It all began in March last year. Mr Thomas from Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron contacted Sports Tour Consultant, Ollie, looking for the perfect multi-sport tour for his hockey and rugby teams. Holland? The perfect choice! Fantastic sporting facilities and a wealth of things to see and do both in the cities and on the coast.
As Ollie set about preparing the proposal for the tour, there was a further request from Mr Thomas. Could they add an educational element to the tour? The school’s head teacher had asked whether it was possible to combine the trip to Holland with a visit to the WWI battlefields in Ypres.
You may not know this about Rayburn Tours, but we also have an Educational Tours department that’s been running trips to the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme (among other places) for well over 50 years. Tapping into these expertise meant that his request was no problem at all!
It was July 2019 when the group set off from Aberaeron in Wales for a 5-day tour of Holland and Belgium, bringing sporting fixtures, cultural excursions and educational visits together in one tour.
Amsterdam Canal Cruise
Heading to Holland
The first three days were spent in Holland. The group was based at the StayOkay in Haarlem. Located just outside of Amsterdam, it’s the perfect base to explore the bustling city, as well as travel around the region. The StayOkay chain has properties all around the country and is well equipped for school groups, making it a popular choice for us and one which we always receive good feedback about from groups.
Their first full day on tour started with the rugby team taking to the pitch against local team Harlem RFC, whilst the hockey team headed to a nearby hockey club for a training session. The afternoon saw the group head into the city of Amsterdam where they enjoyed a guided tour of Amsterdam Arena, home to AFC Ajax, before taking to the city’s epic canal network on a canal cruise – in our opinion, one of the best ways to see the city’s sights!
The following day it was time for the hockey team to take the pitch against Nationale Sportkampen’s hockey team, whilst the rugby team hit the beach at Bloemendaal aan Zee. We couldn’t let the rugby team have all the fun, so we evened the score in the afternoon as we packed the whole group off to Walibi Holland Theme Park, for thrills and spills and some much needed ‘down-time’ – if you could call it that!
Day four and it was time to wave ‘tot ziens’ to Holland and head for Belgium, where the tour was less about sport and more about history. The first stop was at the Trench of Death in Diksmuide, the last remnant of the First World War trench system in Belgium.
The kilometre-long trench network was one of the most dangerous Belgian positions on the Western Front, situated just 50 metres from a German bunker. The students explored the trenches and the visitor centre where maps, photographs, videos and war memorabilia tell the story of life and death on the front line.
The Welsh National Memorial Park was the next stop for the group, where their guide Simon was waiting for them. Making history relatable for children is always tricky, so a tour of the Welsh Memorial Park was a stark reminder for the students that men not much older than themselves, from areas very close to home, fought and died on the battlefields.
A diversion en route home meant the group could spend a full day in and around Ypres, soaking up the rich history of the First World War.
Trench of Death
Mr Thomas rated his overall touring experience as ‘5-star’ – and it doesn’t get any better than that. A seamless blend of sport and education in just a 5-day hop across the Channel… we certainly made it work for Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron!
Do you fancy a multi-sport trip to Holland? Or perhaps you’ve got an idea to add something extra to your sports tour? Get in touch and let us help!