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Back-Roads are experts in small group touring holidays offering a unique range of fascinating and leisurely regional tours throughout the UK and Europe. There is more to our itineraries than simply taking passengers to the important sights and major cities. With our small group size you will experience specially selected accommodation loaded with charm and home comforts. You will dine with the locals in their restaurants, meet traditional producers and mingle with those characters who so en-rich the heritage of local communities.
Back-Roads mini-coaches are comfortable. Their size enables them to travel along local roads and across breath-taking mountain passes to find charming villages and picturesque vistas which lie beyond the wellworn tourist trails where large motor coaches cannot go. For added convenience, we usually drive into the centre of tiny villages and old town centres to park beside charming accommodation and intimate local restaurants.
With a maximum of 18* passengers, Back-Roads professional tour leaders are able to offer a more personalised experience with more attention to the interests of individuals and flexible touring days. Smaller numbers also mean a less obtrusive style of touring that enables us to especially select more intimate hotels and restaurants where local charm and character abound. *Except Charming which is maximum 22.
Back-Roads recognise that authentic local experiences have greater appeal than attractions on the typical tourist trail. They take the time to seek out experiences where their guests can relate to local crafts and culture. For example, Back-Roads meet local craftsmen in the Cotswolds, visit the Irish National Stud on a private guided tour, learn to speak a few words of notoriouslydifficult Welsh in Wales, and visit one of the few stonemasonry workshops left in Europe in Croatia. And, if you find yourself on our tour in Sicily, you'll learn about the origins of the Mafia and see where important scenes from The Godfather were filmed.
Forget about tales of long, tiring touring days that typically start early and finish late. We rarely leave our accommodation before 8.30 am – in fact most days begin around 9 am. Back-Roads itineraries are thoughtfully planned to avoid cramming too much into a day. We prefer to make our discoveries at a more leisurely pace with time to socialise with the tour leader and appreciate the local settings or delve deeper into attractions on your own. Sometimes you'll have an afternoon – or even a day - at leisure. And, we promise that we keep long drives to a minimum.
Back-Roads choose quality local accommodation to reflect the character of the region you visit. From rustic rural retreats to old country estates, traditional inns to grand castle-hotels, every style of accommodation is in keeping with its surrounds. Some are chosen for their tantalising history, others for their location or superb service. Whether you stay in a Scottish castle, French chateau, Spanish palace, Italian villa, or Turkish cave hotel, you may be sure that each one will bring more authenticity to the itinerary.
Sampling local cuisine is an integral part of experiencing the culture – not to mention one of life's pleasures. Back-Roads include authentic culinary experiences which are locally sourced. Whether you're dining in Rick Stein's famous Seafood Restaurant in Cornwall, at a local farm in Puglia, or sampling tapas in a chef's living room in Seville – you will find that all of our included meals are at local hand-picked establishments. And, wherever we dine we'll always offer you a choice of meal as well.
They are mainly English-speaking and in the main come from Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore and Hong Kong. We do have other nationalities join occasionally but all tour commentaries are in English. We believe that our tours appeal to individuals who enjoy culture, good food, meeting like-minded people, exploring local regions and want a more relaxing style of travel. We welcome first time travellers, however, also find that many of our passengers have travelled with us before and continue to do so.
As a general rule we will run our tours with a minimum of four people, at which point we will usually guarantee it. Guaranteed tours are identified on our website, and your Tour Consultant will be able to advise you of the on-going status. If Back-Roads are forced to cancel a tour, you will be advised at least 6 weeks in advance.
There tends to be a fairly wide range of ages, but broadly our clients are in the 40-75 age group. Our tours are designed principally for adults, but we will consider accepting children aged 12 or over on request. The exception to this is ‘A Family Christmas in Lapland' which is suitable for children and adults of all ages. Please note that triple and family rooms are not always available.
We generally use a 3-star / 4-star standard of accommodation ranging from country inns to town centre hotels and the occasional castle! Rather than going by the official grading (based solely on facilities rather than the standard), we base our choices on quality. In all properties the rooms have en-suite bathrooms. Many of the traditional properties we use are older buildings rather than purpose built hotels. Often the rooms are different shapes and sizes and may be smaller than you might be used to. Often hotels do not have lifts: in many cases this is because they are not allowed to as they are ‘listed' or protected buildings.
