What’s in a name? Well, everything when it’s a U.K. travel company called Back-Roads Touring, focused on taking only back roads not the freeways, as well as providing experiences that take small groups of travelers to the smallest town squares, along hedge-rimmed country lanes leading to tiny, medieval villages full of stories and character. The company’s distinctive DNA for “backroads travel” guides its tours not only throughout Great Britain and Ireland, but in 10 continental countries.
And why is Back-Roads Touring making its mark in the U.S. market? According to general manager Steve Reynolds, “The U.S. market is attracted to our product because there is a growing demand for escorted but flexible, intimate, experiential travel. This style of travel has been extremely popular in other English-speaking markets, and the reception we have had in the U.S. has been fantastic; it is now our second largest source after Australia.”
Reynolds believes that “U.S. travelers like to be escorted, but not necessarily herded in large groups. Additionally, we know they like authentic experiences, meeting locals, staying in charming hotels and dining in family-run restaurants with a choice from the menu.” He points out that “our tours are not cheap, not luxury either, and the demand is coming predominantly from well-traveled, reasonably affluent Americans in search of a more intimate travel experience.”
Each of the company’s touring programs comes with guaranteed Authentic Local Experiences, which, says Reynolds, “by their very nature, means that travelers are often interacting with the locals while leisurely exploring off-the-tourist-trail places.” Consider just a sampling of those “out-of-the-box” experiences:
- Tregothnan Estate Private Tour – England: Internationally recognized as the home of English tea and the home of the Boscawen family since 1335, Tregothnan hosts a private tour when the estate is closed to the general public; the guide is usually the head gardener or a member of the gardening team.
- The Irish National Stud – Ireland: Belonging to the people of Ireland, the Irish National Stud, a Thoroughbred horse breeding facility, is a unique attraction of outstanding natural beauty and home to some of the world’s most magnificent horses and gardens. “Meet the Locals” is always part of any Back-Roads tour, and in Ireland, the place to hang out will be traditional Irish pubs.
- Black Cab Political Tour – Northern Ireland: Clients will learn about Belfast’s turbulent past aboard a famous Black Cab ride around both sides of the Belfast Community, including the infamous Falls and Shankill Roads, the Peace Line, the International Wall, the Sinn Fein Headquarters and Bombay Street where tensions originally erupted.
- Welsh Language Lesson – Wales: Participants will travel along the beautiful Llyn Peninsula to the Heritage Centre for a talk on the ancient Welsh language, learning phrases of ancient Welsh and enjoying a cup of tea. Also in Wales, they’ll meet one of the famous Male Voice Choirs and hum along with the Welsh song-men.
- Sail under the Chateau de Chenonceau – France: Travelers will take a boat cruise under the beautiful arches that span the River Loire, then stroll the gardens filled with hundreds of climbing and standard roses, orange trees and perfectly manicured box hedges.
“Culinary Experiences” are also important to the Back-Roads Touring product, which places particular emphasis on food and drink as part of the celebration of the rich heritage of European fare. Special “Culinary Experiences” enable guests to dine at iconic restaurants run by award-winning chefs—say the famous Pudding Club in the Cotswolds; taking cooking classes—tapas in southern Spain, pasta in Tuscany; visiting local farms; and enjoying food and wine tastings with local producers.
Reynolds reports that “while we receive about 5 percent of our inquiries directly from our website, the travel trade is our largest source of business. And we work very closely with the trade, distributing our product to all the major agency consortia.”
what’s coming up in 2015
On six departure dates in 2015, clients are invited to travel with Carolyn Robb—once the private chef to Prince Charles and Lady Diana—to spend five days touring Scotland and getting a unique insight into the Royal Family. During this experience of a lifetime, the piece de resistance is a private welcome dinner aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. The A Taste of Scotland with Carolyn Robb is priced at $5,295 pp sharing; departures are monthly April through October (except August). ●
Back-Roads Touring: (877) 330-4850; backroadstouring.com