OUR TOUR LEADERS

OUR TOUR LEADERS

Our award winning tour leaders are committed to delivering the ‘Back-Roads Difference’: whether that be dining with the group, offering the flexibility to change the itinerary, giving personal recommendations for lunch or bringing each destination vividly to life with their insight and knowledge. Our tour leaders are dedicated to delivering a truly authentic, personable experience; we can honestly say that every single one of them is truly passionate about the tours they lead. With a wide range of backgrounds and former occupations, including a botanist, policeman, soldier, philanthropist, photographer, business owner and sailor, they will enhance your tour with fascinating facts and interesting anecdotes. We’re proud to say our tour leaders really are the best in the business.
 
Take a look for yourself…

Agnes Bukowiecka

Agnes was born in Poland in 1988. Having spent her childhood in Canada, she quickly developed an interest in foreign languages and cultures. This is what led her to study English at the University of Vienna. 

Agostino Viola

Agostino Viola was born and raised in Naples and currently lives in Florence with his Australian wife. He spent many years abroad, to learn and understand other cultures. He feels like now is the moment to show off his own country and culture to people from all around the world. He says “I am very lucky that my passion for Italy is now my job”. He loves sharing his own personal experiences which you can’t find in guidebooks but only from locals who live in Italy. His goal is to send everyone home drinking espressos every morning, cooking pasta for lunch and naming their grandsons Luigi!

Andy Steel

In 2010 Andy won our ‘Back-Roads Touring guide of the Year’ award for his outstanding performance during the season. Andy speaks French, and after having lived in France for over four years, he knows some fantastic gems off the tourist trail.

Charlie Jaques

Charlie or CJ as he is known is a true wandering spirit with 12 fully stamped passports and counting. He spent 15 years driving quite literally to the ends of the earth, on pretty much every continent, as an expedition leader - pioneering, amongst others, new routes through Russia, Mongolia and China. 

Chris Reid

Chris was born of Scottish father and English mother in the Cotswolds in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, and has lived all over the UK including Scotland (Fife), Wales (Monmouthshire & Pembrokeshire), Dorset, Devon, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire, London & Kent and travelled around the rest of the UK playing golf and visiting interesting and historic places.

 

He has been a Royal Marines Commando, a Prison Officer and 32 years a London Metropolitan Police Officer, mostly with the Counter Terrorist Command Specialist Search Team. In his “retirement” Chris now trains security personnel at home and abroad in “How to find and deal with nasty things”! His great love of rugby union, he played for 50 seasons, mainly for the social life, has drawn him to training the security personnel at Twickenham Stadium, the home of English Rugby – and he gets to watch the games.

 

Chris is married with four grown up children - two daughters, two sons and a 3 year old grandson who keeps him young and exhausted.

 

He enjoys walking his dogs, riding his motorbike, playing golf (badly), reading historical novels and telling stories about how good he was when he played rugby!

 

Chris loves meeting people and learning about their countries, traditions and cultures. He   has a passion for the history and historical places of Britain and loves researching and finding odd and interesting facts and locations. This has led him to Back Roads Touring, the beautiful, scenic and historical places that they visit and the way that they do it.     

Dario Scafasci

Dario has been guiding for Back-Roads Touring for the last four years, after working many years for Topdeck throughout Europe. Dario, who specialises in tours of Italy and in particular his home region of Tuscany, is inspired by traveling, discovering new places and always learning something new. 

Dave Lombardi

Dave Lombardi is a recently retired London Metropolitan Police Officer. He has spent the last ten years within the Royalty Protection Unit. He has a keen interest in history, having a degree in the subject. He is married and has two grown up children, and family in Italy as well as in the UK. He speaks Italian fluently. He also play drums in a rock band called 'The Jetsonics’ and they gig and record regularly (you can download their music on iTunes). He says: “My role with Back-Roads Touring combines my love of travel with my enthusiasm for history.”

David Coatsworth

According to David his diverse career path has simply served as a great preparation for his current role as a Back-Roads Tour Leader! David’s career to date has included, London’s Metropolitan Police Force, Television & Film production work with the BBC and others, Overseas Humanitarian Aid Work, before shorter spells in the Exhibition Industry and Civil Engineering.

