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Shearings Travel Limited
Setra S416GT in the previous livery in August 2011
  • Shearings Tours (1919–1963)
  • Shearings-Pleasureways-Ribblesdale (1964–1979)
  • Shearings Ribblesdale (1979–1982)
  • Shearings Holidays (1982–2006; 2007–2020)
  • WA Shearings (2006–2007)
  • Shearings Travel (2020–)
2020 as part of Leger
Defunct2020 (as separate company)
Service typeCoach holidays and Escorted Tours

Shearings (legally Shearings Travel Limited)[1] is a coach tour operator, part of the Leger Shearings Group, based in the United Kingdom. The tour operator brand specialises in holidays including escorted tours, unescorted tours, short breaks, self-drive holidays and river cruises throughout the United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Ireland and Continental Europe.

Founded in 1919, in Oldham, Greater Manchester by Herbert Shearing, the brand has been transferred between various owners in the late 20th century. Shearings bought Smiths Happiways in 1984, which can be traced back to 1903.

From 2014, Shearings Holidays was owned by Lone Star Funds-backed Specialist Leisure Group, until the group collapsed into administration during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020. In June 2020, Leger Holidays announced their purchase of the Shearings brand, website, and customer database, but all other Shearings assets were not purchased at the time.

Current brand operations[edit]

The brand operates tours to various destinations throughout the British Isles and Continental Europe.[2]


Plaxton Panther bodied Volvo B12M on the Isle of Wight in May 2009 in WA Shearings livery
Plaxton Paragon bodied Volvo B12M in Blackpool in June 2013 in National Holidays livery

Prior to Leger's purchase in 2020, Shearings was an amalgamation of four separate companies: Smiths Happiways, Shearings, National Holidays and Wallace Arnold.[3] It now operates as a travel brand of the Leger Shearings Group alongside Leger Holidays, Battlefield Tours and Holt Tours.[4]


Shearings, which was founded in 1919, merged with Smiths Happiways in 1984, which can trace its history back to 1903.

Smiths Happiways

In 1903 William Webster commenced trading as a haulage and removals contractor and passenger carrier, offering coach transport, and by 1931, Webster Bros (Wigan)[5] offered excursions and tours to North Wales and Manchester.[6]

In 1914, James Smith began operating coach tours from Wigan and Southport. The first tour was to John o' Groats. Webster Bros purchased James Smith's coach business in 1931, and a new company, James Smith & Co (Wigan) Limited, was formed. By 1935, Webster Bros (Wigan) marketed 'Webster's Tours', operated by James Smith & Co.[6]

The first tours to Continental Europe were offered in 1938, continuing up until the outbreak of World War II. Smiths claimed to be the first company to operate coach tours to Europe after the war, with a sell-out 14-day tour to Switzerland in May 1946. In 1947, the company carried 6,000 passengers, of which more than 10% travelled to mainland Europe.[7]

In 1958, Smiths was purchased by Les Gleave, and renamed Smith's Tours (Wigan).[7][8] Wilf Blundell of Southport purchased Smith's Tours from Gleave in 1964.[9]

Blundell began his coach operation with just one coach in 1950, later purchasing Blundells Coaches (Southport) Limited[10] in 1952, Enterprise Coaches in 1955, Poole's Coaches in 1958 and Tootle's Tours in 1960. This portfolio of companies formed Blundell Holiday Group.[9][11]

Blundell purchased Spencer's Tours and Happiway Tours from Edwin Holden in 1968, merging both companies to form Happiway-Spencers.[12] By 1975 Blundell's coaches were branded as Smiths Happiway-Spencers, and in 1980 the company Smiths Happiway-Spencers was formed, consolidating Blundell's coach operations.[12][13]

The Blundell Group including Smiths Happiways-Spencers was in turn acquired in March 1982 by Associated Leisure Limited,[14] after which the Spencer name was dropped with the company becoming Smiths Happiways.


