I am writing this on the train from home Edinburgh, where I have just finished my second extended tour of the year, an eight day familiarisation (‘fam’) trip with agents from the USA for Cox and Kings, which we were told is the oldest travel company in the world. Things ran pretty smoothly but it did not start well as we were due to leave London for Chester by train from Euston when a fire broke out and the station was immediately closed. What did we do? We kept calm and carried on, of course. Charlie from VisitBritain was in charge of trains and he called me at the London hotel to go to Paddington instead. Four trains later arrive in Chester only an hour and a half behind schedule. We had a walking tour of the city conducted by yours truly followed by a guided tour of the cathedral.
The train delays meant we skipped lunch which was the last time during the week I felt hungry. After that we were eating our way around England with breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Usually on tour I encourage people to have a light lunch or skip it altogether but the red carpet was rolled out everywhere for the agents so we had three courses in a Welsh pub (followed by afternoon tea), two in York, fish and chips in Whitby and – probably the most successful – afternoon tea at lunchtime in Edinburgh Castle. There was a five course dinner in York, three courses in Chester and two more dinners in Edinburgh. I thought it would be a good idea for people to sample haggis while in Scotland – they were a little less enthusiastic – so the chef brought out a couple of plates to add to our already generous meal. The rain had eased off so my suggestion that we walked back was adopted.
George Clooney had stayed at the hotel, which he claimed was named after him. Not true, although the suite where he stayed is known unofficially as the George Clooney suite. Justin from Principal Hotels was out host and we followed the tradition of having a big bed photo session during our show around (see above). What larks.
Our last day included a trip to Glenkinchie Distillery, which I have passed hundreds of times but never visited. We did the standard tour of about forty minutes and then had the deluxe tasting experience. Instead of just a small shot of the cheapest malt we sampled six different glasses and were talked through it by our guide Kristina, a five foot bundle of blonde cheerfulness. She is not allowed to drink on duty and I am all too aware of the dangers of ding so, so I just sipped the samples, leaving most in the glass. I made up for it by buying a bottle from the shop which I will try at home later. Then I won’t eat for a week…