Before coming on the tour you may have some questions. There’s a good chance that someone has asked it before, so take a look at the most common questions answered by guide Brian Gray. It may well save you time!
What clothes should I bring with me?
Nothing special is required; simply ensure you’re wearing comfortable clothing and footwear. If the weather forecast highlights changeable conditions be prepared either way. If warm weather is forecast, bring some water or juice with you.
Check the BBC weather website to help you decide whether it’s sunglasses, sun block and t-shirts all the way, or rain jackets and umbrellas (leave the poison tips at home: there was enough trouble with one of those on Waterloo Bridge back in 1978).
One point of advice though: during the autumn, winter and spring months be aware that it’s one thing to be walking outside, it’s quite different STANDING outdoors while listening to the guide. It feels colder and the wind penetrates through clothes easily. This is not the time to be strutting around in your Vogue or GQ wardrobe – unless Helly Hansen is appearing in the latest editions!
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take this into consideration. This has particular (but not exclusively so) reference to more mature walkers. From experience, when groups have been advised to wrap up warm, but appear with insufficient clothing for the conditions, the inevitable result is that walkers are pre-occupied with finding warmth rather than the remaining tour. When you’ve paid money to come on the tour, it’s a great disappointment if you aren’t enjoying it simply because you’ve not heeded the advice and are shivering.
This isn’t just a personal thing. You’ve paid to come on the tour: the last thing anyone wants is for someone feeling so cold they have to leave prematurely, or start ‘dancing’ to stay warm. This is off-putting not only to those around you but the guide as well.
What if the weather’s bad?
As a general rule, walks will still proceed if rain falls: that’s what umbrellas and rain jackets are for! If cloud bursts or lightning storms occur immediately before or during the tour, shelter will be sought wherever possible until conditions improve. Lengthy disruption however may result in shortening of the tour or early completion – not through choice though! For winter walks, if ice and snow are present, conditions will be evaluated immediately before each walk. Again, if conditions worsen during a walk, shelter will be taken until there’s a respite. Lengthy disruption however may result in shortening of the tour or early completion.
Are public tours run?
No. All tours run are private tours for the exclusive enjoyment of those booking / paying for them. It is not therefore possible for individuals to ‘join’ a private tour that has already been scheduled.
Where do the tours start?
For Classic, Early Years, Cold War, and Sexpionage tours, the Rendezvous Point (RVP) is the Royal Marines Memorial on The Mall, approx. 50 yards from Admiralty Arch.
For the Westminster & Water tour, the RVP is outside St. James’s Park underground station – between the north and east exits on Broadway.
Full RVP details are found on each of the tour pages.
I’ve been on a tour, and my friends went on another, but the content/locations weren’t exactly the same. Why is this?
There are so many locations and episodes – sometimes several at the same location – potentially available to recall (especially on the Classic ‘Trail), that it’s impossible to include them all in the normal tour duration. Therefore, some flexibility in the content is natural – some days Location X and Story Y will feature, while on others it might be Location C and Story D for example. And let’s not forget, tour guides like a bit of variety too!
Why does the tour length vary sometimes?
There are generally two key variables to consider. The first is the level of interactivity between guide and walkers. It’s perfectly fine to ask questions during the tour, but please do so when moving between locations, in order to keep to the scheduled duration. The second factor is walking speed: you can only go as fast as the slowest walker! Naturally, the quicker the pace, then the greater the chance there might be time to add in another juicy little titbit or two along the way!
Is the content secret or classified?
All content relating to specific people or incidents over the years is ‘open-source’, meaning it is publicly accessible, either in print or online. There is the Official Secrets Act to consider, after all! Besides, there is already a wealth of excellent and thorough sources freely available.
It is interesting to note that because a piece of information is openly available does not mean that it lacks sensitivity. Furthermore, modern electronic media has an almost instant ability to disseminate potentially sensitive data around the world. To this end the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPBAC) have considered this dilemma, and how the Defence Advisory Notice system (more well known over the years as the ‘D-Notice’ system) applies in the modern internet and media age.
Can I bring children or pets along?
Due to the sheer amount of content provided and the adult themes often contained, tours are not generally recommended for under-18’s. Parents may choose to bring well-behaved under-18s at their own discretion. At least one member of a private tour group must be over 18 years of age and assumes full legal responsibility for any other group members below this age. Pets are not permitted on the tour, with the exception of registered guide dogs for the visually impaired.
Are there any toilets located on the tour route during the tour?
Whilst there are public toilets located in St. James’s Park, this applies only to the Cold War tour and sometimes, Classic tour. For all other tours it is best to assume no toilets are available. Toilets are located in pubs/coffee shops/hotels near to start and finish points, although it is unknown as to whether proprietors will allow use of toilet facilities without purchasing goods and services.
Can I record the tour?
Recording of any aspect of the tour is forbidden. This is due to the significant effort – and cost – expended to research and develop the tour content to its current form, and content used in other written formats. It is hoped you can appreciate this.
Can I take photos?
London is of course a photographer’s dream city; there’s an abundance of great architecture and other sights to behold and record for posterity with your trusty camera.
In general, photographs of buildings can be taken if they can be seen from a public place such as a highway or pavement. However, in certain places such as Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square photography is only permitted providing it is for non-commercial (ie. personal tourist) purposes. For commercial purposes, permission can be granted upon payment of a fee to the Greater London Authority.
However, it is an offence to cause an obstruction if you are blocking a pathway, pavement etc. in order to take photographs. Generally though, police officers will most likely ask politely that you move on – please do so if this is the case!
As the ‘Trail often passes former and current government buildings, photography is undertaken at your own risk. The Official Secrets Act states that it is an offence to take photographs of ‘prohibited places’ which may be useful to an enemy. The definition of ‘prohibited places’ encompasses many places.
In addition, Section 43/44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gives police officers and Police Community Support Officers ‘stop and search’ powers for anyone for “articles of a kind which could be used in conjunction with terrorism”. It is also an offence to take or possess photographs that may be used in the committing of, or preparation of a terrorist act.
Common sense should be applied at all times. For instance, lots of tourists walk along Whitehall and will stop outside the Downing Street gates to take photographs. In general this is tolerated, and largely depends on the judgement of individual Metropolitan Police Officers who realise that certain buildings are tourist attractions in their own right as well as government buildings.
Taking photos of the guide is normally not an issue – just ask beforehand!
THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL is not liable for any loss or damage to photographic equipment.
Can I pay with cash at the end of the tour?
Payment must be made in advance of the tour slot. This is done directly with the ‘Trail through secure online payment. Tour slots are allocated on a strict first pay, first served basis.
WORKING IN INTELLIGENCE
I want to work in intelligence! Where do I find out more?
If the website or tour has whetted your appetite, then each of the UK intelligence services have websites containing further information about the employment opportunities available.