2019 Farm tour of Ireland, Wales, England & Scotland – F.A.Q.

Have you ever dreamt of a relaxing trip around Britain’s iconic rural landscapes – off the beaten track as well as to famous locations? En route enjoying great food and interesting conversations with locals involved in agriculture, as well as other farmers on the tour? Visiting some ag-related and cultural highlights? From the latest ag-tech to ancient history? Then I have the ideal journey for you!

Below are answers to some of the questions I’ve been asked by people interested in coming on this unique farm (& photography) tour.

We’ll be enjoying some fabulous walks around beautiful farms and historic villages, across Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England; during the height of summer in the British Isles.

Which parts of the British Isles is our farm tour visiting?

Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland.

The farm tour starts in Dublin and ends in London.

We’ll spend approximately one week each in Ireland, England and Scotland, plus a few days in Wales.  Some days will be spent enjoying cultural highlights in historic cities, but most of our time will be spent roaming around the less closely settled parts of Britain, through landscapes that have been farmed for many centuries.

2019 UK & Ireland farm tour map, showing our overnight locations. There’s a lot of extra dog-legging included.

What differentiates this tour from other tours of the UK & Ireland?

Unparalleled opportunities to meet locals involved in agriculture:

The genuinely unique aspect of this tour is the number of rural locals we’ll meet.  A large number are champing at the bit to come and have a chinwag over dinner with us on special nights in Ireland, Scotland and England.  These are farmers and others involved in agriculture that I feel lucky to have got to know over the years because they are very knowledgeable and happy to voice forthright opinions but also love to share a great laugh.  In other words – they’re very interesting plus great company.  Many will be driving considerable distances to meet us and these memorable meetings will be the very special icing on the cake of this farm tour.

None of us will feel like ‘just another tourist’, rushing around overcrowded tourists spots, only encountering other travellers and tourism industry employees.  You’ll have many interesting one-on-one conversations with locals who are involved in agriculture.

You’ll also get great travel photos:

I’ll be providing photography advice to anyone who has queries, en route. It’s my job to help you come home with the best travel photographs you’ve ever captured – and I’ll also be taking photographs of everyone on the journey.

The 2019 UK & Ireland farm tour will spend an unforgettable evening at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – and I’ll be there to help everyone capture the best photographs, whether on a DSLR or mobile phone.

What else will we be seeing and doing?

A hand-picked selection of a bit of everything, relating in some way to agriculture.  For example:

  • Farms (ranging from an Irish free-range farm selling pork direct to a Dublin farmers market, up to huge English and Scottish estates growing grain as well as running sheep and cattle)
  • An interesting variety of farmers markets, on-farm shops & other food retail outlets (and of course we’ll be taste-testing local specialties, from chip buttees to oatcakes, guinness and haggis. [Not compulsory. There will be steak and cake as well!])
  • 2 ‘marts’ (fully enclosed livestock auction centres) – full of characters and with auctioneers who are great to see in action
  • The Royal Welsh Show – one of the best agricultural shows in the world & undisputedly Britain’s best livestock show
  • The Edinburgh Tattoo – an unforgettable evening.  AND the Edinburgh Fringe Festival will be on when we visit Edinburgh!
  • A historic woollen mill (and meet locals who send their wool to be spun and hides to be tanned)
  • Cultural highlights – including a sprinkling of the most spectacular palaces, castles and cathedrals (not too many – just enough!)
  • A surprisingly spectacular variety of arable and pastoral landscapes
  • Plus a few special surprises.

We’ll be tucking into great local food while conversing with a wide range of locals who are involved in agriculture, from farmers to agricultural journalists and leaders of farm organisations.

The 2019 UK & Ireland farm tour will see the cream of livestock from across the British Isles, at the Royal Welsh Show – renowned as the best agricultural show in the UK.

The Royal Welsh Show is held in an idyllic setting at Builth Wells.  We’ll be able to cheer on Australian shearers at the international-standard shearing competition. Meet an Australian who has lived on a Welsh farm for many years, whose Hereford cattle won first prize in 2017. Enjoy a fantastic array of Welsh food, straight from paddock to plate.  British Isles agricultural shows have a long history and tend to be well attended by a loyal public and remain focused on agriculture. ‘Fairground’ rides and gee-gaws are thankfully sparse.  There will be many highlights on this tour – and for some, our day at the Royal Welsh Show will be the pinnacle.

Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland have a rich, complicated and ancient pastoral history. Historic agriculture-related statues and icons can be found everywhere, including in the heart of the largest cities. The similarities and differences between agriculture in the British Isles and Australia provide much food for thought and pithy discussions.  There are a number of topics that are likely to evoke some interesting discussions amongst those who are interested in chewing the fat on thought-provoking issues. For example:

  • Bridging the world’s growing urban-rural divide via ‘open farm’ days and other means of educating the public – eg agricultural shows and farmers markets.
  • Animal welfare and environmental management rules and regulations
  • Livestock identification, rural theft and disease management
  • Managing urban encroachment (eg rising land values plus complaints from new neighbours re farm activities such as crop spraying, rising incidence of ‘dog worrying’ & ‘fly tipping’)
  • The pros and cons of farm subsidies
  • Trade issues and Brexit – Britain’s complicated and controversial exit from the European Union (EU)
  • Advancing ag technology; the latest innovations and what it means for farmers
  • The difficulties associated with managing priceless heritage while improving farm efficiency and profitability (plus the benefits of tourism & a large resident population)
  • The pros and cons of farming in a country with such long-established traditions

 

On the farm tour we’ll be seeing many unfamiliar livestock breeds – including more than 140 different breeds of sheep at the Royal Welsh Show

As we travel, I’ll be helping with any photography and social media-related queries anyone has. From getting the very best results from a mobile phone camera, to the use of professional quality camera equipment.  Do you have a smart phone?  Do you use your phone camera settings? They can make a huge difference to the quality of your photographs. This is a great opportunity for anyone who likes taking photographs to get some personal, one-on-one assistance; whether you want better photographs for personal or business use.

How many people will be on the tour?

To ensure the enjoyment of all, numbers are capped.  Final numbers won’t be known until just before the tour leaves, but our group will be between fifteen and two dozen people. I’m expecting it will be a typically interesting mixture of solo travellers and couples from across Australia –  mostly rural residents, many (but not all) directly associated with an agricultural industry.  Some passengers will have travelled overseas before while for others, it will be their first global adventure.  Interesting conversations guaranteed, as well as much laughter.

Who will be on the tour?

Farm tours are popular with an interesting variety of people – all with an interest in food and fibre production and/or country people/rural life:

  • Farmers and retired farmers. And people who grew up on a farm or cattle station and went on to a city-based career not associated with agriculture, who relish the opportunity to travel with the kinds of people they grew up with.
  • Teachers and a wide range of people involved in agribusiness – researchers, agronomists, rural property and livestock agents, rural lenders.
  • Experienced travellers looking for a more meaningful travel experience, and foodies who’d love the opportunity to meet farmers and eat fresh produce.
  • Most tours include passengers from right across Australia – and sometimes from other countries.

Can residents of other countries come on this tour?

Passengers from other countries are always very welcome! It’s a fantastic way to kill two birds with one stone: meet Australian farmers and learn about Australian agriculture, at the same time as learning about the British Isles.  And the Australian farmers on the tour are very welcoming, and enjoy meeting farmers from other countries. The tour brochure lists prices including airfares from Australia, in Australian dollars.  Quadrant can provide the land-only price to residents of other countries.

Can I arrive in Britain before the tour, or stay on for a few days afterwards?

It’s not uncommon for passengers to want to arrive a few days earlier or fly home a few days after the tour concludes; either to visit friends or relatives, or to add on extra touring (including visits to nearby countries). Separate flights can be booked by Quadrant and don’t usually add anything to the tour cost. Quadrant can book add-on travel such as a few days in Paris. Flight times don’t have to be decided when deposits are paid, only closer to the tour departure.

It’s also entirely feasible to not travel on the whole tour, eg join it one week after it has commenced or leave a week early. Not as commonly done, however, as most people feel they’ll miss out, and staying for the whole tour does give the best value experience.   Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any queries.

