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Phil Hopkins
Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent
@philhopkinsuk
12:00 AM 15th June 2024
travel
Weekend

The Great British Coach Holiday – Alive & Well

 
General Manager, David Bartlett, with Assistant Manager Liene Vilcina
General Manager, David Bartlett, with Assistant Manager Liene Vilcina
When hotel manager David Bartlett was given a job by his best mate’s mum more than 40 years ago, little did he know that he would still be working for her company in 2024, and that it would go on to become one of Britain’s leading coach holiday brands.

“I moved to the Isle of Wight when I was just two,” said David, now General Manager of The Imperial Hotel, Eastbourne, one of Daish’s Holidays 12 UK hotels, “and began working for the founder, Mrs Jeanne Wilson in my early teens. Her son Matthew was my best mate.”

Passing through the ranks of chief cook and bottle washer at the company’s first hotel on the island, the Shanklin – “I moved baggage, washed up and waited on table,” adds David – this 50 something GM rapidly passed through the ranks of hotelier and is now a mainstay within the company.

But, sadly, Jeanne Wilson, known to thousands of brand loyalists, passed away last year and, as a mark of respect, her photo now hangs on reception in the Eastbourne hotel, proof if it were ever needed, that this is still very much a family business.

“Matthew still works in the firm,” said David, “and his brother George is Managing Director,” and with barely a pause for breath, he is gone firing out orders to ensure that the Daish operation continues to run like a well-oiled machine.

And it certainly does.

Daish's Imperial Hotel, Eastbourne
Daish's Imperial Hotel, Eastbourne
This time me and Auntie Pat, days shy of her 91st birthday, were sampling four nights and five days at The Imperial Hotel, Eastbourne, a town I had never visited.

And I have to say that there was a certain joy for this seasoned driver, in being picked up outside the Ibis Hotel in Leeds and taken 269 miles to another hotel further south, even though the journey, at nine hours, was overly long, more the fault of the congested M25 than the company coach! By contrast, the journey home was two hours shorter.

“I will get you there as soon as a I can,” said our driver, “but let me clear London before I give you an exact arrival time. It can take two hours or, in a bad week, two days,” he quipped.

The Imperial Hotel's main dining room
The Imperial Hotel's main dining room
There were affectionate groans from seasoned regulars, some of whom had already been on four or five coach holidays this year alone.

It does not take long to appreciate that Daish’s offer incredible value for money with some travellers reporting deals as low as £150, rising to £529 depending on time of year or mode of transport: coach or self-drive.

However, the words ‘amazing value’ seem to cross people’s lips all the time when you are speaking to them and it is not hard to understand why: each purchase includes bed, breakfast, evening meal, bingo, entertainment every night and return coach travel.

Dinner time: 6.30pm on the nose. Brekkie at 8.30am sharp
Dinner time: 6.30pm on the nose. Brekkie at 8.30am sharp
In return you relinquish some of your flexibility in that meal times are fixed at 8.30am for breakfast with dinner at 6.30pm, however, this allows the hotel kitchen to achieve the economies of scale necessary to keep costs so low.

But that does not seem to put anyone off. “We love it,” they kept telling me, almost without exception, “and the food is so good,” echoing David Bartlett’s earlier comments that Jeanne Wilson’s original philosophy still holds true: “She used to say ‘keep the rooms clean, give them good food and make sure service is friendly.’ She wasn’t wrong and it’s what we do to this very day,” he adds.

A good night's sleep guaranteed in The Imperial's comfy rooms
A good night's sleep guaranteed in The Imperial's comfy rooms
And David, like his counterparts at the County Hotel in Kendal or the Esplanade Hotel in Scarborough – I have stayed in both - are not shy to roll up their sleeves and serve breakfast, dinner or lift a few bags to someone’s room. Daish genuinely employ working General Managers!

David, known by so many visitors, is still that 14-year-old lifting in cases, doling out the scrambled eggs at breakfast and saying farewell to passengers before each coach departs for home.

And with most of its 12 hotels located on the coast Daish’s Holidays have been careful to ensure that their destinations have always been desirable and, for that reason, popular.

A view from Eastbourne Pier
A view from Eastbourne Pier
Clearly ‘regulars’ are happy to visit the same hotel time and again or, indeed, go on a Daish’s hotel ‘tour’ round the group’s variously located properties, which operate in places like Blackpool, Newquay, Torquay, Weymouth and various other towns.

Eastbourne itself is a wonderfully flat resort with a traditional pier…..

Eastbourne Pier, a centrepiece of this quaint spa town.
Eastbourne Pier, a centrepiece of this quaint spa town.
…..what claims to be one of the hardest working bandstands in the UK…..

One of the busiest bandstands in the UK - Eastbourne
One of the busiest bandstands in the UK - Eastbourne
…..a lovely shopping centre and all of it easily accessible from The Imperial Hotel which is a stone’s throw from the promenade.

For those a little shaky on their feet there are scooters for hire and, at least once during your stay, there’s an optional £12 per head coach outing to Hastings and Rye which, I have to say, represents great value for money.

Crisp 'N' Dry In Rye with Auntie Pat!
Crisp 'N' Dry In Rye with Auntie Pat!
“We won the bingo last night,” chirped Mary from Sheffield as we returned to the hotel one day. “It was £180 for the full house,” she beamed. “Well, that’s at least one of us paid for. I only won a bag of Nobby’s Nuts in Weymouth!” Another happy customer.

All packed the night before departure, our bags were left outside our hotel rooms and by next morning had disappeared into the lobby to await coach loading.

By 9am we were all settled on the coach like well ordered sardines.

Neal, our driver, was brushing the dash board with a small paint brush. “My new one (coach) is on recall at the moment so we’re on this old girl: 780,000 miles since new,” he said proudly.

With that he fired up the engine, David Bartlett jumped onto the coach to bid everyone a safe journey back to Leeds and at 9.15am sharp we were on our way. The
well-oiled machine was still running smoothly!

FACT BOX: The Imperial Hotel
16 Devonshire Place, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 4AH. Tel: 01323 411043
- Customer Reservations Team: Tel: 01202 638840
- Website: www.daishs.com/press
- Social: https://www.facebook.com/daishs

What’s Included:

Luxury coach travel or free hotel guest parking on-site
Convenient pickup and drop-off along popular routes
Breakfast and three-course evening meal every day
On-site entertainment

The hotel is open to guests all year round

Tariff 2024 (at May)
Based on two people sharing a standard room:
- From £174pp self-drive/£194pp coach to £509pp self-drive/£529pp coach
- Early booking and Kid’s Go Free discounts also apply.