Shearings was founded in 1919 in Oldham by Herbert Shearing, who then took over Eniway Motor Tours in 1935, a company offering express coach transport between Manchester and London.[15] On Herbert Shearing's retirement in 1949 two new companies were formed: Shearings Tours (Manchester) Limited and Shearings Tours (Oldham) Limited, which were sold to James Robinson, then owner of Happiway Tours in 1953.

Robinson sold Happiway Tours to Edwin Holden, who owned Spencers Tours in 1957, but kept the Shearings Tours companies, consolidating them as Shearings Holidays in 1963, before selling the company to the Jackson family of Altrincham in 1964.[16][15] Jackson had purchased Pleasureways in 1955. Following an agreement to share resources and pick-up points with Ribblesdale of Blackburn, the coaches were branded as Shearings-Pleasureways-Ribblesdale, shortened to Shearings Ribblesdale in 1979 and then to Shearings Holidays in 1982.[15]

Associated Leisure (who had acquired The Blundell Group including Smiths Happiways-Spencers in 1982) purchased Shearings Holidays in January 1984. Associated Leisure was in turn bought by Pleasurama in 1987,[17][18] after which Pleasurama's coaches were first rebranded and then formally merged as Smiths Shearings.[18]

Preserved Plaxton Paramount bodied Leyland Tiger in original National Holidays livery in October 2010

The original National Holidays, which had been formed in 1976 to co-ordinate the coach activities of the state owned National Bus Company[19] was purchased by Pleasurama in July 1986 as part of the privatisation of the National Bus Company,[20] who then also purchased the business of Jenkins, Skewen in 1988.[21] rebranding the National Holidays coaches as Shearings National the next year.[18]

In 1989, Mecca Leisure Group purchased Pleasurama, dropping the Smiths name and subsequently merging National Holidays with Shearings.[22] The Rank Organisation took over Mecca in 1990,[23] adding the business of Eagle Coaches, Tunbridge Wells[24] and Gwalia Coaches, Llandudno Junction the same year.[25] Rank then sold Shearings Holidays to a management buyout in 1996, backed by Bridgepoint Capital.[26]

3i, a venture capital firm that owned Wallace Arnold, purchased a controlling stake in Shearings in 2005[27][28] merging the former competitors first under the WA Shearings brand[29][30] and then as Shearings Holidays.[31] Eight Wallace Arnold Travel travel shops in Yorkshire were also briefly branded as WA Shearings before having their former name reinstated.[32] The merger also brought with it a second National Holidays.[33] This was the former East Yorkshire Travel, a subsidiary of the East Yorkshire bus company which had been renamed on being sold in 1997 and become part of the Wallace Arnold group in 2001.

3i and Indigo Capital sold the business to a management team in 2014 for an undisclosed figure, but which was less than 10% of business's £200m valuation back in 2005. At this time the company owned over 200 coaches, 52 hotels and offered coach, air, rail, cruise and hotels breaks to more than 170 destinations worldwide.[34] This later became Specialist Leisure Group Limited which renamed itself Shearings Leisure Group Limited between 2016 and 2018, until reverting to their prior name.[35] In April 2016, the business was purchased by Lone Star Funds,[36][37][38] although it was reported the private equity firm has considered selling Specialist Leisure Group Limited on at least two prior occasions before later administration.[39] The company's subsidiary Shearings Hotels Limited operated the Bay Hotels and Coast and Country Hotels brand.[40]

Administration and purchase by Leger[edit]

