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Experts, authorities and all-round good sorts – our guest speakers

1 August 2018

What makes some Great Rail Journeys tours extra special? Besides all the fantastic adventures, the excellent hotels and those neat little touches, some of our tours feature guest speakers to inject that extra sparkle and insight into the places you visit and the foods you try.

These ladies and gentlemen are some of the most knowledgeable in their fields, and are often celebrities in their own right having appeared on television, radio and in print. We have horticultural experts, military historians, royal correspondents and more, all of whom are available on certain holidays to share their expertise and just chat about their interesting lives and careers. In this article, we're going to cast the spotlight on some of these speakers, and the added benefits they bring to your experience:

Charlie Dimmock

Charlie Dimmock is a renowned and respected figure in the British horticultural field, famous particularly for her role as a presenter in popular BBC television show Ground Force. A wonderful character, whose genuine enthusiasm for all things green-fingered always shines through both in screen and in person, Charlie Dimmock's extensive career in gardening puts her in the perfect position to accompany our Chartered Tulips Cruise across Belgium and the Netherlands.

Charlie's mainstream career began with Ground Force, a programme which focused on reimagining old gardens and changing them for the better. She continued with roles in other landscape focused presenting before moving on to her present job at the iconic Chelsea Flower Show. Charlie is also a published author, whose works include 'Enjoy Your Garden and Container Gardening', and she was a regular columnist with the Mail On Sunday until January 2008. This varied working life has provided her with ample expertise in the world of horticulture, and presumably, resulted in her having one of the greenest thumbs in Britain!

Charlie Dimmock features on our Five-Star Tulips Cruise, and is on hand to answer questions before we visit the glorious Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands, a thriving cornucopia of tulips and much more.

Raaja Bhasin

A true expert in all things about the Shimla region in India, the knowledge which Indian historian Raaja Bhasin has accumulated about this area is mind-boggling. An acclaimed writer and researcher, Raaja's work includes serving as a history consultant for Channel 4 and writing five celebrated books on Shimla and its history. Raaja was born locally near Shimla, and as such, there would be few better placed to accompany us on selected Indian tours.

Raaja's work has taken him all across the subcontinent, but his exceptional research work around Shimla is what sets him apart from other historians. He is considered an academic authority, and is a regular contributor to various journals, websites and magazines in Indian and beyond. His books are engaging and charismatic, uncovering the history of this fascinating region, page by page.

Raaja Bhasin accompanies us on selected India tours, providing talks and answering your questions on the trains, the colonial histories and the culture of Shimla and Himachal Pradesh.

Colonel Piers Storie-Pugh

Colonel Piers Storie-Pugh has spent nearly 35 years giving talks and presentations about the battlefields of Europe, North Africa and Asia. His astonishing career has provided countless people with insights into the brutality of war and the experiences of those who lived through them. He is one of the most experienced battlefield guides in the field today, and is a welcome addition to our roster of guest speakers. Piers also joins us on our Five-Star Tulips Cruise to take us through the poignant sites of the battlefields of Ypres from the First World War.

Colonel Piers Storie-Pugh boasts an extensive military background; his grandfather fought in the First World War while his father served in the Second World War, and was captured various times before being sent to the infamous Colditz Castle. Piers himself served in the British Army before his decision to specialise in battlefield expertise.

Nicholas Owen

Nicholas Owens' illustrious career has seen him work at the highest level of British media journalism for nearly fifty years. He is perhaps most well-known as the Royal Correspondent for ITV over the course of the 1990s and early 2000s, but he has also written for the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times and the Evening Standard. His broadcasting career includes slots at BBC News, Channel 4 News and ITV Lunchtime News, and he has even appeared on Strictly Come Dancing. Nicholas' impressive working life makes him an excellent guest speaker, and one which we are very excited to have on board selected departures of two charter cruises in 2019.

Alongside all this, Nicholas is well-known to classical music aficionados from his Saturday afternoon radio show on Classic FM. His knowledge of all things classical is the perfect fit for our Danube chartered cruise, which uncovers the magnificent musical heritage of this sublime river. By contrast, on 'Douro Cruise on board the Spirit of Chartwell', his experience as royal correspondent puts him in  good stead to take us through the royal pedigree of the luxurious Spirit of Chartwell river barge. Whatever the topic, Nicholas is charismatic, charming and personable, and a welcome addition to any cruise he is a guest speaker on. 


Looking for your very own, tailor-made rail holiday? Our sister brand, GRJ Independent has you covered, with a fantastic team of tailor-made holiday specialists ready to help you design and organise your own rail holiday. What's more, our late availability discounts are ready to help you travel for less, saving you up to £100 per person when you book any holiday departing before 31st October 2018. Call our excellent team now!