COACH owners gathered in Bournemouth for a trip down memory lane at the weekend.

The classic vehicles – many of which first took to the roads in the 1960s – gathered at the Queens Road car park on Saturday before taking the scenic route to Exeter.

The annual trip sees former Royal Blue coaches drive along their old routes once again.

Organiser Colin Billington said on Saturday: “We started at Victoria Coach Station on Friday and we’ve taken the ‘posh’ route to get here today – through Esher, Cobham and Guildford.

“We stopped off at Winchester as well. Today we’re starting on the route to Minehead via Exeter travelling on some beautiful roads through Dorset.”

He said the event, which has taken place at least once a year since 2002, is the perfect opportunity to gather enthusiasts together.

“It’s a nice, social thing for us all to do,” he said.

“But it’s also for others. We get a lot of people smiling and waving, remembering the old days when they might have taken one of these coaches themselves. It brings alive memories for many.”

Jonathan Radley, of Oxfordshire, is just one of those with fond memories of the Royal Blue vehicles.

He invested in his own coach 18 months ago.

“This coach is from South Wales, where it was built in 1968,” he said.

“It would have come on both the express routes and holiday tours to Bournemouth too. I remember these coaches from when I was a child. We went on holidays to the West Country in them.”

It took the drivers until Sunday night to reach Minehead, travelling mostly on A-roads.

Roger Burdett, who owns 25 coaches and buses, many of which he has restored himself, said: “These vehicles really have a top speed of around 48 miles per hour.

“Only two of the ones here today would have a top speed of more than 50mph, so it does take us a little while to get anywhere.”

The Royal Blue Coaches

THOMAS Elliott founded the Royal Blue Coaches in 1880 after discovering the lack of a direct rail link from London.

He obtained a hackney-carriage driver’s licence and set up the venture in Avenue Road, Bournemouth, taking passengers to the railway at Holmsley.

By the First World War, motorised charabancs had replaced horse-drawn carriages, and in 1935, the firm was merged with the express services of Western and Southern National, who continued to use the Royal Blue name.

The last Royal Blue liveried vehicle was withdrawn in 1994.