Thoughts from a GeoCultura Private Tour Guide

Benefits of a private tour - what goes through the mind of a GeoCultura Tour Guide?
9 minute read
Private Tour guests examining an ornate table, Lacock Abbey

What really goes through the mind of your private tour guide?

The benefits to you of booking a private tour are obvious. A personalised itinerary, the undivided attention of your guide, a greater depth of learning and connection, and an inherent flexibility are just a few that spring to mind.

But what does your tour guide think of private tours? After all, leading a private tour is a very different experience to leading a group tour.

Leading a private tour could mean working with a group of friends and family or leading a group of one. It could mean more quirky requests to deal with. And it could mean more opportunities for carefully laid tour plans to derail as interests shift mid tour.

We talked to three of our Tour Leaders to find out what they really think of these challenges and more that come with leading a private tour.

(Spoiler alert: it turns out these challenges can be what makes leading a private tour something to relish!)

Challenge 1: Indulging quirky interests

The best tour guides get a real buzz from sharing things they love with people who will appreciate them. For our Tour Leaders, guiding a private tour is an unfettered opportunity to sing the praises of their favourite people, places, and details – and to find out what grabs your interest.

We’ve yet to meet anyone more enthusiastic about, or more supportive of, other people’s interests than our Tour Leaders! They’re endlessly curious so when they meet people who get equally passionate about a topic, any topic, they’re in their element.

Whether you choose a private tour guide because their expertise matches your interests, or you happen to mention what arouses your curiosity, you can be sure the right guide will do everything in their power to feed your curiosity in your private tour.

“Last year, one of the ladies in a group I was leading shared that she loved to make her own jam and preserves,” recalls Seren Welch, who leads parts of our Southern England tours. “The village of Lacock was on the tour, so I suggested we walk a slightly different route around the village. I wanted to take them past a house that always has a small stall outside selling homemade jams with an honesty box for payments. The tour guests loved this, especially as they had the chance to exchange recipe ideas and techniques with the owner.”

Challenge 2: Making last-minute changes of plan

While it’s helpful to share your interests with your guide before your private tour begins, our private Tour Leaders understand that sometimes you don’t realise you’re really interested in something until you’ve seen it or heard about it!

“One of my American guests was amazed that we could just walk into small country churches and take a look around. Once she’d been into one, she wanted to stop at them all!” says GeoCultura Tour Leader Jonathan Evans. “So, we visited several of the Norman and 'younger' churches and chapels in the Isle of Purbeck, mostly as short unplanned stops or detours as we were driving by between other locations. This was only possible with a small group and also because I knew when the churches were open or who to ask for the keys!”

This level of customisation and last-minute flexibility is something you can only really enjoy on a private tour, when you’ve only got yourself to please. Without the constraints of a fixed schedule or the need to keep a larger group happy, your private tour guide can adapt the tour on the fly.

Believe it or not, this ability to modify the tour in real-time is something your guide relishes in! Who doesn’t love a spontaneous detour to explore a hidden gem, the chance to linger at a site that provokes a great conversation, or to avoid crowded spots in favour of more serene settings?

Challenge 3: Bonding with a private group

Have you ever wondered how a private tour guide feels about guiding a group of people who already know each other well?

According to Alex Hare, professional photographer and Tour Leader on our Scotland and the Isle of Skye Landscapes and Photography TourIsle of Skye Landscapes and Photography Tour, it can make the job easier: “When you’re with a group who already know each other, for me, it’s more about fitting into them as a group rather than trying to create that initial group bonding experience. It’s nice because there’s usually already a positive vibe, plenty of room for humour, and it makes for a bit of shared storytelling around different people in the group and how they know each other. I like it because, for the small period you’re with them, you get to become part of their friendship circle.”

Seren also enjoys the immediate easy-going atmosphere, especially when she gets to take groups off the beaten track: “The tour becomes more like a day out with friends, where I also get to share my enthusiasm for less well-known heritage and natural landscape sites.”