 

Five years spent indulging his academic interests at the countries two Ancient Universities of Oxford & Cambridge provided a most welcome and unexpected interlude, before spending 10 years working in several research & analysis roles. David has also recently been found conducting civil marriage ceremonies, in his post as a County Registrar.  

 

David loves to meet new people from far and wide and he has a real passion for history, art, literature, theatre, film & TV, architecture, agriculture, food and much else besides. David is absolutely delighted that he is now able to share the wonderfully diverse bounty of the British Isles’ with his tour groups.

Derek Smith

Derek has been a tour leader with Back-Roads Touring since 2007 and looks forward to every opportunity to show off his favourite country, England.

Graham Norton

Graham has been with Back-Roads Touring for two years now. Having spent many years working on Finance projects in Africa, the lure of the green grass of home, combined with an opportunity to travel extensively with Back-Roads Touring, was a welcome change. 

Helen Pointer

As an Artist, Historian & Comedienne, Helen loves to share her experience of this isle through Light, laughter & literature as the journey takes the road less travelled.

 

“Helen,

 

It has been a wonderful trip wholly due to your care, humour and passion for everything English. Words cannot express what a wonderful holiday you have provided for me. Your knowledge & expertise of the area was amazing.  You seemed to enjoy yourself along with us whilst looking after us beautifully- making it an unforgettable holiday.”

 

Feedback like this says it all.

Ian Williams

Rumoured to be descended from Robin Hood, according to the family bible but no longer robs the rich. He now travels the world every winter and comes home to marvel at the beauty of the UK as he takes Back-Roads clients on his favourite tours around Wales, the Cotswolds and the West Country.

Isabelle Pareja

Half Italian and half Spanish, but born in Belgium and living in Italy, Isabelle is without doubt, a ‘citizen of the world’. Her personal philosophy about travelling is that to truly understand a country you have to understand its people, and that is why she has travelled and lived in so many different countries.

Jeremy Edwards

Jeremy joined Back-Roads as a tour leader only last year. His early working life was as an engineering apprentice in the Welsh steel industry followed by a career as a police officer in the West Midlands. After a spell as a police motorcyclist Jeremy served for many years as a specialist firearms officer, his work with VIP protection taking him to many interesting locations in the U.K.  

Joe Royle

Joe spent his formative years in Manchester before crossing the Pennines to study Psychology at Sheffield University. He thoroughly enjoyed his time there, and met Hilary (his future wife) Ballroom Dancing, way before it became a popular TV Programme.

 

After graduating, he spent a very enjoyable 30 year career with South Yorkshire and The Metropolitan Police.  Retiring in 2011, he went on to pursue his next adventure by becoming a property developer and landlord, where he fully manages a small portfolio of residential properties in London, Sheffield, and Lincoln.

 

Joe has also spent a number of years since his 'retirement' taking people on escorted rail journeys across Europe. Joining Back Roads in 2015, Joe has delivered a number of tours in England, France, and 1st World War Battle Field Tours. Married to Hilary for over 30 years, they have 3 grown up children, and spend their spare time travelling, renovating a rural property in the Vienne region of France, and generally enjoying life.

John Holton

John Holton joined Back-Roads Touring in 2015 having recently returned from New Zealand where he owned a small tour company and guided international tourists’ through-out the South Island.  Before entering tourism John spent much of his time in education in the UK, Argentina and New Zealand as a teacher, Director of Sport and for a short time as Principal of an English Language School for International Students.  He is a keen Sportsman and these days keeps fit cycling and rambling. Passionate about the joy and value of travelling, he and his partner celebrated the Millennium by venturing round the world for 365 days.

Leticia Prieto

After studying tourism and marketing at university, Spanish-born Leticia spent a decade as a tour guide working in most European countries and Morocco. She joined Back-Roads Touring in 2014, and despite being new to the company, she distinguished herself by becoming the top performing guide in her first year. She is passionate about local cuisine, medieval architecture and specialises in tours around Southern Europe. 

