Escorted Tour Leaders
Apart from the destination, one of the most important elements in any escorted tour is perhaps the tour leader. Together with their extensive knowledge and experience, each brings their own inimitable style and flair to a tour, ensuring that you derive maximum enjoyment from these very individual journeys. On occasion you may also be accompanied by a guest lecturer whose expertise in a particular field such as art, architecture, gardens or military history, can only enhance a tour further. Further information about lecturers may be found in the relevant tour details.
Though born and educated on America’s East Coast, Liz Bonham spent most of her holidays with her maternal grandparents in Ayrshire and ultimately moved to the United Kingdom. Liz has worked in special education and is keen on tennis, golf and bridge, though her real passion is travel.
Chris Bradley has been a professional guide and lecturer for over 30 years, specialising in the Middle East, and has written guidebooks on The Silk Road, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Cairo, many of them illustrated with his own photographs. He is a NADFAS lecturer who has also lectured at the Royal Geographic Society and regularly gives illustrated talks for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. His television credits include producing documentaries for BBC, Channel 4 and National Geographic Television.
An obsessive enthusiast about wildlife since he can remember, Andy has worked all his life in nature conservation for wildlife trusts, local government and, for 26 years, for the RSPB. He was the RSPB's Regional Director for the South East of England for five years before, taking up the reins as Director of the North of England in 1991. He is widely travelled, having led tours to destinations as far afield as Spitsbergen to the Seychelles and Egypt to Hungary. During the tour there will be informal talks and guidance from expert birder Andy, who will share his 50 years of wildlife watching experience.
Theodora is an expert on Russian art and European modernism. She attained her Masters at the Courtauld Institute of Art, is currently completing her PhD in Russian art, and lectures widely on 20th century painting and sculpture. She is Editor of the popular arts website, Russian Art and Culture, and Founder of Russian Art Week. Knowing Russia well, she is keen to share a more unusual side of Moscow and St Petersburg, including the vibrant contemporary art scene.
Born and brought up in East Africa, Jax´s peregrinations have taken her all over most of the globe, with extended spells in the Far East and Middle East, Ethiopia and Turkey. Passionate about people and places, she loves to share her insights and enthusiasm with like-minded souls, who like colour, vitality and travelling a little ‘off the beaten track’!
Caroline Courtauld MBE
Caroline Courtauld is a writer, photographer, and documentary film producer and researcher. Her latest documentary for PSB (USA) Building China Modern, has received wide acclaim. Publications include books on Burma, Hong Kong and China - her latest, Myanmar: Burma in Style beautifully illustrates the politics, history and culture of the country, meeting the people and evoking the magic and mystery of what was once the richest nation in Asia. Caroline resides in Hong Kong and Essex, England.
Gillian’s family and professional life has led to worldwide travel. Born in Rome and educated in Italy, Switzerland and England, Gillian is bilingual in Italian, fluent in French and speaks some Spanish. As the Director of the BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair London, Gillian now lives between London and Italy. She is also fascinated with Eastern Europe and has organised and led tours to Macedonia, St. Petersburg, Dresden, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Morocco, and Italy. As well as studying the history, art and architecture, she enjoys exploring the culture, traditions and local life and getting to know the character of a country.
After a long service in the British Army and having lived in either Bosnia or Kosovo for 2 ½ years, Andrew Cumming continues to be fascinated by Former Yugoslavia. He has worked on the issues that have plagued this region for the last 20 years and has steeped himself in the history and culture of the Balkans. Despite having come to understand some, but definitely not all, of the things that make the Southern Slavs tick, the mystery remains for Andrew and that is what fascinates him. He now lives in Wiltshire with his wife and has three daughters.
Fiona Gibson is an avid traveller, having enjoyed spells in Hong Kong and California, together with frequent visits to the Continent, the Caribbean and in particular Africa, about which she is passionate and knows well. At home in Rutland, Fiona enjoys an active family life centred around country pursuits and sports. She also has a great interest in food and is a Cordon Bleu cook.
Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE, DL was recently described by the Spectator as the doyen of British explorers. Conservationist, broadcaster, film maker, author of more than 20 books, lecturer, campaigner, farmer and, with his wife Louella, equestrian traveller par excellence, he is one of the few remaining British explorers to merit the name.
He is a Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society, a Founder and President of Survival International, the world’s leading organisation supporting tribal peoples. Named as the greatest explorer by the Sunday Times, he has been on over 30 expeditions, including as leader of the Royal Geographical Society’s largest expedition, taking 115 scientists to live for fifteen months in the interior of Borneo. This research and his book, Mulu: the Rainforest, started the international concern for tropical rainforests.
