world’s biggest travel and map bookshop, have just launched a London sightseeing tour by horse drawn Victorian omnibus I just had to check it out. So last night joined by Julie and Carolyn, friends and fellow guides, we were taken for an utterly delightful ride by Basil, Bob and Harney, three magnificent Dutch Warmbloods. 

Tim Wood
Tim Wood

Tim Wood, our coachman, wearing top hat and period costume, skillfully drove us London’s busy West End on a tour that visited many world famous and iconic landmarks. We were accompanied by a tour guide who pointed out the sights and took our photos.

The Stanfords omnibus
The Stanfords omnibus

The Victorian eighteen seater horse drawn omnibus has lovingly been restored and was purchased by Tim last year.  There is both indoor and rooftop seating.

The first horse drawn omnibus service to London was started by George Shillibeer back in 1829, on a route from Paddington to Bank. Today there are a few modern comforts that made our journey feel very pleasant.

 A rear view
A rear view

Climbing aboard you ascend a narrow spiral staircase. I’ll admit I was feeling a bit nervous about the stairs, but I can assure you there is nothing to worry about. The horses are so well behaved that the vehichle was totally stationary the entire time we were entering and exiting. There’s a hand rail for support, you are advised to descend  backwards and you are invited to take your time.

 The interior
The interior

We were told if it started to rain and we wanted to go inside the omnibus would stop to allow us to descend into the lower covered seating area.

Sitting upstairs, right to left: me, Julie and Carolyn
Sitting upstairs, right to left: me, Julie and Carolyn
Stanfords on Long Acre
Stanfords on Long Acre

The tour starts outside Stanfords Travel Bookshop in Long Acre in Covent Garden. With the shout of “let’s go boys” we were off. The route is on Stanfords website and here are a few photos.

Covent Garden
Covent Garden

 

The London Eye
The London Eye
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament 
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
The Cenotaph on Whitehall
The Cenotaph on Whitehall
Downing Street - even the policemen waved
Downing Street – even the policemen waved

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Never noticed the cannons before on the Admiralty screen before – being on the rooftop gives you a different perspective. 

A horse related ghost sign
A horse related ghost sign
Left to right:  Basil, Bob and Harney - thank you!
Left to right:  Basil, Bob and Harney – thank you!

The horse drawn omnibus is an unique and historic way to explore some of London’s top sights. The vehicle is small enough to access the narrow streets which regular tour buses could not manage. The clip clop of the horses hooves is utterly magical and it’s one of the most original and fun ways to explore London. We all loved it.

We were delighted but surprised to find that we were the only three people booked on the 6pm tour. This is an amazing way to explore London and I’d highly recommend it and suggest booking soon before word gets out, as once this is better known it’s going to be hard to get a space as there are only 18 seats.

Practical Information

Address: Stanfords, 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9LP

Nearest Tube Station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square both in Travelcard Zone 1. Stanfords is a couple of minutes walk from both stations.

Tours:  Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm, 4.30pm and 6pm (correct at time of writing blog)

Price:   Adults: £30, Children:  £10, Family Ticket:  £60 for 2 adults and 2 children (correct at time of writing blog)

Website: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/tickets.htm (tickets can be booked online)

For more information also see Tim Wood Carriages

If you enjoyed this blog post you might like to read about Swan Upping.

The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds. Find out more on their website.

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