Luis Cardoso

Luis specialises in tours of Italy and has been guiding our Tuscan Treats and Italian Indulgence Tours for the last three years. In 2013 he has also been guiding our new Discover Portugal & Galicia tour. He says, one of the best parts on his job is “meeting people from all over the world and sharing my acquired knowledge with travel companions”.
 

Mario Filosofi

Mario's family has lived continuously in Rome since the 1700's. Before becoming a tour leader he was a road manager with renowned arts groups including orchestras, operas and ballets. His lifelong obsession is exploring the Mediterranean Peninsula of Italy. Nothing pleases him more than sharing his knowledge and seeing his guests enjoying themselves. 

Mark Banning

Mark has been working as a Battlefield Guide for Backroads Touring for six years and in that time has allowed many clients to gain a greater understanding of the battlefields in Northern France and Belgium; something that is part of our collective national histories. Increasingly, Mark finds that clients wish to visit certain locations and, as long as they are within the remit of the general area being covered, has been able to satisfy these personal wishes as part of the overall tour itinerary. 

Matthew Hood

Matt is a retired Royal Marines officer who served for 30 years in a variety of British commando units in over 55 countries worldwide. He spent his working life leading small groups of determined men to some of the most fascinating and challenging places on earth. He remains fascinated by the many wonders which the world has to offer but these days he has the luxury of being able to lead others around fabulous places in the UK & Europe in a more relaxing & enjoyable fashion.

 

Matt enjoys leading tours through the splendid British and European countryside with its wonderful history, architecture and culture, through ancient towns & cities enjoying top notch food, fine ales & wines and most of all good company.

 

As a military historian, Matt specialises in battlefield tours, helping his guests navigate between the myths & the realities of history and as a former professional soldier, with hard won military experience across five continents and oceans, he brings a first-hand insight of the realities of war to light up your experience of the battlefields and the people who fought and died on them.

Melinda Dobsova

Melinda was born in Slovakia of Hungarian parents and grew up with multiculturalism in her blood.  She inherited a wanderlust spirit and began travelling independently through Europe straight after leaving school.  She was keen to understand other cultures and always spent at least three months living and working with local people before moving on.  While away she also studied and acquired a Masters in English Literature and a Tour Guide Qualification.

These provided Melinda the opportunity to work for Top Deck and a chance to travel and meet people from all corners of the world. 

 

After a few busy seasons, when it came time to settle again it was the quieter lifestyle of New Zealand she chose.  Life on the South Island gave her time to think.  She developed her love of nature and hiking in the wilderness. Meditation and yoga became important to her and when she discovered that she had the ability to talk and help others she decided to become a Life Coach. 

 

When she finally started to miss chaotic Europe and her home, she approached Back Roads.  Their policy of guiding people privately and in small groups at a leisurely pace to hidden gems Europe suited her interests and style.  As she says ‘for me it is not only about sightseeing but also uncovering the influences that determine how cultures develop. I try and take my guests on a voyage of discovery’.  This philosophy together with her caring attitude, infectious enthusiasm and boundless energy guarantee a memorable experience when travelling with Melinda.

Michele Macali

Michele Macali was born in Rome 31 years ago but he has been travelling and living abroad for quite a while now. He loves spending time in Italy, France and Spain, his three favourite Countries in Europe.

 

Life must be enjoyed and there is nothing better than doing it with an amazing meal and a very good glass of wine.

Mike Wilson

Mike's interests are all things cultural, historical and farcical and his approach to guiding is to try to bring history alive by relating it to today. Mike specialises in Britain (England, Wales, Scotland) and Ireland (north and south). The history, culture and landscape of these islands is (he believes) unsurpassed to anywhere else in the world.

Nic Piercy

Travelling has long held an allure for Nic and has drawn him to various parts of the world. He lived in the Middle East for three years, leading to a degree in Arabic.

Paul Lamb

Paul was born on the Isle of Wight and grew up in Southampton and The New Forest. He was a policeman in London for 30 years and now runs an on-line classic camera business. Photographing people and places is his main passion. He is a family man and enjoys walking ‘Bleu’ their pet Chihuahua as well as keeping fit by swimming and cycling.  Exploring the countryside, towns and villages, by walking, cycling or riding his BMW motorbike, he enjoys looking for scenes to capture on his classic cameras. “I really like walking around our beautiful towns and cities, discovering their history and culture. Visiting the Isle of Wight and New Forest is just like coming home. I love the slower pace of life there, after 30 years working in London.”

