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.
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.
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.
Nicholas Merchant has an abiding interest in antiques and has worked for some of the major auction houses both in London and the provinces. His interests are broad and he likes to discuss art and artefacts in their historical context. His convivial style has made him a popular lecturer all over the world, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
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.
Michael Pelham is a graduate of King's College, Cambridge, who has long been interested in ancient history and comparative religions, has lived in Egypt and travelled extensively throughout the Middle East, Turkey and elsewhere. He has recently led tours to Myanmar, Cambodia, Turkey, Croatia, Laos, Brazil, Vietnam, Southern India, Indonesia, the Danube and Rajasthan.
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.
Robin Thompson is not only a director of The Ultimate Travel Company but also an extremely experienced horseman. Living in north Shropshire where he has been master of the Wynnstay and Chairman of the North Shropshire, he also hosts a two-day event and the Pony Club Championship. He has led a number of equestrian tours for us.
After nine years in the Welsh Guards and several with Lloyds, Rhydian's involvement in the field of Talent Development and Management Training and a passion for military history have made his battlefield tours extremely popular. Personal and moving stories and locations rather than 'cemetery hopping' is his preferred style.
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.
Celia Sandys, daughter of Sir Winston Churchill's eldest child, Diana and Cabinet Minister Duncan Sandys, is an internationally acclaimed author, journalist, television presenter and speaker. She is now organizing a series of exclusive tours based on her grandfather's travels around the world.