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13 August 2021

The old adage, 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step', is well known, and fittingly describes the way we feel here at ACE as we run tours again after many months of uncertainty. In recent weeks, our groups have been out and about enjoying cultural delights across the UK: wild landscapes in Orkney, Roman traces in Anglesey and medieval churches in East Anglia. We have been delighted to hear how restorative and enjoyable these trips have been, not only for our customers but also for the tour staff who accompany the groups. Here, some of our Tour Directors and Tour Managers reflect on how they feel now that tours have started up again, and what they are looking forward to ahead.

 Borwick Broch, Orkney © Andrew Wilson


"Last week hundreds of us in the cathedral took a spontaneous intake of breath as the first violinist lifted his bow to tune up for the opening piece.  With that first rough shiver of sound and each of the successive replies from the other instruments, it felt as though the all-clear siren had been given for the privations of the last 18 months." - Chris Kavanagh, Tour Manager for Worcester Three Choirs Festival, July 2021

"I was thrilled to be asked to manage one of the first ACE tours of 2021. After the most unexpected and surreal gap in tours, forced by the pandemic, it was with excitement but I must admit a little trepidation, that I set off for Lincolnshire, to join Oliver Gerrish and a group of 22 ACE clients. I was thrilled to see several old friends amongst them! It was so good to be back! We were visiting in strange times with restrictions in place... Nevertheless, I was so impressed by the resilience and optimism that existed within the group. I suppose I shouldn’t have doubted that this would be the case, they are ACE travellers after all!" Sarah Kelk, Tour Manager on Lincolnshire Halls & HousesChurches of Suffolk, and Churches of Norfolk

Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire © Oliver Gerrish

“Once again, it was wonderful actually to be able to stay in a country house, Rushton Hall, the former home of the Tresham family. Highlights of the tour included Boughton House, where the Duke of Buccleuch let us see the ground floor with the magnificent painted staircase, and Cottesbrooke Hall where the house was closed but the group were treated to an excellent tour of the superb gardens by Jenny the head gardener. The tour is included in the ACE programme for May next year, so, roll on the day!” Adam White, Tour Director for Northamptonshire Country Houses, July 2021

“ was brilliant to be back on the ground in real buildings and seeing people chatting over dinner, which was refreshing after months of Zoom. With the VOX headsets it’s possible to stand slightly apart from other members of the group but still participate. The main thing for me was to be back, showing off our beautiful churches to old and new friends. Long may it continue!” Imogen Corrigan, Tour Director for Churches of Norfolk & Churches of Suffolk, July 2021

Buxton Opera House © Nick Wearne

“Our tours were full of happiness: at being together again, and enjoying learning and experiencing operettas in each other's company.” - John Bryden, Tour Director for Buxton Opera Festival, July 2021

"It is actually difficult to express what it meant to be attending a summer festival again. We were all reminded of what joy it is to be among friends - old and new - experiencing human creativity in the blazing sunshine!" Nick Wearne, Tour Manager for Buxton Opera Festival, July 2021

"A chance to see fabulous art & sculpture in their original settings… plus Heligan and Trelissick; a truly excellent tour." - Frances Neville, Tour Manager for Cornwall Calling: The Artists of Newlyn, Lamorna & St Ives, July 2021

Gurness Broch © Andrew Wilson

“It was a huge pleasure to return to Orkney in July and once again explore the heart of the Neolithic World Heritage sites. Skara Brae needs no introduction, but this year for the first time ACE visited the island of Hoy, much loved by George Mackay Brown and Peter Maxwell Davies... We also considered the Iron Age, focusing on the enigmatic brochs, over 500 of which are almost exclusively found in the Highlands and Islands. Midhowe is located on the island of Rousay, overlooking Eynhallow Sound from the north, while its 'neighbour' across the water, Gurness, looks over this strategic stretch of water (where the North Sea and Atlantic tides meet) from the south. After marvelling at the endemic Scottish primrose at Yesnaby cliffs, we also managed for the first time the remote and spectacularly located broch at Borwick. Yes, it was good to return!” Andrew Wilson, Tour Director for Wild & Ancient Orkney, July 2021 

"I am so happy to be working with ACE again. I have watched from a distance the determination and commitment to reviving ACE travel that has persisted within the company, throughout what has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone. Working on these tours has confirmed that this is just the beginning of the revival and I look forward to being part of the ACE future." - Sarah Kelk, Tour Manager