Travel smarter: Extraordinary holidays hosted by expert guides

Forget guide books – take an expert instead: Travel firms are recruiting guest lecturers to help turn holidays into extraordinary experiences

  • Sign up for a tour of Turkey with the former head gardener to the Queen Mother  
  • Food author Marc Millon joins a Gastronomic Veneto trip in June 
  • Andante Travels has a tour of the English Riviera with an Agatha Christie expert 

Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: Holidays hosted by expert guides.

Top-notch tour guides and guest lecturers can turn holidays into extraordinary experiences – and travel firms are recruiting some of the best as the world reopens.

Tour managers with award-winning Brightwater Holidays, for example, include Colin Crosbie, former head gardener to the Queen Mother, and Peter Yeoman, previously head of cultural heritage at Historic Environment Scotland.

A tour of Turkey with Colin Crosbie, former head gardener to the Queen Mother, includes a visit to the ancient site of Ephesus (pictured)

Crosbie is set to lead Brightwater’s eight-day Gardens And Archaeology Tour Of Turkey in 2022, going from an arboretum in the Anatolian countryside to the ancient sites of Assos and Ephesus. Prices start at £2,095pp.

As well as leading several Scottish trips, Yeoman will also head eight-day Albanian Archaeology tours, which start at £1,495pp. Visit

An impressive roster of experts is also available on Viking’s river, ocean and expedition cruises.

Its expedition tours feature two dozen approachable experts, including biologists, botanists, scientists, geologists, glaciologists, oceanographers and ornithologists. Tours also include historians who give location-specific lectures, lead round-table discussions during the day, and host dinners at night. They are also available for daily one-on-one chats with guests.

On some ships, Viking offers resident astronomers led by Royal Astronomical Society Fellow Howard Parkin. They host guided talks under an immersive planetarium or ‘explorers’ dome’. Top trips to go on with the experts include an eight-day Shores And Fjords trip from Bergen to Amsterdam from £3,240pp, or the 12-day Pharaohs And Pyramids holiday with Egyptologists from £4,195pp (

Opera directors, academics, architects and art historians are among the experts taking the lead on trips with Kirker Holidays.

The knowledge: A tour led by an Egyptologist will explain hieroglyphics, like these in the Temple of Edfu

A top choice for spring is a glorious five-night Art Of The Cote d’Azur holiday which includes guided visits to the Marc Chagall Museum and the Maeght Foundation, where there are works by Picasso and Miro. Guests also tour the Musee Matisse in Nice and the Musee Picasso in Antibes. Tours cost from £1,978pp, with BA flights to Nice (

Great Rail Journeys has a core group of specialists who lead its small-group battlefield tours.

Its Lille, Flanders And The Somme Tour, which costs from £675pp, includes escorted train travel from London, guided visits to the Tyne Cot and Langemark cemeteries and the Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate in Ypres (

If food and wine are your passion, then Martin Randall Travel is worth a look. Its tours include the Gastronomic Veneto trip in June, which starts with dinner in Verona, then crosses vineyards and hills around Breganze and Asolo before dipping down to Venice.

Martin Randall Travel’s Gastronomic Veneto trip starts with dinner in Verona 

Alongside lectures from food author Marc Millon and art historian Roberto Cobianchi, guests enjoy meals in Michelin-starred restaurants and get to taste mountain cheeses, sparkling wines and fiery grappa. The trip, which costs from £3,840pp, ends with lunch on a private Venetian island (

Closer to home, Andante Travels has a four-day Agatha Christie And The English Riviera tour led by the lecturer who helped develop the Agatha Christie exhibition at Torquay Museum. As well as touring the town, you visit the author’s home, Greenway House, and spots along the Devon coast that inspired her work. It costs from £780pp.

The firm also offers expert-led overseas tours focusing on literature, music, wildlife and archaeology, as well as others based on lesser-known subjects such as rock and cave art from France to Namibia. Visit

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