When booking we need to know whether you want a twin room (two single-sized beds in a room) or a double room (one standard-sized bed for two people). Please tell us at the time of booking what your choice is as the room types are not interchangeable.
All breakfasts are taken in the accommodations. We have a minimum of a two-course cooked evening meal at many of them but on occasion, to add variety to your tour experience, we also dine out at local pubs and restaurants. When we dine out it is understandably to a budget but in the rare circumstance of a client wanting something special you are able to contribute to, and supplement, the budget. Wines and other alcoholic drinks are not included but tea/coffee is included.
We do not ‘match up' single travellers, because we find that in a small group scenario this does not work. There is a common misconception that a single room is ‘more expensive'. In reality a single room is often less expensive than a double room, the difference being that the cost of a double room is shared by two people as opposed to a sole occupant. Often single rooms in European hotels have one single bed, although in some hotels the single traveller will have a double room for their own use.
You'll be travelling in our comfortable 18-seat Mercedes Sprinter mini-coaches, or 7 or 9-seater Mercedes Vitos, depending on the numbers on a tour. All seats have seatbelts and all seats are forward facing. Luggage is stored in a rear compartment. All vehicles are air-conditioned or with forced air vents and PA systems. The coaches may vary in Europe when we have to hire in the coach, however, they will always be comfortable mini-coaches.
The maximum number we carry is 18 and the minimum 4. Your guide will usually implement a daily seat rotation exercise on the vehicle so you can get to know your fellow travellers better and see from a different perspective each day.
Breakfast is included daily. We also include some lunches and dinners, either in the hotel or in a local restaurant. You will have some free evenings to try the local cuisine independently. One thing to remember, dinner times in Europe are likely to be later than you might be used to: 7.30pm at the earliest and often later in France and Italy. We will do our best to satisfy your dietary needs, please ensure that any restrictions are made clear to us at the time of booking so we can pass the information on to our hotels.
In cities, walking tours are offered by your guide. On European mainland tours there is considerable walking as many historic cities prohibit motorised transport and we have to park some distance out of the centre. On most tours there are opportunities for some extended walking, often from the accommodations we use. Please bear in mind that you will have to negotiate getting on and off the vehicle on a regular basis, walking to attractions, managing stairs in the hotels and showers over the bath. We frequently use traditionalstyle hotels and many will not have lifts or ground-floor rooms. If you are in any doubt as to whether our tours are suitable for you, please check with us.
It is common in the UK & Europe to leave a small gratuity in restaurants and cafes if you have received good service (typically 10% on top of the bill). It would also be usual to give your tour guide a tip at the end of the tour if he/she has done a good job. The amount is entirely at your discretion, and is not mandatory, but it is always much appreciated.
Our driver/Tour Leaders have all passed a stringent government test allowing them to drive our vehicles and conduct tours. The small nature of our groups means that he/she becomes your travelling companion rather than just a Tour Leader, which makes for a much more rewarding experience. On some tours in mainland Europe (e.g. Italy, Austria and Finland) we will often use a driver in addition to a Tour Leader as this makes for better operation of the tour in these particular areas.
There may be times when unforeseen events beyond our control impacttravel schedules and potentially disrupt cruises, tours, or packages. These include, but are not limited to, severe weather conditions, acts of nature, and government travel advisories. Under such circumstances, it is critical that Back-Roads be able to contact you immediately and reliably - including nights, weekends, and holidays - to make sure we've informed you of any possible changes to your travel.
Most tours start at 08:30am on Day 1 of your tour or at 6pm. If departing in the morning, we advise you stay in the hotel the previous night so you are ready to meet your guide in the morning. If your tour commences in the evening, you may not require pre-tour accommodation and instead arrive during the day at your leisure. Please check your itinerary. Most tours complete early evening. We cannot usually drop you off at the airport, so we suggest you book your flights departing the following day of the tour to ensure you do not miss your flights due to unforeseen circumstances.