Shearings' parent company Specialist Leisure Group (SLG), a hotel and leisure travel company, headquartered in Wigan and owned by Lone Star Funds, was placed in administration in May 2020.[41][42][43][44] This followed attempts by the company to find a buyer in April 2020.[39] Insolvency specialists from Ernst & Young were appointed as administrators, with debts calculated to be £200 million.[41][45] Alongside Shearings Holidays, the company operated National Holidays, Caledonian Travel, UK Breakaways, Coast and Country Hotels, Bay Hotels, Country Living Hotels, and Wallace Arnold Travel, all also ceasing trading. All holidays, tours, and hotel bookings with SLG were cancelled and not rescheduled.[41][42][43][44] The company stated the COVID-19 pandemic had "significantly impacted" the business,[42] whereas ABTA – The Travel Association stated the company would have likely struggled with thousands of refunds for cancelled trips in lockdown and a slowdown of new bookings.[44] At the time of administration, SLG had 240 coaches, 2,460 employees and 44 hotels.[41][42][43][44] 64,000 bookings were cancelled, with the "vast majority" being coach package holidays.[44]

In June 2020, Leger Holidays acquired the brand of the former company, as well as its customer database and website, but not the coaches, former employees or hotels of the former company. Leger stated they are "bringing the iconic Shearings name back to life" and that they will offer a new programme of coach holidays in the UK and Europe.[43] Leger stated their plans for launching thirty UK tours in 2021 during the 2020 purchase.[46]

Operations as a separate company[edit]

In their 2020 deal, Leger only purchased the brand, website and customer database, all other assets of the former company were not purchased at the time.[43]

Prior to administration in 2020, Shearings Holidays Limited comprised Shearings Holidays, Bay Hotels, Coast & Country Hotels, value brand National Holidays, Scottish tour operator Caledonian Travel and Wallace Arnold Travel.

Shearings' hotels division was based at its registered office, in Tarbet, Loch Lomond, Scotland, G83 7DE. In October 2013, Shearings owned 49 properties across England, Scotland and Wales operated under the Bay Hotels and Coast & Country brands.[47]

Bay Hotels are focused around the communal holiday experience, often with cabaret entertainment. Coast & Country have all been upgraded to at least three-star standard, and offer a more relaxed atmosphere, often with additional facilities such as swimming pools, saunas, fitness rooms and Jacuzzis. Shearings also work with a wide variety of hoteliers across the UK and Europe, from small family-run hotels to large chains. The company has a particularly close relationship[citation needed] with the Hotel Britannia Excelsior in Lake Como, with whom Shearings has worked for many years. Shearings offers all-inclusive holidays at this hotel all year round.[citation needed]

Over the past few years, Shearings has grown[citation needed] its river cruise programme. By 2013, the company exclusively[citation needed] charters five river cruise vessels: the MPS Rotterdam, the MPS Da Vinci, the MV Virginia, the MV Esmeralda and the MS Serenade II. Shearings also sells onto other operators' river cruises.[citation needed]

By April 2016, the former independent operator, had a fleet consisted of approximately 240 coaches.[37] Until 1991 Shearings fleet purchases were Leyland Tigers[48][49] after which it switched to Volvo B10Ms and later Volvo B12Ms. From 2009, the company has purchased Setras, and from 2015, Mercedes-Benz Tourismo coaches in both twin and tri-axle variants, for both the Shearings and National Holidays fleets. This fleet was not purchased by Leger in 2020.[43]


