26 APR 2019: England’s The Great West Way may have been officially unveiled last November, but with the summer tourism season at hand, Canadian visitors are just now starting to roll out along the unique new touring route.

Encompassing 805 km. of navigable routes from London to Bristol in the west, the Great West Way can be travelled by bike, road, rail, canal or on foot (or a combination of all five), making the route the first of its kind in the U.K.

GWW was developed over two years thanks to the Discover England Fund – a £40 million government program intended to achieve the symbiotic goals of increasing British tourism market share and “transforming the visitor experience” by creating “world-class bookable tourism products joined up across geographies and/or themes.”

The key for travel agents is that the project offers actionable, “bookable” product, which takes the GWW beyond the realm of mere marketing ploy.

Based on Ireland’s successful Wild Atlantic Way, the Great West Way touring route offers a range of themed itineraries and trails, including heritage, food and drink, countryside, film tourism, and more.

Moreover, it is designed to deliver a “quintessentially English experience,” with highlights including some of the country’s most iconic attractions: Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle, Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), Stonehenge, the Georgian city of Bath, and passing through picturesque countryside, thriving market towns and “chocolate box” villages en route.

Three UNESCO sites (Kew Gardens, Stonehenge/Avebury and Bath) are located along the routes, as are three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the Chilterns, the Cotswolds and North Wessex Downs) and a plethora of pubs, tearooms, breweries, vineyards and Michelin-starred restaurants, all offering visitors “a taste of real England.”

“This new touring route… joins-up many of England’s most iconic attractions, but also enables and encourages visitors to venture off the beaten track, explore more of the region and discover a whole gamut of quintessentially English experiences, all within one trip,” says Great West Way director, David Andrews.

“It’s England concentrated in a very short distance,” Florence Wallace, Head of Travel Trade for the GWW, told Travel Industry Today, noting that the length of the route could be covered in less than two hours by train or as long as a 15-day itinerary.

Led by Visit Wiltshire, there are also well over 100 destination partners and local “ambassadors” already signed on to take part in the multi-county project, she said, among them the destination marketing organizations of Bristol, Bath, Cotswolds and Tourism South East, the National Trust, as well as Bristol Airport and Great Western Railway, which will ensure the route is as accessible as possible for those travelling by train or air.

“Everybody’s going to be talking about it. It’s different than what we’ve done before,” she said. “People can travel by bike, bus, river, canal… It’s about finding that local pub that no else knows.”

To that end, visitors or travel agents can create a custom itinerary by visiting GreatWestWay.co.uk, a new website that offers an interactive map, insider tips, events calendar and a planning tool to generate bespoke tours. This includes the option to add day excursions to other places of interest that are accessible from the route, such as Salisbury, Stourhead and Cheddar Gorge.

(Customized regional web sites, including www.EnglandsGreatWestWay.com for North America, are in development).

There are also bookable itineraries offered by official Great West Way tour operators, such as a four-day guided cycling/walking tour with Active England, costing from $1,599 for three nights’ four-star accommodation, bike hire and coach transfers. The itinerary includes Windsor Castle, Avebury and Stonehenge, the Kennet and Avon Canal, Bath, Highgrove and The Cotswolds.

The route, of course, is open to anyone, but GWW execs suggest that target visitors include Cultural Adventurers, Lifestyle Travellers and Mature Experience Seekers, as well as, more descriptively, “lovers of England,” “what’s around the corner-ers” and “who I will meet today-ers.”

In the end, the GWW promises, visitors are sure to have not only discovered the English way of life but will “understand the essence of a nation and become an England insider.”



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Michael Baginski

Editor, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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