In August I spent a lot of time out of town. Doing what? Going on guided tours, of course!
It all started with a Busman's Holiday.
On an actual bus…
At the start of August I visited Liverpool with my 10 year-old-daughter Isobella (above) and we soaked up the music culture of that great Northern seaport – including the Magical Mystery Tour with guide Paul Beesley and driver Vinny.
I've visited Liverpool on several occasions as a Beatles fan, but had never managed to fit The Magical Mystery Tour into my trip - I finally got around to it on this visit and I'm glad I did.
We joined the tour down at Albert Dock. (Tip: DO book in advance as it was completely sold out.)
Our guide was Paul (not THE Paul!) and our driver was Vinny and they took us around ALL the major Beatle sites – family homes, old schools and haunts, Penny Lane & Strawberry Fields and more.
Regular Daily Constitutionalists and London Walkers who have joined my Rock'n'Roll & Beatles tours will already know, I am a huge Beatles fan (I even managed to squeeze a mention of The Fabs into my Kensington tour yesterday!) and Paul's knowledge was impeccable and wonderfully presented. He treated the subject with seriousness but enlivened the proceedings with plenty of cracking good jokes. I also loved that he threw in some great Liverpool history, too, absolutely fascinating stuff.
The tour ends very near the remodelled Cavern Club in Mathew Street.
A great guide and a very friendly fella (as was driver Vinny), Paul gave us just the sort of warm welcome that makes a holiday memorable. Well done guys!
If you are lucky enough to get Paul as your guide, your trip really will be magical too.
Heading to Liverpool? Roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour - visit the website here: www.cavernclub.org/the-magical-mystery-tour/
You can keep up with expert Liverpool guide Paul Beesley on Twitter – follow him here: twitter.com/bluebadgeguide
Next stop Whitby in Yorkshire for some good, old-fashioned storytelling.
Whitby is famed as the place where Count Dracula enters this country in Bram Stoker's famous novel. The ruined Abbey is suitably spooky and it's a popular destination for Goths and Dracula fans from all over the world.
Our walking tour was proper old school - no website, no booking, no Twitter, no nothing. Just turn up by the sign in the market square and away we go…
Our guide appeared as if from nowhere and with no formal introduction he whisked us away on a spooky, family-friendly and totally unforgettable trip around the hidden alleyways of Whitby…
Ghosts, Dracula, history and PLENTY of gory bits. No frills, just great story telling and a warm Yorkshire welcome.
I can also recommend the chocolate coffins from Justin's sweetie shop near the market square…
Next stop… Edinburgh!
Edinburgh these days is teeming with ghost tours - mostly the ones that announce themselves to be free and then the guide spends the rest of YOUR time showing you pics of her emaciated puppy and her eviction notice so that you will pay-up cash money. It's a horror story, but not the kind I like.
The long established Mercat Tours should always be your first port of call in Edinburgh.
Our tour of the vaults beneath the city was spooky, gory, funny and packed with history. This is nothing less than the PERFECT ghost tour.
We met our guides Alun & Jenny by the Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile having booked and paid our places in advance - a group of two adults and two ten-year-olds.
Alun (with the spooky dark eyes and mellifluous voice) and Jenny (with her absolutely and totally TERRIFYING shriek!) are expert storytellers in the old tradition - perfect companions for a tour in the old town of Edinburgh.
As well as being excellent storytellers, Alun & Jenny are also wonderful hosts. I am an exiled Edinburgh man living in London some 25 years and they made me proud of my home city all over again.
The tour ends with a drink – a whisky, a wine or a soft drink – in the underground bar which is part of the subterranean vaults where the tour takes place. Alun & Jenny regaled us with a few more tales before sending us off quaking (and laughing too) into the Edinburgh night.
I am a sucker for a ghost tour at the best of times. But this one is hard to beat, the best I've ever experienced.
Well done Alun & Jenny, thanks for making our visit so memorable.
Go and see the guys at Mercat Tours next time you are in Edinburgh. Their website is here: www.mercattours.com
A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.