Westminster & Water Tour

Join the Westminster and Water tour from THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL for both a historical and contemporary appreciation of Britain’s key intelligence services – MI5, MI6, and GCHQ – on the streets of London.

While offering a slightly more institutional perspective of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ in recent years, there’s also a healthy amount of spy tales from yesteryear to absorb. Wartime treachery, outrageous deception, Cold War agent running and betrayal, to name but a few.

The Westminster & Water ‘Trail invites you to learn more about the world of Britain’s most well known intelligence services: MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. Passing not only some of the locations used by the agencies, walkers will also pass by institutions that have become associated with the espionage and intelligence world from the 1920’s to the present.

Beginning near St. James’s Park, the tour proceeds to Westminster, in which both inner and riverside areas are visited throughout this three hour experience. Smaller residential areas as well as major streets will be traversed as you absorb intelligence issues occurring both here and abroad.

Commencing across from MI6’s former headquarters, you’ll be immediately immersed into the world of treachery and betrayal courtesy of arch traitor, original Cambridge Spy Ring member Kim Philby, who worked there.

But the tour is one of contrasts, alternating between older and more recent episodes. From Cambridge treachery you’ll turn to Cheltenham chicanery, as eavesdropping agency GCHQ comes under scrutiny. Whistleblower Edward Snowden propelled the issues of digital surveillance, privacy and cyber security to mainstream attention. While in previous decades concern was voiced about the ECHELON programme, this has been superseded by NSA/GCHQ programmes such as PRISM and TEMPORA. Unprecedented state intrusion or maintaining safety and security? You decide!

THE-INTELLIGENCE-TRAIL-WESTMINSTER-WATER-LONDON-SPY-TOUR-MARSHAM-COURTBack in the 1960’s ‘old school’ spying never had the internet to exploit (or worry about!) and you’ll hear about ‘the spy who saved the world’. Jointly run by MI6 and the CIA, you’ll pass the location from where GRU officer Oleg Penkovsky was being managed. His subsequent debriefs were of great value to the West, however his fate was soon sealed. You’ll find out about his capture, how it occurred and the consequences.

Leapfrogging back to more current issues (and embarrassment) as you head towards the political heart of Westminster, the role of intelligence in the UK’s war in Iraq will be dissected as you pass the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre – home to the Chilcot Inquiry. Politicization of the UK’s intelligence machinery, the use of dubious sources with vested interests, intelligence ‘cherry picking’ and facts being fixed around policy. It’s sobering, but nonetheless absorbing stuff.

THE-INTELLIGENCE-TRAIL-WESTMINSTER-WATER-LONDON-SPY-TOUR-MI6-VAUXHALLPassing by the Houses of Parliament, there’s a focus on the legislation passed in the last few decades affecting the intelligence services and their accountability, the role of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, the interesting (and often bemusing) relationship between spooks and politicians and further discussion of arguably the most important legislation ever passed vis-à-vis state intrusion and privacy: The Investigatory Powers Act.

You’ll take a trip to ‘spy school’ and hear about two former pupils who rose to prominence in their own ways: one by becoming an arch traitor, the other by being part of arguably the most outrageous wartime deception scheme ever concocted.

In the final leg of the tour, and closely following the River Thames, you’ll come face to face with the current headquarters of both the Security Service – MI5, and, from across the river, the Secret Intelligence Service – MI6. Current issues and recent incidents affecting each agency will be discussed, leaving you to ruefully ponder the future of both services.

In short, this is the most in-depth appreciation offered by any London spy tour provider, of the United Kingdom’s intelligence machinery and recent issues faced.

Duration: approx 3.25 hours on foot (can be shorter if preferred)
Rendezvous Point (RVP): St. James’s Park Underground Station, Broadway (North East exit, opposite Conrad St. James Hotel)
Nearest station (start): St. James’s Park (Underground: Circle, District lines)
Nearest station (end): Pimlico (Underground: Victoria line).

Flat, with no steps or stairs to be managed, although the area beside Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament is very busy.

Private tour slots (for up to 30 people) are priced according to how far in advance they are booked and paid for.

(£ UK Pounds Sterling)
Solo/Couple 1-2 people
(£ UK Pounds Sterling)
3-30 people
6 or more weeks£295.00£325.00
3 to 5 weeks£395.00£425.00
1 to 2 weeks£495.00£525.00
6 or less days£595.00£625.00

Important: As only private groups are run, please note that it is not possible to ‘join’ another group as this would mean the group ceasing to be exclusively for the original client.

You’ve read the briefing, you’ve seen the prices, you’ve got a date or two in mind…it’s time to check availabilty for your own private London spy tour! Complete the form below, with full details of preferred dates and any other relevant details.

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That’s unsuprising given the other tours also on offer! Check out the Classic, Early Years, Cold War, Sexpionage, and Mayfair & Mother Russia alternatives.

Chosen by members of the international intelligence, security, military and diplomatic communities.