Posted by: travelrat | August 16, 2007

Audio Guides

Pulteney BridgeWhen I put up the ‘Pic of the Week’ this week, I made mention of the Tourist Tracks audio guides to various British cities. I remembered writing a review on them, but the magazine it was intended for ceased publication before the review could appear. I felt bad about it, and hope the following will, in some way, make amends. I have been asked, why buy these guides, when podcasts from the likes of Rick Steves and Chris Christensen are available for free?

The answer is, of course, although the podcasts are excellent, they don’t give, as far as I know, a complete step-by-step guide. 

There’s nothing really new about the audio tour. For years, we’ve been watching people walking around Stonehenge, listening raptly to something like an old fashioned mobile phone. And, many an art gallery or museum has used them, too … it saves on guides’ salaries, and you can move around at your own pace.

What truly liberated the audio guide was the introduction of the MP3 player, and the iPod. This idea was quickly seized upon by Tim Gillett, who made an audio guide of his native Cambridge, which  could be downloaded, along with a map in .pdf format which can be printed out and taken with you. Complete Luddites like me can order a CD for to play on a personal CD player. Probably not quite as ‘now’ but still a lot better than standing on a street corner with guidebook and map fluttering in the breeze, and a bewildered expression on your face.

 For my ‘test drive’ I chose Bath, from the seven guides currently available, because I know the city, it’s not too far from me, and I know how easy it is to get over-enthused about the place, and tell visitors more than they want to know. But, they don’t. The commentaries, by Tim’s business partner, Warren Clarke, a former drama student, are pitched just right, with a clarity that those whose first language isn’t English will appreciate. 

There are two tours on the disc, both taking about an hour, and both starting from Abbey Square. The first more or less follows the route the open-top tourist buses take. But, unlike the buses, you get to keep the CD afterwards … and it’s a couple of pounds cheaper than the bus ride. A seamless mixture of fact and direction takes us through the main city landmarks … did you know that Royal Crescent and The Circus are believed to represent the Sun and the Moon? Or that the diameter of the Circus is exactly the same as the Outer Ditch at Stonehenge? 

The second is called ‘Across the River’ and does just that! It shows a part of Bath that few tourists know about. It crosses the River Avon, and climbs up the opposite side of the valley to the quiet and peaceful towpath of the Kennet & Avon Canal. It follows this for quite a while, before descending through the Sydney Gardens, and proceeding (you don’t just ‘go’ or ‘walk’ here!) along the stately and imposing Pulteney Street to re-cross the river by the famous* Pulteney Bridge, to end your walk. Right by one of my favourite pie shops! 

For a full list of city walks available, and to download sounds or order CDs, visit  

*(Why is it famous? Buy the guide and find out! I’m writing a review here, not a guide!)


  1. […], when I ‘test-drove’ one of their audio guides on a CD around Bath. […]

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