How will we be travelling around?

By coach.  This has some distinct advantages:

  • The view: The value of sitting up high in a coach, when poking around rural Ireland and the UK, can’t be overestimated.  Most roads in rural Ireland and the UK are hemmed in by old hedgerows and/or ancient stone fences. And that’s what car drivers are faced with at eye level, when poking around country areas. Whereas we have a bird’s eye view, up and over into the paddocks – so we can examine grazing livestock and assess crops being harvested, while admiring distant vistas.
  • Relaxing travel from one point to another: Instead of having to watch traffic, worry about being in the right lane and look for signposts, then find a park that isn’t miles away – we’re able to sit back and concentrate on the view. And admire the coach driver’s skill – negotiating everything from multi-lane roundabouts full of traffic to single-lane farm roads hemmed in tightly by unforgiving ancient stone walls.  We hop off and leave the driver to scout for parking in small villages and large cities where parking is at a premium.  No time-wasting and no passenger-driver arguments re taking wrong turns!
  • Entertaining coach drivers: We’ll have a driver/tour guide in Ireland, and a separate coach driver and tour guide in the UK. The drivers are locals who are great sources of information and anecdotes, and add to the enjoyment of the tour.
  • The room: As we’re a small group on a large coach, we can all have a window view with a spare seat beside us, if we want to. And we can sit in a different seat each day, conversing with different people as we travel along – if we choose to.
  • Saving energy: While aiming to not overdo it, we will be squeezing a lot in. After a long day making the most of visiting an agricultural show, an interesting farm or historic estate, we pile onto the coach and can have a power nap if we want to.  Rather than having to tackle unfamiliar roads in search of our hotel and a park, in gathering darkness.

Who wouldn’t prefer to be relaxing in a historic Irish or UK pub, rather than fighting for a parking space?

I’m not sure that group travel will be my cup of tea?

No need to worry! Farmers worldwide share some common attributes. Most are independent in thought and action. Almost all farmers – by choice – live away from towns and cities and spend a lot of time working on their own; yet enjoy a good conversation and laugh with like-minded people during social get-togethers. The hallmarks of classic introverts.  So you’ll be travelling with people who just like you, are friendly but like some personal space as well.  Bus travel isn’t plane travel – we aren’t jammed in like sardines and we can change seats as often as we like. This makes it easy to move around and regulate the amount of time you spend gazing out the window, sleeping and conversing with others – and who you sit next to (if anyone).

There's plenty of opportunities for interesting walks - with others or on our own.

There’s plenty of opportunities for interesting walks – with others or on your own.

We’ll sometimes be walking in a group around a farm or with a tour guide, but on other occasions we can go our separate ways. Although quite often, rather than scatter like cats, passengers do choose to walk around with others during leisure time periods, and arrange to have lunch together.  Because they’re enjoying the conversation and laughter so much. The bottomline is: passengers have a lot of choice as to how they spend time, either exploring alone or with companions; and there’s no pressure or expectations.

A dry sense of humour is common amongst Australian farmers, as well as a keen eye for details.  Travelling with great companions is what I most enjoy about these tours – the interesting observations and the fabulous laughter.  Many make life-long friends.

Hearing the observations of others and shared laughter is the unexpected icing on the cake for many, on these farm tours.

I’m travelling on my own. Will I be the only one who isn’t travelling with a partner?

No. It’s usual for tours to have a mixture of couples and singles – passengers who don’t have a partner or whose spouse stayed home. I am on my own myself, and can guarantee you won’t feel like ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd’.

Are farm tours tax deductible?

When assessing whether tax deductions are allowable or not, the tax department considers whether the expenditure directly relates to the claimant’s production of income.

This farm tour is agriculture-focused and designed to be informative.  The ideas brought back can help people involved in relevant industries to reduce expenses or maintain or increase the production of income, so yes the tour should be claimable as a legitimate business-related expense for most people deriving income from agriculture. However – it is essential to seek specific advice regarding eligibility from your accountant, as everyone has slightly differing circumstances.

