Special Interest Tours

Jardim Soller, Majorca - © Robert Callow
The Grand Canal
Jardim Soller, Majorca - © Robert Callow
The Grand Canal

We have, for many years, provided the travel expertise for numerous interest groups who wish to pursue their hobbies and activities further afield and we are particularly committed to helping organisations develop their programme of specialist tours. We have particular specialism in arranging holidays for rail enthusiasts, but we also provide a service to wider special interest groups, arranging travel and accommodation for organisations such as geology and music groups, gardening clubs, history and art societies and have worked very closely with the Wilmslow Guild for 15 years to allow many of their study groups to extend their knowledge further by organising field trips at home and abroad. Each tour is accompanied by a tour leader who is a specialist in the chosen subject and, whilst they are not strenuous tours, we should mention that they are an educational experience as well as a holiday. Numbers can range from small parties of just 5 to up to 30 depending on destination.  Below is a selection of Special Interest Tours we have organised previously.

Wild Flowers of Marjorca 

Majorca, largest and most diverse of the Balearic Islands, is home to an extensive flora, seen at its best in Spring. We have run a specialist tour to the Island for the last two years, led by Dr Robert Callow, and the tour is proving popular among those interested in gaining knowledge of flowers further afield.  Our tour party stayed on the quiet and beautiful north coast, visiting a wide range of natural habitats, encompassing marshland, mountain valleys, rocky shores and sand dunes, as well as formal gardens and Neolithic sites. Some plants are familiar, being native to Britain. Some exhibit features adaptive to the Mediterranean climate. Others are unique, their characteristics and distribution bearing witness to the thirty million year old history of the western Mediterranean. It is a wonderful way to appreciate this beautiful Balearic Island from a different perspective that also nourishes your personal interest in flowers. Full details on our web site or brochure available.

The Geology & Scenery of Anglesey

The popular holiday destination of Anglesey has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, for its lovely beaches and interesting natural history, and more recently as the UNESCO Geopark of Geomon, for its unique geology. The ancient rocks which underpin this beautiful island were formed more than 600 million years ago in deep oceans towards the South Pole. Plate tectonics moved these rocks northwards into tropical seas where continents were squeezed together to produce the complex patterns of folds and faults seen in the cliffs around Rhoscolyn and Holyhead. The younger sandstones and fossiliferous limestones of eastern Anglesey were then deposited and subsequent ice ages and seas level changes carved out the landscape seen today. A 7-day self-drive Study Tour was led by Dr. Christine Arkwright, a geology tutor with the Open University and Wilmslow Guild and an expert in running geology field trips and study tours in the UK for undergraduate summer schools and adult education courses.

The Aldeburgh Festival 

This very successful tour was organised for the Wilmslow Guild as part of their music appreciation courses and was led by Roger Wilkes. Roger read music at Clare College, Cambridge, and at London University. He has been music tutor at the Guild for 20 years, is President of the North West Early Music Forum and serves on the Council and Academic Board of the Guild of Church Musicians. The Aldeburgh Festival is an annual event which was founded in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Eric Crozier. The 2013 Festival was a special occasion to mark the centenary of Britten’s birth and a highlight of the programme was a performance of “Peter Grimes” in the open air setting of Aldeburgh Beach.

The Geology & Scenery of Normandy

The coasts of Normandy and Brittany reveal an amazing variety of rocks and scenery, from the Chalk cliffs of Upper Normandy and the Seine Valley to the ancient granites and gneisses of the Cotentin Peninsula and northern Brittany. There is plenty of interest for the non-geologist, too. The less known but beautiful inland scenery is also strongly influenced by the underlying rocks and their structures. We will study the richly fossiliferous sediments of the Paris Basin, and the ancient eroded mountain belt that lies beneath it. The geology will be demonstrated through cliff and beach walks to study outcrops, and frequent stops at coastal and inland viewpoints. We will examine the region's heritage of mining of minerals, energy resources and building materials. Visits to excellent local and regional museums and maisons du pays, gardens, castles and other places of interest are planned. A recurring theme will be the strong influence that geology has had on warfare through the centuries, from the castles of William the Conqueror to the D-Day landing beaches and the inland Battle of Normandy. We will stay in comfortable, traditional French hotels, where we can sample the local ambiance and the excellent food, including Normandy cheeses, seafood, crêpes and cider.

Venice Music Study Tour

Venice, one of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating cities, also has a long and distinguished musical history. Many original venues associated with that history survive more or less intact – e.g. the Basilica di San Marco, the Scuola di San Rocco, and the Pietà. Several of the palazzi which line the Grand Canal originally housed aristocratic families who engaged leading composers and commissioned significant compositions first performed in these same palazzi. Venice saw the inauguration in 1637 of the Teatro San Cassiano, the first opera-house opened to a paying public. This, with most of Venice’s other opera-houses, has long been demolished, while others have changed their purpose.

This tour visits San Marco, the Pietà, the Frari and San Pietro di Castello, Venice’s original cathedral, and two major libraries housing manuscripts and printed music by Venetian composers. Other highlights include the Music Conservatory, possibly to include a recital from current students and guided tours of the sites of some of Venice’s former opera-houses to see the palaces where important musical compositions were premiered. Famous musical visitors to Venice included Rossini and Verdi, Tschaikovsky, Wagner and Stravinsky (the last two men died here).

Holiday Highlights

Driving into the Gotthard Tunnel - © AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd/Photo by Nicola Demaldi  
World's Longest Rail Tunnel

Special Mini-Break to celebrate the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland in June 2016.

Weekend City Breaks

It has never been so easy to explore Europe's cities by train. The holiday begins when you board Eurostar.

SNCF's TGV service through France  
Great Continental Railway Journeys

Series 3 of this popular BBC2 programme has just completed. Re-trace Michael Portillo's rail journeys in one of our specially created tours that mirror each episode.

Sovata Train - © Alan Heywood  
'Small & Traditional' Romania - Life as it used to be

More opportunity to explore a country that remains relatively untouched by tourism. Enjoy travelling in a small group of a maximum of 14 people and discover Romania's rural beauty.

Taliesin & special train in Minffordd yard - © Dan May  
Access All Areas

An in-depth tour of the Ffestiniog Railway, the world's oldest narrow gauge railway including areas not normally seen by the public.

Bridge on the Wutachtal Steam Railway  
Family Rail Breaks

Take a family rail holiday to Germany's Black Forest and discover a different destination whilst enjoying a sociable, relaxed way of travelling.

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