McComb's day trip-Belfast to Giant Causeway Critical Review

When in Belfast, I booked a day trip to Giant's Causeway with a tour operator named McComb's. While the trip went Ok, there're some tricks the tour operator could have avoided and a few things McComb's could have done better. This post is a critical review of the tour service. Detailed review of Giant's Causeway in this post.

To sent the context, here's what was promised in the day tour:
Pick-up from city, 2-3 pickup locations
1.  Carrickfergus Castle-Photo Shop
2.  Carrick-a-Rede Ropebridge
3.  Bushmills Distillery
4.  Dunluce Castle-Photoshop
5.  Giant Causeway
Drop off back to Belfast city by evening.

The tour went Ok- they didn't miss any of the attractions or it wasn't a huge disappointment. But a few things were not very optimal or could have been better.

#1 Trying to sell useless Combo tickets using pressure tactics:
On the bus we were tempted to buy a combo ticket for 15 GBP. This was a combo ticket for Giant Causeway visitor centre + Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge access. Together they cost 21.5 GBP if bought separately, so the combo ticket is supposed to save 6.5 GBP. But here's the catch:

Driver wouldn't tell how much it costs to get on the Carrick-a-Rede Ropeway alone. (Found out on the spot it is 9 GBP per person). Ropebridge is the only attraction worth buying the ticket, if you wish to cross the rope bridge. Without a ticket you can walk up to the bridge, see it from close quarters- not mandatory to buy ticket and cross across.

Giant Causeway is free to visit. We can walk down. There is a 12.5 GBP ticket to enter visitor centre, shops, toilet facilities and possibly an exhibition- this is not at all mandatory, nor we had extra time to explore all these. So most tourists would have been happy to buy the 9 GBP rope bridge ticket alone, had they had full picture of what to expect. Unnecessarily many bought the 15 GBP combo ticket, which was useless in my assessment. People were also tricked to buy it long before reaching the rope bridge as a pressure tactic. I decided not to buy this combo and saved some bucks. Absolutely no regrets.


#2 Bushmills Distillery: No time for guided tour:
We had a stop at Bushmills distillery, started in 1600 AD and one of the oldest in the world, but we got about 30 mins here and were taken to the bar directly-time given was just enough to make some purchases or taste whisky. I was more interested in guided tour of the factory which runs at pre-defined timings to understand how the distillery works, but sadly had no time for that. If people were told about this guided tour option upfront, those who wanted the tour could have avoided visiting the bar and headed to visitor centre instead.

#3 Return via motorway, not the scenic route.
While heading north in the morning, we drove on the scenic ocean route. But those who got seat in the left side of the bus missed getting proper views. I was hoping on the way back our side will be closer to ocean and I can take better pics. But return was on a motorway to save time- I would have preferred the same scenic route instead, even if it took half an hour extra.
#4 Dunluce Castle: Wrong spot for photoshop
For the Dunluce castle photoshop, bus was stopped in a wrong spot- due to sunlight being in opposite direction we could only get dark photos. If the bus had gone half a mile in opposite direction we could have possibly got better view.
#5 Just enough time at Giant Causeway
We got about 90 minutes at the Giant Causeway, the main attraction of the trip. This was just enough to walk to the causeway, spend some time and walk back, but not enough to explore few slightly longer walking trails in the area. Another 30-60 minutes would have helped a lot.

Of course time is limited and we can't have everything-but I think it would have been OK to return to city an hour or two late after exploring places in adequate detail- no one would do another day trip just to cover what they missed or couldn't explore in detail.

#6 Lunch spot had no alternate option
We were taken to a restaurant- Fullerton Arms for lunch and there was only 1 restaurant in the area. So if we didn't like what's on offer, there's no plan B. In my opinion if a stop could be planned where there're 2-3 restaurants around, people will have more options. I didn't have much veg options (They had only 1 Thai curry option, I wasn't sure to spend 10 GBP on it without knowing what it is- we were required to give our order in advance in the bus) at the restaurant where we stopped for lunch, so managed with some ready to prepare soup in a small shop nearby.

#7 No USB charging ports in the bus
Most modern coaches in Europe offer USB charging to each guests. Even city buses and trams have these. But McComb's coach didn't have them. I could manage without it but would have been nicer to have it. The coach seemed to have a toilet but now non-functional- appeared locked. Another peculiar thing- the second row of seat behind the driver had much lesser leg room- gentleman sitting there had to sit in a cross position and wanted both seats for himself due to this problem.

#8 Not dropping us back at start point.
Had to get down at city centre and walk back- would have been a bit more convenient if they had dropped us off from where the tour had started- International Youth Hostel. No big deal- had to walk a mile more, but I was hoping to get down from where I got on to the bus.

Of course, above are my personal observations and opinions. I understand coach tours can't cater to individual preferences and they usually go by what majority of tourists would want. May be the itinerary they have in placed works for most tourists so they don't have any need to improvise. Or may be they could introduce another variant of the itinerary based on my feedback and see if it works.

Also I don't know if other tour companies would have done things significantly different. My other option would have been to take a public transport to Giant Causeway which would cost me GBP 13.1 (that is 12 Pounds less than McComb's) but it won't offer any stops like McComb's and head direct to Giant Causeway. So I got to see 4-5 more spots for 12 GBP more, thus no regrets overall.

The good things about day trip to Giant Causeway with McComb's coach tour:
Tour happened as per itinerary, covering all places and back to city in time. Driver tried his best to keep us busy and entertained.

The coach wasn't crowded-had a few empty seats so was convenient.

Everyone were on time, so didn't face any delay.

Got a combo ticket- tour+ Titanic Belfast- saved me some 9 Pounds on Titanic Belfast ticket- but Audio Guide was not included (4 Pounds extra)

Things to know before planning your visit to Ireland * Cliff of Moher day tour (coming soon) * Giant's Causeway tour from Belfast Edinburgh free to explore attractions * Brecon Beacons National Park * London Public Transport explained * 

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