There are two ways to see London at its best, on land or on water. Many companies offer visitors tours by road (on buses, for instance) and a handful offer tours by boat (making the most of the stunning perspective you can get of the capital from the River Thames). But only one operator offers a tour that combines both – London Duck Tours.
Affording you the chance to see the most talked-about sights of the city, such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and the London Eye, before you take to the Thames to see Central London from an entirely different viewpoint, London Duck tours are conducted via their fleet of bright yellow, road-going and waterborne craft.
These amphibious vehicles – correctly referred to as ‘Ducks’ (although originally called ‘DUKWS’) – are special not just because of their abilities but also due to their history. They date from the Second World War,where they played a critical role in the Normandy D-Day landings of spring 1944. Don’t worry, though, they now bear little resemblance to how they looked 70 years ago, having been completely rebuilt and modified so they properly meet the stringent safety regulations of today’s road and river authorities. Their refurbishment has seen every one of them fitted with comfortable seating for 30 passengers, a public address system, full safety equipment and modern Eco-friendly diesel engines.
And should you fancy taking the plunge (as it were) and going on one of these tours, you’ll find its leaving point very easy to find, as logically the starting and finishing point is right in the centre of the UK capital; specifically in Belvedere Road, between Jubilee Gardens and the Royal Festival Hall –very near the London Eye attraction – on the South Bank. The location’s a short and easy walk from Waterloo Overground railway and Tube stations, thus far from difficult to reach should you be staying in one of our hotels and making the most of the Premier Club Rewards programme.
A word of warning, however; unlike some bus-bound sightseeing tours of the city, none of the Duck excursions are hop on-hop off services. The idea with them is that they’re supposed to be experiences, which given their obvious difference from other tours, it could be argued they certainly are. The emphasis is on something of a light-hearted adventure as much as an opportunity to see London landmarks whizz past – with a witty but interesting commentary in English to give you a humorous, informed view of London.
If you’re interested in going on one of the London Duck Tours, the different excursions you can choose between include…
Classic Sightseeing Tour
(duration: 75 minutes; operates daily, about every 30 minutes)
Something of a standard tour (if a standard tour of London involves going off-road and sailing along the Thames, that is), this most regular and most popular of the excursions is aimed at taking visitors through the very beating heart of London and demonstrating how royalty mixes with parliament and pageantry to make for a potent brew of different unmissable sights.
And what of these sights? Well, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Horse Guards (and, if you’re lucky, the splendidly turned out soldiers amount their equally splendidly turned out horses) and Trafalgar Square certainly are all unmissable. From here, the tour takes you through the refined St James’s district, blessed with gentleman’s clubs, the centuries-old royal palace and the world-famous Ritz hotel, before passing the present monarch’s official London residence Buckingham Palace and the headquarters of Britain’s spy operations MI5 and MI6 before taking to the Thames.
D-Day Duck Tour
(duration: 75 mins; operates on the first Sunday of the month only)
The thinking behind this tour, drawing on the background of the vehicles themselves, is to familiarise visitors with those London landmarks most associated with the Second World War. So, as you pass by the likes of the Cabinet War Rooms, Buckingham Palace and the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral (which suffered bombing damage during The Blitz), a lively and colourful commentary informs you of the relevance of what you’re seeing to the conflict, and vice versa, ensuring this excursion’s not just for history buffs. Far from it; it’s ideal for the whole family. Indeed, to the delight of the kids aboard, when the ‘Duck’ splashes-down into the River, they’ll get a first-hand impression of just what role it actually played in the Normandy beach landings.
James Bond Tour
(duration: 75 mins; operates on the third Sunday of the month only)
Espionage and intrigue are the order of the day on this spy-themed tour. Principally, it’s concerned with showcasing locations that over the years have noticeably featured in the James Bond film series or are associated with either the legendary secret agent or his creator Ian Fleming, whom wrote 12 novels and several stories featuring this most British of fictional heroes. Real-life figures and dangerous scandals figure in the commentary too (apparently,there’s even references to the 1950s traitors that were the Cambridge Spies), as the vehicle plunges into the river and stalks its way past the home of today’s MI6, the instantly recognisable, striking building on the Thames at Vauxhall Cross.