One of my roles as tour leader is to write up a comprehensive travel diary and I’ll provide a copy to anyone intending to claim the farm tour as a tax deduction. But it’s a good idea for anyone intending to claim a tax deduction to also keep their own travel diary, as well as receipts for all expenditure being claimed.  If you have any queries, don’t hesitate to ask me.

Yes this farm tour will be tax deductible for most people who derive their income from agriculture. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have time to enjoy cultural highlights, such as seeing the remarkable splendour of the State Rooms in Buckingham Palace.

Tour guides:

This tour is fully escorted. As well as myself, there will be a very knowledgeable local tour guide plus a coach driver, or a local driver/guide.  You are well looked after, every step of the way!

I’ve been to Ireland and the United Kingdom before. Will this tour just be the same-old, same-old?

No. I’ve spent a lot of time digging up farms who don’t usually have visitors and farmers and others involved in agriculture, who haven’t met up with tour groups before. Yes we will be staying in several obvious places such as London and Dublin, but I have dug up some great agriculture-related features that solo travellers and generic tours don’t get to visit.  This isn’t a tour that independent travellers could undertake – it is a personal tour.  And because of the events & special occasions squeezed into the itinerary, there will not be another tour that is identical to this one.

The 2019 UK & Ireland farm tour will be going to out-of-the-way places and seeing sights that other travellers don’t get to see.

I haven’t been overseas before – will this farm tour suit first-time travellers?

Yes!  I’ll be providing as much travel information and tips as you’d like, before departure, and you can be completely confident that you’ll be looked after, from start to finish. For example I’m often asked what camera I recommend, packing tips (what type of clothes will we need & how to avoid taking too much) and the best footwear to take. Info is provided over the phone or by email, whichever suits you best.  I love being able to pass on tips that I wish I’d known from the outset.

And remember – there’s no such thing as a stupid question!  (Sometimes I have to look up the answers.)

However I do recommend queries are asked as early as possible. During the 3 weeks prior to the tour departure I will be under the hammer to get work completed before we head off (as you may be also!)

My number one travel packing tip:

Pack most of what you need & list all the late additions, 2-3 weeks before departure. Why?

  1. Packing early feels like going on holidays early; it’s full of pleasant anticipation. Packing late feels like stressful work.
  2. You’re far more likely to take exactly what you need. There’s physiological reasons why we have trouble making choices when we feel under pressure.
  3. If you discover you have to purchase some new undies or your suitcase is falling apart, or you want to check the weather or ask someone else’s advice, you have plenty of time to do so.
  4. Packing early (ditto booking early) makes the trip seem real & increases enjoyment of the whole adventure. The benefits in looking forward to an overseas trip should never be underestimated!  I get a lot of unfinished jobs completed, once I have packed my suitcase.

I travel a lot but it took me years to enforce the habit of NEVER packing for an important trip just before leaving. Instead the last-minute jobs I undertake are ones that don’t require decisions. Wish I’d followed this rule years ago.

What sort of hours will we be keeping?

Apart from one morning when we have to catch an early ferry – in deference to the night owls, we normally don’t leave at the crack of dawn.  But departing after our daily breakfast feast gives the early birds an opportunity for a walk around the village or town where we’re staying, before we head off for the day.  Summer days in the British Isles are long so there are often opportunities for daylight walks before nightfall, as well.  For me, early morning and evening walks are often a highlight of wherever I’m staying; a really good way to get the feel of a place.  Walking off cake, staying fit, making interesting discoveries and taking photographs during the best light of the day are the side benefits!  I eat like a horse when away but return home fitter than when I left.

Some days will be very busy, but these are offset by less busy days, including periods of leisure time.

On tour, no two days are the same.

Food is a highlight of this farm tour. Breakfasts are usually cooked feasts and we often have dinners together, with lunch options often up to individual choice. We’ll have many opportunities to test ‘paddock to plate’ artisan produce. And the best thing is that most of us will be doing a lot of walking and have no trouble walking off our meals!

I would like a copy of the farm tour itinerary & more information:

Send me an email, or ring me on (07) 4728 4922 – I can fill you in on tour details that aren’t listed online, and answer any queries you have.