  1. ^ "SHEARINGS TRAVEL LIMITED overview - Find and update company information - GOV.UK". Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  2. ^ "Coach Holidays - Shearings". Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  3. ^ "About Us". Shearings Holidays. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  4. ^ "Leger Shearings Group". Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  5. ^ Companies House extract company no 307990 Webster Bros (Wigan) Limited
  6. ^ a b Ogden, Eric (1990). Shearings. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company. p. 9. ISBN 0863171575.
  7. ^ a b Ogden, Eric (1990). Shearings. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company. p. 10. ISBN 0863171575.
  8. ^ Companies House extract company no 254416 Rank Nemo (SH) Limited formerly Smith's Tours (Wigan) Limited
  9. ^ a b Ogden, Eric (1990). Shearings. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company. p. 11. ISBN 0863171575.
  10. ^ Companies House extract company no 398082 Blundells Coaches (Southport) Limited
  11. ^ Companies House extract company no 1091617 The Blundell Holiday Group Limited
  12. ^ a b Companies House extract company no 516906 Happiway-Spencers Limited
  13. ^ Ogden, Eric (1990). Shearings. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company. p. 12. ISBN 0863171575.
  14. ^ Companies House extract company no 803826 Associated Leisure Holdings Limited
  15. ^ a b c Ogden, Eric (1990). Shearings. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company. p. 16. ISBN 0863171575.
  16. ^ Companies House extract company no 753110 Shearings Limited formerly Jackson of Altrincham Limited
  17. ^ Companies House extract company no 282590 Mecca Leisure Holidays Limited formerly Pleasurama Limited
  18. ^ a b c Ogden, Eric (1990). Shearings. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company. p. 19. ISBN 0863171575.
  19. ^ "The National Archives". Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  20. ^ Holidays leads NBC sell-off Commercial Motor 19 July 1986
  21. ^ Shearings bus sale continues Commercial Motor 3 January 1992
  22. ^ Ogden, Eric (1990). Shearings. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company. p. 20. ISBN 0863171575.
  23. ^ Ogden, Eric (1990). Shearings. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company. p. 22. ISBN 0863171575.
  24. ^ Shearings grows in the South East Commercial Motor 12 April 1990
  25. ^ Shearings moves into North Wales Commercial News 7 June 1990
  26. ^ "Shearings coached in £100m AIM float". The Sunday Times. 23 May 2004. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  27. ^ Bridgepoint exits Shearings Bridgepoint Capital 1 February 2005
  28. ^ Decline and write-down of a coach empire The Independent 13 January 2013
  29. ^ "UK coach groups geared for merger". BBC News. 1 February 2005. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  30. ^ Merger clearance for WA Shearings 1 April 2005
  31. ^ "Coach operator rebrands as Shearings Holidays". Travel Weekly. 13 September 2007. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  32. ^ "TTG Digital". Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  33. ^ Companies House extract company no 2100628 National Holidays Limited
  34. ^ "3i steps off the Shearings coach". Financial Times. London. 3 June 2014.
  35. ^ "SPECIALIST LEISURE GROUP LIMITED overview - Find and update company information - GOV.UK". Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  36. ^ US Buyout Giant Takes the Wheel at Shearings Sky News 17 April 2016
  37. ^ a b Shearngs revs up record profits Manchester Evening News 18 April 2016
  38. ^ Shearings management sells shares to US group to fund expansion plans Bus & Coach Professional 20 April 2016
  39. ^ a b "Coronavirus: Jobs threat as Shearings lines up administrator". Sky News. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  40. ^ "2,500 job losses as Specialist Leisure Group collapses". ABTA Magazine. 23 May 2020. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  41. ^ a b c d Jolly, Jasper (22 May 2020). "UK holiday firm SLG collapses with 2,500 job losses". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  42. ^ a b c d Team, routeone (22 May 2020). "Shearings owner Specialist Leisure Group ceases trading". routeone. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  43. ^ a b c d e f Team, routeone (23 June 2020). "Shearings brand saved in Leger Holidays deal". routeone. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  44. ^ a b c d e "Coach company Shearings collapses into administration". ITV News. 22 May 2020. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  45. ^ Hughes, Owen (13 July 2020). "The millions of pounds owed by Shearings, National Holidays and Wallace Arnold". Business Live. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  46. ^ "Leger Holidays revives iconic coaching holidays brand Shearings". ABTA Magazine. 23 June 2020. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  47. ^ Our Hotel Brands Shearings Holidays
  48. ^ Peerless Wigan order for Leyland Commercial Motor 11 February 1988
  49. ^ Smith's Tiger double Commercial Motor 14 April 1988

External links[edit]

Media related to Shearings at Wikimedia Commons