Bonding with the group is a priority for private tour guides. Jonathan always has dinner with his guests on the first evening to get to know them, discuss their interests, and give some options for potential add-ons. Naturally, the conversation doesn’t always stick to the tour – and your private tour guide enjoys the many tangents and variety of topics that come up!

“I’ve had guests that were lecturers at military academies, psychiatrists, geologists, artists, and engineers,” says Seren. “They all come to the tour with their own life experiences. As a result, no two dinner conversations are the same.”

Challenge 4: Working outside the typical 9-to-5

It’s safe to say, people don’t become a private tour guide if they want to confine their working hours to the typical 9-to-5. Our Tour Leaders help you squeeze the most from your private tour by happily getting up before dawn and lingering over dinner, if that’s what you need. (But don’t worry. If your day looks like it’s going to be a long one, the best tour guides always make sure there’s a chance to grab some downtime, too.)

Jonathan has been known to help people pack as much as possible into their short tour by taking guests for a dawn walk to see the sunrise over Old Harry Rocks on the Jurassic Coast.

Alex is frequently up early and out late to catch the best of the light. “One of my private tour groups wanted to get some killer photographs of a particular landscape, so I adapted the itinerary to spend time at the best viewpoints at specific times of day. I couldn't have done that with a bigger group because there are too many different interests pulling in different directions,” he says. This particular private group was a family and they took full advantage of Alex’s expertise as an experienced landscape photographer, much to his delight. “One evening, some of the family stayed at the accommodation while I took the others out after hours for a sunset shoot at a location that nobody else really knew about.”

We’re making a big deal of bonding over dinner here, but don’t worry – our Tour Leaders don’t expect to join you for every meal! But don’t imagine they always take their spare evenings as spare time. Seren has been known to use her evenings to recce extra special places to visit the following day!

Challenge 5: Going ‘above and beyond’

One of the greatest benefits of booking a private tour is that your tour guide will usually do everything in their power to help you have the best experience possible. That could be anything from adapting the itinerary on a whim to checking that a chef will prepare food according to your allergies and preferences, to getting access to places that others can’t go.

Without giving away any of their secrets, that last one is a biggie, and something our tour guides take great pride in.

“If it’s within my power to add something special that will connect with a guest’s specific interest, I will,” confides Seren. “Last year, we had a great couple visiting who had a specific interest in the geology of Purbeck and the Jurassic Coast. I knew that we would be visiting the area later that week and that Laycock Abbey houses a unique stone table made from Purbeck stone – it’s actually designated as one of the National Trust’s 100 treasured artefacts. The Tower where it’s kept was closed to the public, so I rang ahead to ask if the curator could show our guests the table. This was completely off the itinerary and involved the guests taking a hidden passageway not open to the public. They loved it, and the table.”

 It's clear that Seren gets a kick out of organising these kind of escapades. But we know what you’re wondering: what’s the most challenging request they’ve ever had to deal with? Seren spills the beans…

 “It has to be the request to hold and examine a skeleton – a real one – in one of the locations we were visiting! Due to the fragile nature of the Roman skeleton this wasn’t possible, but I did manage to take them behind the scenes at the Museum of London. Did you know, every time you dig down on a building site in London, human remains seem to be discovered. These can be hundreds of years old. If they are over a certain age and are not claimed, these then become the property of the Museum of London. As a result, they have an unbelievable collection of bones including some that tell a very gruesome side of London’s history. I particularly remember a 600-year-old skeleton with an arrowhead still lodged in the spine!”

 Private tour vs group tour?

 One thing Seren, Jonathan and Alex wouldn’t tell us was whether they prefer to lead GeoCultura’s private and custom tours or our small-group tours – but we can’t expect them to give away all their secrets! You’ll just have to book a private guided tour and ask them yourself!

Contact us directly to find out more about our private and custom guided tours.