Peter Denning

Peter is a farmer in County Cavan producing beef, who has done his share of travelling, hitch-hiking around New Zealand and travelling to Australia, the Middle East and America before settling in Ireland.  He arrived in 1980 in the midst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  

Sarah Fanet

Sarah joined Back-Roads two years ago after twenty years teaching languages. She grew up in France and has strong links with Brittany, Burgundy and the French Alps.  She now lives in the Scottish Highlands where she plays music when she is not guiding. She loves history, current affairs, poetry and arts and loves guiding both in France and in Scotland.

 

Her passion for history is obvious when you listen to her stories about Joan of Arc, the kings of France, D-Day landing or the Jacobite Rising in Scotland.  She loves taking visitors to places in France linked with family stories or drive them around the Scottish Highlands which have now become her home. She loves local food and will always try to make you enjoy a special dish, with a wine or a whisky you have never tried.

 

As a driver she is always seeking for beautiful sceneries for photo stops. She loves sharing her passion with people and finds the most exciting moment in her job when she drives to meet a new group to embark on a new journey. 

Seamus McDaid

Seamus McDaid is a very experienced tour guide, having hosted international visitors around Ireland for more than 10 years. He is an Irish history buff (though his personal passions are for fishing and car racing!) and is known for his elephant-like memory and for going the extra mile for his guests. 

Simon Gregor

Simon has worked for several years as a tour guide: initially this was in his home city of London, and later on the battlefields of the First World War’s Western Front and the D-Day landing beaches.  His aim is always to tie together the broad sweep of history with the individual stories of the men and women who lived through it, and he particularly enjoys helping visitors to connect with the experiences of any ancestors who served in the World Wars.  As well as the many powerful cemeteries and memorials, Simon always tries to focus on the battlefields themselves which have their own story to tell.

 

Simon is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and worked for several years as a senior civil servant for the UK government, before working as a tour guide.  He is an associate member of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides, and is studying for a PhD in World War One history at the University of Wolverhampton.  He lives in south London, and after 20 years residing in the city is still hoping that one day he will be accepted as a proper Londoner!

Stefano Lai

Stefano was born in Venice from an Italian father and a Scottish mother. This has been his first season for Back-Roads Touring, but He’s been guiding since 2008.

 

The love for his country and the opportunity to introduce it to new people is what keeps him going. He considers himself very lucky to be born in such a beautiful place (in his words: “I could have grown up in East Kilbride for Christ sake!”) and he thinks it’s always a pleasure to share this privilege with his guests.

Tony Crompton

Travel has always been a major part of Tony's life, having spent the earliest years of his life in Kenya, which perhaps gave him the “wanderlust” in later life. A forty year career which included five years with one of London’s most prestigious wine merchants and owning his own restaurant in Mousehole, Cornwall, served to stimulate his passionate interests in all things food and wine. 

Tony Wade

Tony has been guiding with us since 2007. As an ex-military guide he has spent time in both the Canadian and American forces and has lived in Holland and Germany working with multinational forces. An historian at heart, he is particularly interested in how wars impact the social history of the participants and he enjoys sharing his 30 year hobby.

Dave Thompson

Dave was born in Manchester and raised in Bolton and Blackburn. He went to College in Bangor, North Wales and since then has followed his heart around the planet. He now lives in the West Country, which he now feels is HOME. He came to being a tour guide quite late in life, but feels like he has found his vocation, he loves it!

Warwick Barton

Coming from a background as a Chartered Surveyor in construction, Warwick was involved in projects as wide ranging as a golf course, to enabling works in London’s Docklands, to the most modern canning and bottling soft drinks factory in Europe. During this period, when he had the time, he climbed and walked throughout the UK, in the European Alps and the Pyrenees and as far afield as the Karakorum in North West Pakistan. As well as leading trips, for 20 + years he has given talks and presentations (with or without visuals), on his travels, to local groups and to his various membership clubs. This outdoor experience has also cultivated an interest in bird watching and in wildlife generally.

