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Hi Claire, so tell me a bit about how Adventure Tours UK came about, what’s your story, what are you trying to achieve?
Okay so, Adventure Tours UK came about actually following mine and my husband’s wedding a couple of years ago. Some friends of ours came over from Denmark and whilst they were here myself and my husband took them on a tour around North Wales, took them out to do some ziplining and some nice drives through the mountains, and they were absolutely amazed by how incredible Wales was.
Both of them had lived and worked in the UK at various times, but they were both completely blown away. They knew Scotland and they knew England but they didn’t really know Wales existed!
We thought that’s quite shocking, and coupled with my husband’s experience, he actually owns and runs a mountain bike centre here in North Wales, we knew that there was a challenge regionally to bring international visitors to the area, to actually take advantage of all this incredible stuff that as locals we do all the time.
Even the people living along the English/Welsh border come over here for a day trip or a weekend and know we’ve got amazing stuff to do, but perhaps don’t stay that long to kind of get under the skin of what the real Wales is.
So, that sparked the idea and happened to coincide with a time when was thinking about a different direction for a career. I decided to follow the path of Adventure Tours UK because we just felt really passionate that Wales and the UK as a whole has incredible wild spaces. So many people travel all around the world and they don’t think about the UK for that kind of wild adventure.
We’ve got everything on our doorstep in North Wales, you can be in the mountains, then to a forest, then into gentle rolling hills, then off to the coast. All of that, all in kind of less than an hour’s drive each way.
So what makes you authentic and off the beaten track? How do you run tours that are different to your standard provider or someone travelling on their own?
We want to make it really simple for people to book to come here. Because anyone can book through individual providers, but when it comes to piecing together the accommodation, the activities, who you’re booking through, whether they’re the right people, the right guides…
Are they the highest quality? Is the equipment going to safe and up to date? Are you going to experience the best of Wales?
You could even be driving down the road and just missing something cool that you never knew was there. But if you had a local guide with you, you could have found that extra special something.
We’ll take you to that cute little café down the road that no one else finds. There are all sorts of things hidden about in those hills, old ruins or down south there’s old aeroplanes – bombers which have been brought down in the last world war on the mountainside. All those kind of things are so easy to miss or to not understand the significance of them.
We hand-pick our guides to make sure they are absolutely the best people. They know so much about the local area, but they’re also so reassuring.
I don’t know anybody else that offers that kind of small group experience, and we do it so that if it’s a group of four we’ll just have the one guide ,and if there’s eight people we’ll have up to two guides. That gives you so much chance to talk to your guide, to understand what the area’s all about, the history of it…
Everything we do is with that kind of ethos at heart, we always say you’ll arrive with a handshake and leave with a bear hug, and it’s so true because everybody that has done one of our trips says at the end that they feel like they’ve found new friends.
We use our knowledge to try and avoid any crowds that we do get around here and make sure people do see the best of the place in its natural form.
So what do you love most about North Wales? What about it inspires you to show it off to visitors?
I’ve lived here for the last ten years, I think it’s just such a wild place, sometimes I’ll just go out on my own, just me and my dogs, and it’s ace because I won’t see anybody all day and you’re standing on the top of a mountaintop looking around, and you’ve got this whole world below you, and there’s just not a soul to share it with, it’s amazing.
What would you absolutely have to show a first time visitor?
For me, you’ve got to go hiking. You’ve got to go for a hike because in North Wales, for me, it’s all about getting outdoors and discovering the natural environment here. So a hike of some kind is a must.
Mountain biking is also something that is synonymous with North Wales, it’s home of the Athertons, for god’s sake! It’s the home of mountain biking so if you can ride a bike, we’ll take you out on a bike, and there are loads of fantastic trail centres around here.
But actually here at adventure tours we like to get people out onto the wild trails, so we’ll take you out with a guide, and get you out riding in some really remote feeling places. People might get out and ride quite competently at their local trail centre every weekend, but often they don’t have the skills or the experience to go off into the wilds and ride safely.
And then the coast, I think something along the coast is a must as well, if people are up for it. Coasteering is amazing fun, and obviously it was born here in Wales. But it could be sea kayaking, or it could be going on a RIB ride if people want something a bit less involved, but yeah I think something that’s coastal as well for definite.
Mountains and coasts are the two kind of main features if you like, so I’d definitely like to do something in both.
It’s also home to the world’s fastest zipline if people want a bit of a bucket list item ticked.
How is responsible travel important to you at Adventure Tours? And how to you work to make your tours as sustainable and responsible as possible?
It’s really important to us and it really underpins everything we do. We’re a fairly small company but it’s there and it’s present in everything we do and everything we think about.
Obviously one of our aims is to always do small group tours, and the reason for small groups is a) it gives the individuals on the trip the best experience possible because you get to share it with just a few like-minded people, but it’s also a really personal experience, like we talked about earlier.
But also, it makes a huge difference to the local infrastructure. We travel to lots of small rural villages, and what we don’t want is great big coachloads of people getting off, descending on a place, causing chaos for an hour and then getting back on the coach and disappearing again.
We always encourage people to go local, to visit local craft shops, to visit the local breweries or local pubs. If you’re going to spend money, please spend it locally with locally owned businesses.
Every partner we work with is local and independently owned. We don’t work with any chains, so currently while we’re based in North Wales everything is North Wales owned and run. If you’re booking to come on a trip to North Wales most people want their money to support that region.
We encourage people to try and travel in those shoulder periods much more, so maybe come here when it’s not the peak of the season, when everybody travels in July and August. If you want the best experience then come when it’s quieter.
Also, think about how much you’re helping local businesses then. They almost have too much business to cope with during that July-August time, have to take on extra staff, then it gets to the depths of winter and it’s a struggle for small businesses to keep those staff.
Something we’re keen to do as we grow is to start running more and more trips that are like, experience Snowdonia in winter or come and do some early season walking, or maybe a January wellness camp.
We’re going to really try to push people to think about coming here at other times of year when you can make a bigger difference to the local communities.