Marie-Thérèse was born in Vienna and now lives in Hampshire. She was educated at the French Lycée and a language school in Switzerland, and is fluent in French, English, German and Italian. Her familiarity with European culture and extensive contacts worldwide are reflected in her unique tours.
Nicola has a degree in History of Art and a background in fine art and photography. Having lived in Paris, Barcelona and Rome, she speaks fluent French, Spanish and Italian and has specialised in these countries, as well as in Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East.
Tania (née Tolstoy) is three quarters Russian, her grandparents having fled Russia in 1918. A degree in Russian Language & Literature, with Byzantine Art, reinforced her passionate interest in all things Russian. This, and the wide knowledge acquired in years of visiting to Russia, make her tours unique.
Harriet lives in Prague (with occasional stints in Ireland and Andalucia) and, having led tours for Specialtours since 1996, now concentrates on Central Europe as her main area of expertise. Fluent in Czech, she is also at ease in German, French and Spanish. She studied History of Art at Yale University.
Having travelled extensively and lived for many years in the Far East, South Africa and the Middle East, Sally studied History of Art as a mature student. Since then she has passed on her enthusiasm for the subject, both through teaching and leading specialised tours to destinations with some of the world’s greatest art treasures.
A foundation in Classical Studies has inspired much of Caroline's extensive travel throughout Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East - along with a desire to experience the places and treasures that are rarely seen. Passionate about both art and literature, when not travelling, Caroline helps to organise art exhibitions and awards and has recently completed a novel.
Janie Linnell’s travels started with studying the history of Italian art at the British Institute in Florence, followed by living on a junk in the South of France at St Jean Cap Ferrat! However, it was more recent adventures travelling in India that has inspired Janie to join The Ultimate Travel Company as a tour leader. Whilst at home in Leicestershire, Janie works for a local agent on their portfolio of estates and large country houses, as well as developing her interest in art, design and country pursuits.
Antonia Lloyd Owen
Antonia joined Specialtours in 2002 with a degree in History of Art & Architecture and a good understanding of the Decorative Arts. Having lived in Spain and worked in Germany and Austria, she feels comfortable in these countries and has since widened her interest to Scandinavia and the Baltic States.
Anna studied at the Université de Pau in France and uses her bilingual skills in reading European, Russian and Middle Eastern history. She is a keen traveller and painter (exhibiting regularly in London) with a passion for architecture, and has led tours to St. Petersburg, Egypt, India, Libya, Vietnam, Cuba and Costa Rica.
Susie Orso joined Specialtours in 1987 and has arranged and accompanied numerous tours for the Art Fund and specialised American groups. She lives in Florence and has developed many private contacts in Italy, along with a faithful following. Susie is bi-lingual in Italian and speaks fluent French and German, and some Spanish.
Growing up on both sides of the Atlantic, Melanie has always been an adventurous and intrepid traveller. A career in travel and property has led her all over Africa, India, the Far East, Middle East and Australia. Living between London and Henley, she is pursuing her two major passions - travel and photography with particular focus on the Far East and Indo-China.
Frances Roxburgh joined Specialtours in 1990. She had previously worked in guidebook publishing and the art world and led walking tours in Italy. She has a degree in French, Italian and History of Art and has accompanied many tours for the Art Fund, as well as European and American museum and garden groups.
Caroline & Peter Stanley
Caroline and Peter are avid travellers with a passion for Asia and the Indian sub-continent. For the last ten years their leisurely and exceptionally comfortable 'roving house parties' have encompassed Rajasthan and many other regions of India, Bhutan, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Inspired by the beauty and romance of the area, James and his wife Diana moved to the Quercy region of the Dordogne in France some 22 years ago. Here, from their 18th century farmhouse overlooking the Pyrenees, they established a programme of walking holidays. James’ love of the flora, fauna and beautiful landscape, and their combined passion for local food, wine and traditions make their walks very special experience.
Martin has always worked in the leisure industry. He started life as an hotelier which took him to Kenya for nine years, followed in 1982 by 15 years running Abercrombie and Kent before he went on to found The Ultimate Travel Company in 1998. He is well travelled and has a large amount of experience in leading tours to destinations worldwide. In October 2014 Martin will lead an expedition cruise, An exotic wildlife voyage to Borneo, Bali & Beyond, to explore the gloriously exotic islands of Indonesia.
Virginia von Celsing
After a career in the City, Virginia has for the last 20 years worked as a garden designer, both here in the United Kingdom and abroad. She lives in Berkshire where her own garden opens annually under the National Gardens Scheme, and there is nothing she enjoys more than sharing her passion for some of the great gardens of Europe.
After leaving school, Joanna travelled extensively through Asia working in Hong Kong, Delhi and Calcutta and developing a passion for India. She then spent several years in Los Angeles producing film and music videos. Being half Greek she has a particular love for that country too and has a house on the island of Skyros.