ABOUT ALISON – AND ALISON WEIR TOURS
If you’re reading this, you obviously love to travel – like me! Yet never did I ever dream that I would run a tour company, escorting fellow enthusiasts back in time to the historical places I love to visit, and sharing a passion for history – or that it would be such great fun. If I had a parallel life, I’d do it full-time – my other life, of course, being devoted to writing books. As it is, I have to limit myself to planning and leading one tour (or occasionally two) a year.
It all began in 2009, when I was lecturing at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, and was introduced to staff from Smithsonian Journeys, who were hoping to devise a Tudor tour of Britain for their Associates Program. I was asked if I could advise, and said I’d be delighted. I ended up planning and leading that tour – the Tudor Tapestry tour (June 2010) – which, I was told, had been the fastest-selling tour that Smithsonian Journeys had run. We had 34 guests – and a long waiting list. We stayed at Hever Castle and Coombe Abbey, visited the great castles of Leeds, Windsor and Sudeley, the prodigy houses of Derbyshire, the Tower and Hampton Court, and shared meals in restaurants as well as historical knowledge. The feedback was terrific.
Afterwards, my agent, Julian Alexander, suggested that I set up my own company, running similar tours on different historical themes related to my books. That idea appealed to me enormously, and I soon got together a great team to run the company with me. Julian deals with the finance, the legal side, the costings and overall co-ordination; John Marston, who has had over 45 years’ experience in the travel business, particularly in group business travel, is our Tour Director, who books coaches, hotels and meals, and – with his wife, Jo - looks after guests’ needs; Siobhan Clarke, an expert Tudor and costume historian, runs the administrative side, adding her creative input, and acting as guide-lecturer on some tours. The acclaimed historian Sarah Gristwood accompanies me on the tours as AWT's special guest, as does Nicola Tallis, our Assistant Historian, who works full-time on the tours and also specialises in customer care.
I myself plan, develop and lead the tours. I also maintain this website, book all the site visits, and devise the detailed itineraries and the enrichment programme, which comprises guest historians and a programme of talks, as well as privileged access to parts of historic sites not normally open to the public. Each tour requires over a a year of careful preparation.
We try wherever possible to stay in historic hotels. Some are hundreds of years old, so please be aware that they may not have lifts or air-conditioning, and that in Britain hotel rooms may not be as spacious as those in the U.S.A., for example. All the hotels we choose are of a high standard (4* to 5*), and we select them for their charm, historical appeal and the welcome we receive as well as for the luxury and comfort they afford and guest ratings.
We have run six highly successful tours now - Tudor Treasures (June 2011), Gloriana (September 2012), Lancaster and York (May 2013), The Six Wives of Henry VIII (July 2013) and Mary, Queen of Scots (June and October 2014) – if the feedback we have received is anything to go by. They have been so enjoyable that I can’t wait for the next one, and much of that is due to the fabulous groups we have had!
What has continually struck me is how quickly our groups have become friendly – single travellers have no need to fear they will be lonely, as everyone pals up and looks out for each other. Looking around at everyone partying together on the last night of each tour always gives me a huge buzz!
You do need a certain amount of energy for our tours. We give priority to history over leisure, and sometimes we have a lot of ground - and distances - to cover, so if you want a relaxing holiday, chilling out, they are probably not for you. They are enrichment journeys, designed to give you as comprehensive and enjoyable an experience as possible, and a real understanding of the subject on which each tour is themed. We pack a lot in, including a comprehensive programme of talks, but we always try to allow free time at every site or hotel for the things we know that guests like to do: admiring gardens, browsing in gift shops, enjoying morning coffee or afternoon tea, having a drink with friends, and dressing up for dinner. So, if you enjoy your history in large doses, while staying in luxurious hotels or historic castles, and travelling and being wined and dined in great company – come and join us!
A NOTE ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY
Please be aware that at some historic sites photography is restricted or not allowed; for example, some tapestries and paintings are copyright. When arranging privileged access, we may be escorting you into someone's home, where taking photos may not be appropriate or welcome. We ask guests to respect these rules. Regrettably that request has occasionally been ignored, to our embarrassment, and we have also received complaints from guests about constant and intrusive photograpy. We understand that you want a photographic record of your trip, and we ensure that there are opportunities for that, but we do ask all our guests to ensure that the taking of photographs never intrudes on others' enjoyment, and that it is never for professional purposes.
Alison Weir Tours are exclusive and private. We ask that no photos of the tour featuring any persons on it be published or shared on the internet, or in social networks, books or the media, without the prior permission of those who appear in them. We have had several guests express concern about this, and wish to reassure everyone that their privacy is respected.
ABOUT ALISON WEIR
Alison Weir was born in London, England, and was educated at the City of London School. Later, she trained as a teacher, with history as her main subject. But her great love of history had been born some years earlier, after reading her first adult novel at the age of fourteen. After that, she took up history as a hobby. She publishes her twentieth book this year, and has sold well over 2.7 million books worldwide. She is the biggest-selling female historian in the United Kingdom.
Alison had a career in Civil Service management and training before her first book, Britain's Royal Families, was published in 1989. She has since written many other best-selling history books: The Six Wives of Henry VIII; The Princes in the Tower; Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses; Children of England: The Heirs of Henry VIII; Elizabeth the Queen; Eleanor of Aquitaine, By the Wrath of God, Queen of England; Henry VIII: King and Court; Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley; Isabella She-Wolf of France, Queen of England; Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, and Elizabeth of York. Alison has also written five best-selling novels, Innocent Traitor, about Lady Jane Grey, The Lady Elizabeth, which tells the story of the young Elizabeth I, The Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine, A Dangerous Inheritance, and The Marriage Game: A Novel of Elizabeth I.
From 1991 to 1997, she ran her own school for children with special needs, and has a special commitment to promoting adult literacy. In 2010 she published a short book, Traitors of the Tower, for the Quick Reads series for emergent adult readers. She undertakes a comprehensive programme of literary events - nearly 600 of them since 1991, and has toured America extensively. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences, and an Honorary Lifetime Patron of Historic Royal Palaces, and is married with two adult children.
Alison Weir worked with English Heritage on many of its popular ‘Tours Through Time’, and with Smithsonian Journeys in Washington, for whom she developed and led the "Tudor Tapestry" tour of Tudor England in 2010. She founded Alison Weir Tours that year, and has since led five high-end tours, with three more in the planning.
Here are just three of the many testimonials sent by tour guests to Alison Weir…
“My wife and I would like to thank you for making our trip the best and most memorable trip that we have ever taken.”
“How very special you made the 'trip of a lifetime' for all of us – it was such a wonderful experience.”
“I would again like to thank you for the most generous gift of your time. I enjoyed the tour tremendously. I really appreciated your taking the time to listen to my ideas even though I am not a historian and I am sure that you have heard it all before. I can see why you are in such demand as a speaker. Aside from your ability to tell a good story, you obviously respect your audience.”
Alison Weir's official site: www.alisonweir.org.uk