Downton Abbey, Vikings, Wallabies and Tinkling the Ivories | TravelResearchOnline


Downton Abbey, Vikings, Wallabies and Tinkling the Ivories

On Location tours, Viking Festivals, Wallabies in one of England’s finest woodland gardens, and an audio tour of a fine collection keyboard instruments. Welcome to the world I live in and the experiences I include in customised itineraries for couples, families and groups cruising or flying in and out of the UK. Read on and discover more about the bubble, fizz and pleasant surprises I can add to your tours.

Downton Abbey, the Movie

With the film being released in the USA on Friday 20th September, let’s talk about a 2-night package that can be worked into an On Location pre or post cruise extension or a customised tour based in the south east of England. With Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Hugh Bonneville as the Earl of Downton, Joanne Froggatt as Anna Bates and withering comments from Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, interest is guaranteed to be rekindled among its old (and many new) fans. Send me an email and let’s explore ways of converting the film’s popularity into valuable dollars.

York’s Viking Festival

In February, the city of York will once again reverberate to the sound of shield smashing and sword slashing as they stage their annual Viking Festival. Recognised as the largest event of its kind in Europe, it celebrates York’s rich Norse heritage with an exciting programme of living history encampments, a march of Viking warriors, workshops, talks, tours and dramatic combat performances. Easily accessible with non-stop flights to Manchester it is less than 2 hours by train from London.

Waddesdon Manor for Garden Lovers

Set in 165-acres of grand grounds with terraces, fountains and vistas, the Waddesdon Manor’s landscape is essentially like the one laid out by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild and his French landscape designer Elie Laine. Regarded as one of the finest Victorian gardens in Britain with extensive parterres, immaculately maintained seasonal bedding plants, rose gardens and an ornate rococo-style aviary. A private tour led by one of the gardening team is not to be missed.

Say G’day to the Wallabies

The wallabies (like small kangaroos) have lived wild at Leonardslee for more than 100 years, and you can enjoy them once again now that Leonardslee Gardens has reopened. The “wallies” are great environmentally friendly mowing machines, working without pay or petrol every day of the year—and unlike their mechanical counterparts, they are self-reproducing. Read more here about one of England’s finest woodland gardens and work it into tours visiting the south east of England.

Getting Up a Head of Steam

Three years ago, the restoration of the Flying Scotsman achieved massive coverage in the specialist press; and in response, I created a short stack of imaginative tours which can be customised to suit specific requests. Following my mantra of travelling less and seeing more, they are centred on four different regions of the UK. Some of your clients will be steam train enthusiasts and one of these itineraries could interest the Steam Preservation Society they belong to.

Foyles War, Mapp and Lucia

If your clients are fans of either Foyle’s War or Mapp and Lucia, with careful planning, it’s possible to put together a tour focusing on Hastings Old Town locations used in the filming of Foyle’s War. Something similar can be created around the fictional seaside town of E.J. Benson’s Tilling, aka the medieval hilltop citadel of Rye, including her home at Lamb House; which was once lived in by the American novelist Henry James.

Follow in the Brushstrokes

The Artist’s Village near Guildford is a unique Arts and Crafts gem and home to a stunning permanent collection of Victorian paintings and sculpture. Find out more about the lives of George Frederic Watts and Mary Watts at the Watts Studio and take a tour of their home at Linnerslease. See how their legacy continues and visit the studio of their Artist in Residence. Before you leave, enjoy a quiet moment at the Watts Chapel, a masterpiece of Arts and Crafts decoration and design.

RWS137238 ‘Oh What’s That in the Hollow?’ (w/c on paper) by Hughes, Edward Robert (1851-1914); © Trustees of the Royal Watercolour Society, London, UK; English, out of copyright

Wisteria at RHS Garden Wisley

Find Inspiration at the Flagship of the RHS

Wisley is the historic home of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), and houses one of the largest plant collections in the world. It is an assortment of traditional and contemporary planting styles in a huge variety of gardens. Swathes of bulbs and blossom in spring and unforgettable mixed borders and roses in summer. Don’t miss the stunning Glasshouse, set to transport you to far-flung shores, and the new Exotic Garden, showcasing plants that have a tropical look and feel but which will flourish outdoors in a typical UK summer climate.

Tinkling the Ivories

Hatchlands is a must see and hear experience for music lovers. This classic Georgian country residence, set in acres of open fields and ancient woodland, is home to the Cobbe Collection of over 40 keyboard instruments. Showcased are pianos owned or played on by Johann Christian Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Elgar and Bizet. Their audio guides bring them to life and enable you to hear these remarkable instruments being played without attending a concert. The art collection includes works by artists such as Titian, Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Paull Tickner, owner of U.K.-based Custom GB, is known for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at or email him at

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