Founder of Mad Max Tours, Maddy O’Donoghue, is here to tell you how Mad Max Tours can make your guests stay longer!
Mad Max Tours are small, friendly tours that take place around Bath and the surrounding area and have been awarded the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence for six consecutive years, been recommended by travel writer, Rick Steves and received a Highly Commended at the Somerset Business Tourism Awards!
It all started with Maddy in 1991, when she returned to the UK following a delayed gap year, she was keen to start something new and drew inspired by tours she’d seen in New Zealand, where small groups are offered quality day tours, and the rest, as they say, is history! “I am constantly bemused as to where the last 27 years have disappeared!” Maddy told us.
“I bought my first bus and started running day tours from Bath, Stratford and Oxford, it was just me and my dog then, plenty of enthusiasm and lots of early morning starts! It didn’t take me long to realise that Bath was going to become my base and my home – I just loved it!”
These days Mad Max Tours is a team effort, though the name, inspired by a combination of Maddy’s name and her dog, Max, remains the same.
Maddy said: “Our team are magic! The guides have so much knowledge, their own quirky stories and snippets of history that make places come alive, they’re all wonderful individuals!”
Visitors booking a tour with Mad Max Tours can be guaranteed that they will receive a local guide who is passionate about the area, history and places they visit and that you’ll get the very best in specialist knowledge as well as local detail. Each tour is planned with care to give guests plenty of time at each stop, allowing them to make the most of the stunning countryside and of course, the guides know all the best routes to avoid traffic! It’s details like this that make being an independent business in Bath able to offer a special experience.
“I am so entwined with the business, it feels natural to want to ensure that we are offering a great service. What I love is that so many guests who join us wouldn’t normally consider joining an organised tour, but Mad Max is small and personal and has time for independent exploration too, we work hard to get the balance right,” Maddy said. “I didn’t want to build a big business, just offer something that made people feel really good about their stay in Bath and hopefully encourages people to stay a bit longer too!”
Because of the guides’ local knowledge and passion for the area, guests can be guaranteed a much more personal experience than joining a corporate walking or bus tour. Talking about Mad Max Tours, Maddy said: “I think it’s important that the business has grown slowly and steadily so we’ve had a chance to really get to know what guests want to experience. It’s also allowed the right team to come together. The guides are local, amazing and genuinely enthusiastic about this part of the country and the admin team makes sure that every person who makes an enquiry gets a thoughtful response.”
It is no surprise then, that you don’t need to join a tour to know how much Maddy and the rest of the team love the city they live and work in. For Maddy, there are many perks to living and working in Bath. “Within the city it’s the stunning architecture and everything being so close, however for me personally, I just love the setting. Bath is surrounded by beauty on all sides, as a dog walker and a cyclist, I’m spoilt for choice. It’s also the experience in Bath, it doesn’t matter which way you approach the city, along the Box Valley from Bannerdown or the Swainswick Valley, there’s always a point when the view opens up before you and it takes your breath away.”
Maddy calls the area of Bathampton home and lives close to the weir, for her, the river is her favourite part of this area of Bath. “I’ve noticed the river has a wonderful smell, we even managed a few swims during the last heatwave!”
Other than the river, there are many beautiful places to explore in Bathampton: “The bridge at Batheaston and the new cycle path along the Bathampton Meadows has just blossomed into a place that people are drawn to. There are an excellent group of volunteers who have a vision to improve the biodiversity of the area while encouraging people to enjoy the countryside. Trees have been planted and the willows have been cut back, it is looking wonderfully sculptural at the moment. Plus, there are two great cafes nearby!”
Mad Max Tours are small and relaxed, the mini coaches take a maximum of sixteen people and are comfortable, air conditioned and have seat belts and a PA system. When Maddy isn’t organising or running a tour, you can probably find her living out her perfect day in the city.
“I’m lucky that I work with my dogs under my desk, so most days begin with a walk along the river, I have a phone full of pictures of misty mornings and the light on the water and I feel truly grateful for the chance to watch the seasons change, it sounds terribly romantic, but its absolutely true!
“If I have a day away from work then I like an indulgent breakfast, it has become my favourite time to go out and eat and it’s a pleasure to see Bath without the traffic! We’re completely spoilt for choice, but I am enjoying Walcot House Café at the moment! Switching off from work isn’t always easy and I’m often dragging my husband out to do some exploring which is usually related to the tours. It’s lovely to find some unexpected gems.”
It isn’t just booked guests that Maddy likes to take on tours, her friends get the treatment too!
“I like days when friends come to visit and I allow myself to see Bath through their eyes. It’s good to be a visitor for a day and see the positives! And I love when the rugby is on, even if I’m not going to the game. I can feel the buzz and love to hear the roar in the background. It makes the city feel alive. I mentioned loving breakfasts, well I also love early doors as well, an evening drink with a good view. To be honest, if I’m near the river then the day is pretty perfect.”
Though Bath is a beautiful place with plenty of avenues to explore, Mad Max Tours also offers the opportunity to head out of the city and explore the surrounding areas, like Wells, Glastonbury, Cheddar, Stonehenge and the Cotswolds. Each tour is small and personal and takes the stress and strain out of driving independently. Plus, unlike larger buses from London, the small mini coaches are able to navigate the backroads giving you the chance to see more of the surrounding countryside. Also unlike most larger tour companies, Mad Max Tours run services throughout the whole year, supporting the local independent guesthouses and encouraging people to stay a bit longer in Bath.
“It’s hard because it can get very lean in the winter, but I think it’s important to keep a presence,” Maddy said.
In terms of what Mad Max Tours offer, all their tours are individual and have evolved over time to ensure that getting the timing is just right and to avoid popular places at busy times, according to Maddy, it is all about listening, being kind and responsive.
It isn’t just listening to what guests want that make Mad Max Tours a great option for seeing the city and the surrounding area, as Maddy says: “we make sure we can go that extra mile with written as well as audio presentations, places to charge your phone and event wonderful dog accommodation if you’re travelling with your own Max!”
And as for Maddy’s favourite tour?
“I think our twilight special access tours are more than a bit special. I know that we create some really wonderful memories for visitors to Bath, what could be better than that?!”