 

 

Bethany Thompson

Beth has recently added ‘guide’ to her list of jobs which have included actor, cook, dog walker, nanny, voice over artist and flight attendant! She has always had a passion for travel and moved to Italy some years ago where she met her husband. Since then she has made it her mission to learn as much as she can about her new country and she can't think of anything better than sharing this knowledge.  However, it's not just facts and figures she likes to pass on but tips about what and where to eat and drink, funny stories and local legends.

Louis Morris

Louis was born in London and now lives on a small holding in rural Wales. Louis ran his own overland expedition company running tours through both Asia and Africa and also extensively traveled through Europe, the Americas and Asia, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in a 35 foot sailing boat and rode through the USA and Central America on a motorbike. Travel is a strong passion and when the opportunity to work with Back-Roads Touring came, Louis decided to leave his work in the IT industry to enable him to share this passion with others and enjoy the experience in a fun manner.

Carole Petipher

Carole Petipher was brought up in the Chiltern Hills situated between Oxford and London in an unspoilt village.  Her Sunday treat when she was a child was to take a drive out into the countryside and her love of driving on the Back Roads started there.

 

After earning her degree in French and Spanish, she embarked on a career in the French steel industry and became Head of Sales Development for the UK markets before undertaking a further degree in Management Studies.

 

But it has been some years since she escaped "the fast lane of corporate life.” During a sabbatical she found herself a passage on a French barge and fell in love with the life style and the country. Since then she has become a guide and Tour Director in France and elsewhere in Europe, specializing in rivers and canals. ‘I am delighted to be back on barges this year with Back Roads; it really is the perfect way to travel and explore the “Back Waters” of the country.’

 

Whilst not working she loves pottering in the garden, growing both flowers and vegetables and enjoy walking in the Chiltern Hills and catching up with friends.

Elaine Jones

Elaine left Britain over twenty years ago to travel the world and is still going!   She has lived in a number of very different countries, including Japan, Indonesia, Cuba and Portugal, before settling on Southern Spain as a place to put down some roots.  As a tour leader in adventure travel and a walking guide, she has travelled and worked in many different countries, from Brazil to Borneo, Morocco to Mexico..... She now enjoys sharing her love of history, different cultures and the outdoors with her Back-Roads clients.

"Every tour is a new adventure as it's the first time with a new group of people, which means it's always special and exciting - for me as much as for you!"

Maarit ritvanen

Born and bred in Finland, Maarit is a professional translator who moved to London over 15 years ago. After years of working with international education programmes, the travel bug finally got the better of her. Leaving the office behind, she spent a couple of years travelling round the world and on return started tour guiding in addition to translation and language teaching. Her specialities are London and Wales and the Nordic countries – she is currently the tour leader for the Backroads Norway tour. She is passionate about travel, languages, different cultures and hiking – she recently started walking round Wales (pepwalks.wordress.com) – but in a good tour guide fashion tends to be interested in and know a bit about everything from Norwegian fjords to London canals, from tractors to afternoon tea, and from Harry Potter to Henry the VIII.

Erik Jelinek

Erik was born and raised in Scotland, but also went to school in Germany and France where he picked up the languages as well as a penchant for good food and bad jokes. His career path has been rather eclectic, first as a teacher of biology and then as a management consultant, interspersed with ever-longer travels abroad. Upon returning from his last trip (4 years, 5 continents, and 53 countries) he decided to find a job where he can share his passion for travel and discovery with others. As well as having an insatiable appetite for trying every new type of food he comes across and speaking far too many languages, Erik is a trivia buff and loves to supply his passengers with a constant dose of ultimately useless, but nevertheless fascinating, factoids.

 

Matt Bangma

Matt is a long way from home... A very long way!! After training and working as a secondary teacher in his native New Zealand, he decided it was time to explore the world.  Eight years later and he is still here, and every year a little bit more European.  Matt's involvement with Back-Roads Touring started 5 years ago, undertaking an office based job, looking after operations. However, after several years of office work, he could no longer ignore the call of the road.  Matt is often quoted as saying, “Essentially, I’m still a teacher.  The only difference is that my now classroom travels with me and, at the end of the day, I get to enjoy a glass of wine with my students.  You can’t ask for better than that”.

