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Travel companies are recruiting guest speakers to help turn vacations into extraordinary experiences

Every week our Christmas hero Neil Simpson takes a deep dive into a sparkling holiday theme and does all the fieldwork so you don’t have to. This week: holidays organized by expert guides.

The best tour guides and guest speakers can turn vacations into extraordinary experiences, and travel companies are recruiting some of the best as the world reopens.

Travel managers with award-winning Brightwater Holidays, for example, include Colin Crosbie, former head gardener to the Queen Mother, and Peter Yeoman, formerly director of cultural heritage at Historic Environment Scotland.

A tour of Turkey with Colin Crosbie, former head gardener to the Queen Mother, includes a visit to the ancient site of Ephesus (pictured)

A tour of Turkey with Colin Crosbie, former head gardener to the Queen Mother, includes a visit to the ancient site of Ephesus (pictured)

Crosbie is scheduled to lead the eight-day tour of Brightwater Gardens and Archeology in Turkey in 2022, from an arboretum in the Anatolian countryside to the ancient sites of Assos and Ephesus. Prices start at £ 2,095 per person.

In addition to leading various trips to Scotland, Yeoman will also lead eight-day Albanian archeology tours, starting at £ 1,495pp. Visit brightwaterholidays.com.

An impressive roster of experts is also available on Viking’s expedition, ocean and river cruises.

Their expedition tours feature two dozen accessible experts, including biologists, botanists, scientists, geologists, glaciologists, oceanographers, and ornithologists. Tours also include historians who lecture on specific locations, lead round table discussions during the day, and host dinner parties in the evening. They are also available for daily one-on-one talks with guests.

On some ships, Viking offers resident astronomers led by Howard Parkin, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. They organize guided talks under an immersive planetarium or ‘explorers dome’. The best trips to go on with the experts include an eight-day Shores And Fjords trip from Bergen to Amsterdam from £ 3,240pp, or the 12-day Pharaohs And Pyramids holiday with Egyptologists from £ 4,195pp (viking.com).

Opera directors, academics, architects and art historians are among the experts leading the trips with Kirker Holidays.

The Knowledge: A tour led by an Egyptologist will explain hieroglyphs, like these at the Edfu Temple.

The Knowledge: A tour led by an Egyptologist will explain hieroglyphs, like these at the Edfu Temple.

The Knowledge: A tour led by an Egyptologist will explain hieroglyphs, like these at the Edfu Temple.

One of the best options for spring is a glorious five-night break at Art Of The Cote d’Azur, which includes guided tours of the Marc Chagall Museum and the Maeght Foundation, where there are works by Picasso and Miro. Guests also tour the Musée Matisse in Nice and the Musée Picasso in Antibes. Tours start at £ 1,978 per person, with flights from BA to Nice (kirkerholidays.com).

Great Rail Journeys has a core group of specialists who lead their small group battlefield tours.

Your tour of Lille, Flanders and the Somme, which costs from £ 675 per person, includes an escorted train journey from London, guided tours of Tyne Cot and Langemark cemeteries and the Last Message ceremony at Menin Gate in Ypres (greatrail.com).

If food and wine are your passion, Martin Randall Travel is worth checking out. Their tours include the Veneto food tour in June, starting with dinner in Verona, then crossing vineyards and hills around Breganze and Asolo before diving into Venice.

Martin Randall Travel's gastronomic journey to Veneto begins with a dinner in Verona

Martin Randall Travel's gastronomic journey to Veneto begins with a dinner in Verona

Martin Randall Travel’s gastronomic journey to Veneto begins with a dinner in Verona

Along with lectures by gastronomic author Marc Millon and art historian Roberto Cobianchi, guests enjoy meals at Michelin-starred restaurants and can sample mountain cheeses, sparkling wines, and fiery grappa. The trip, which costs from £ 3,840 per person, ends with lunch on a private Venetian island (martinrandall.com).

Closer to home, Andante Travels has a four-day tour of Agatha Christie and the English Riviera led by the professor who helped develop the Agatha Christie exhibition at the Torquay Museum. In addition to touring the city, visit the author’s home, Greenway House, and places along the Devon coast that inspired her work. It costs from £ 780 per person.

The firm also offers expert-led overseas tours that focus on literature, music, wildlife, and archeology, as well as others based on lesser-known themes like rock art and rock from France to Namibia. Visit andantetravels.co.uk.

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