And send you a copy of the itinerary.

Bookings and deposits are made via Australia’s largest farm tour company, Quadrant Australia, as they are managing logistics (in charge of booking accommodation & flights, and they can answer any passport and visa queries you have).

* All the photographs included in this blog post were taken by me during previous visits to Ireland & the United Kingdom (and many of the photos were taken on mobile phones).

* All tour-related information is correct at the time of writing but details given are subject to some tweaking between now and the departure date, in order to give passengers the very best journey possible (or in the unlikely event of unforseen circumstances).

Booking specialty tours – how to ensure you don’t miss out:

In short – put down your tour deposit early!

In the global travel market there’s basically 2 kinds of tours:

  1. Generic tours that cater to a mass market
  2. Specialty tours designed to appeal to specific people, not the general public

Generic tours

  • Run at an identical time annually, or at regular intervals throughout the year.
  • The route is repeated over and over – same features, same accommodation, same people encountered.
  • Special features such as events are rarely included as that adds a layer of complication & cost that doesn’t fit the high-volume ‘keep it as simple as possible’ model.
  • Places visited are generally the most popular tourist attractions, only.
  • Generic tours can be exceedingly frustrating for farmers; because you’ll be driven right past what you’d most like to stop and look at and general-interest tour guides aren’t able to answer agricultural questions.
  • Usually large tour groups so organisers are able to guarantee departure for all the tours they run, even if only a few are booked to go. Accommodation etc is block-booked years in advance and bookings can be taken up until the last minute due to bulk reservations. It’s a high-volume business model; profit made on the crowded tours pays for the tours with low numbers.
  • It’s like ordering a MacDonalds hamburger; you know exactly what you’re getting in advance and everybody gets the same thing. Like franchise restaurants, generic tours serve a purpose; but they are not ideal for anyone who is discerning.

One of the unique aspects of the 2019 UK & Ireland farm tour – the number of events and special occasions included in the itinerary. British Isles shows are still agriculture focused and very traditional.

If you want a journey that feels really special and is especially memorable, because it includes features you’re specifically interested in and you’re travelling with a great group of like-minded people, book a specialty tour instead. Here’s the difference:

  • You’ll be seeing highlights specifically chosen to be of interest to you.
  • We do visit cultural highlights but we also spend a lot of time off the beaten track away from the hordes.
  • You’ll be meeting people who aren’t in the tourism business – instead they have specific interests in common with you, which means particularly interesting conversations (and potentially, long-term connections).
  • You’ll be travelling with like-minded people, that you have a lot in common with. The impact this has on raising the level of travel enjoyment should not be underestimated.
  • It’s rare for two specialty tours to be identical; especially if events are included in the tour.
  • On the specialty tours I run, you will be attending some fantastic events.
  • A degree of flexibility in the tour. Extra little surprises can be fitted in as we travel around and we can tweak the schedule slightly, on the run, to accommodate weather vagaries. If you mention that there’s something you’re specifically interested in seeing, well in advance of the tour departure, it may be possible to write it into the itinerary. Personalisation such as this is impossible on a generic tour.
  • However – just as handmade products aren’t mass produced and must be purchased earlier, before they sell out – there is relatively little flexibility in specialty tour passenger numbers. Specialty tours take a lot fewer people and once the set number of people have booked, no more can squeeze on – we don’t usually stay in huge hotels so there simply aren’t enough free rooms available. And if minimum numbers aren’t booked by the accommodation payment deadline then specialty tours have to be postponed or cancelled, and deposits are returned. Departure isn’t guaranteed until minimum numbers are reached, as it’s not a sausage factory.  What does this mean? Place a deposit to reserve your seat, early, to avoid disappointment; and immediately mention anything you’re specifically interested in, to ensure it is included in your tour.

I’m so excited about this farm tour because I know everyone will enjoy it immensely, as well as finding it interesting and useful. I’ve put a few years of concerted effort into unearthing specific people and places off the beaten track, which will be of particular interest to Australians involved in agriculture.  I would love to take you along!

UK & Ireland - agricultural shows & landscapes

UK & Ireland farm tour – agricultural shows & landscapes

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