Flavio Lazzaretto

Flavio was born near Venice in Italy and grow up in Europe. He lived for a year in Barcelona where he finished his Engineering studies and learned Spanish. After some years working and studying he realized office jobs were not for him and traveling since then has been the priority in his life.

 

He always had the desire to guide foreigners through his beautiful region and close by countries, and has been doing it for some years volunteering in an association for international exchange students. Since then he started working as a golf travel manager, organizing exciting trips for golfers abroad, and finally joined the Back-Roads family. Working as a tour leader gives him the chance to travel, meet other travelers and to feel like a citizen of the world, by helping fellow travelers to experience the best places in Europe.

 

His passion is motorbikes and has been exploring amazing places in Italy and in other European countries with his Suzuki Bandit 600. He also had the chance to discover Russia by traveling for 3 weeks on the Transiberian train, and recently has been exploring South East Asia backpacking for 3 months in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. He is a sporty person, who loves nature and animals and of course as a real Italian he loves cooking and indulging in good food and wines.

Giada Angeli

Giada (Italian name for Jade!) was born in the heart of Italy: a small town called Civitavecchia, very close to the Capital and so called "the harbour of Rome". She has been a tour leader since 2008 and started her career in her city working in an Italian Tour Operator.

It is her first year with Back-Roads Touring and joined the company after spending 2 years in London to improve her English level. She graduated at "Tuscia University" and studied "Foreign Languages for tourism purposes". Her passion has always been travelling and meeting local people.

‘In my job I love to transfer to my guest my love for the art, the history and the traditions of my country so that they can really feel it as a true Italian feels it. I like to show people the genuine Italian lifestyle and the origin of our culinary passion; my grandmother is the " Queen" of Lasagne and "Potato Gnocchi!" so I learned a lot from her cooking classes!’

David Luque

David has 13 years’ experience with Back-Roads Touring and speaks Spanish, Portuguese and English. He studied a Journalism Degree which resulted in him presenting the news on TV in Córdoba!

He has an additional three more degrees in History of Fine Arts, English Teaching Degree and a Finance and Accounting!

Now living in Madrid, in his spare time he composes music including the guitar, piano, drums, bass guitar and sax, he likes sports including tennis, swimming.

Robert Carr

Alongside his knowledge of Scotland, we are lucky to benefit from Rob’s friendly nature, ready smile, keen sense of humour and endless patience, all of which will help make your tour with Rob the highlight of your visit to Scotland.

Rob (in fair weather!) can often be found in the Scottish hills or walking a coastal trail to explore places that most visitors to Scotland never see. This has given him a great love and knowledge of Highland landscape and geography, as well as a passion for Scottish history and heritage. Rob is also a very competitive golfer and there isn’t much he doesn’t know about the game’s roots in Scotland. Another passion of Rob’s is food, cooking and use of the best Scottish fresh produce….he can talk all day about that if you get him started!

Rob has lived in the Highlands of Scotland for 12 years now after growing up in the East Neuk of Fife, where he ran his family business (and developed a passion for golf!). After 15 years in Edinburgh and Perthshire, where he also ran successful food and tourism businesses, he drifted northward, his love of the Highlands bloomed and he has never looked back.

 

Maxime Giron

Max was born in the French Alps and describes himself as a mountain goat. He had the chance to experience living abroad, mainly in London, Australia and New Zealand, doing all sorts of odd jobs (including Jackaroo), before his natural curiosity and love of people brought him to settle down as a tour guide in his homeland where he keeps learning something new daily. He now has the opportunity to share his passion for local food, culture and crunchy anecdotes. He says "it feels like I am finally giving back all the good experiences I've had the chance to live thanks to the beautiful people I've met all around the world".
His motto is "sharing is caring" and that is what he is always doing: caring for everybody's well-being.
Back-Roads Touring is the best way to go for him as going back roads in a small group is the only way to share a great time discovering off the beaten track wonders.