Mark Seymour was born and raised in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the southwest of England, so enjoying the great outdoors has always been an important part of his life. As a tour guide, he definitely brings that "grab your jacket, hop off the coach, and let's explore" attitude to the groups he leads.
Where are you from, and how did you catch the travel bug?
I grew up in a small town close to Clovelly, on the cliffs and moors of North Devon. My family moved to Bath when I was a young teenager, and it's from there that I started to travel with my best friend, future tour guide Jamie. We both seriously caught the travel bug during a backpacking trip to North Africa. Bath was always a wonderful place to return to — an exciting university town, but also a place of historic beauty.
What are your favorite places along the tours that you lead?
My favorite stops on the Best of England tour are Bath, Glastonbury, and Wells. On the Villages of South England tour it has to be Dartmoor. They are all close to my heart. When I was a child I used to love scrambling amongst the standing stones of Dartmoor and watching the fishing boats come in with their catch. As for Bath, my familiarity with it helps me paint a very special picture of a very special town.
What makes you different from other guides at Rick Steves' Europe?
Different? First, I truly believe that that our ancient prehistoric ancestors paved the way for everything that has followed. The Castlerigg and Avebury stone circles were the precursors to the York Minster and Wells cathedrals. The Bronze Age settlement in Wales that looks over us and the sheepdogs could have been the beginnings of great cities like London. I try hard to make those connections real for my tour members. Second, because I lived for a time in the US, I think I have some insight into what kinds of things tour members might be looking for. And that time away probably made me even more passionate about the British Isles. Third, I'm happily married to a brilliant Rick Steves tour guide, Toni. Ah, no one else can claim that!
Tell us about a lasting memory you're able to create for your tour members.
One of my favorite moments on the Best of England tour is actually in Wales. I like to take people hiking up to a promontory called Deganwy, knowing that the sunset is going to be wonderful. The sense of anticipation builds as we summit the hill, which once had Iron Age and Saxon settlers living on it. At the top, we are treated to one of Britain's greatest panoramas, bathed in the day's last light: Anglesey to the west, Snowdonia to the south, one of the world's largest wind farms out in the sea to the east, and ancient copper mines of the Great Orme headland to the north. Sharing this never ceases to be a "wow" moment for me.
Here's what Mark won't tell you…but his tour members will:
"Mark has the ability to connect with each tour member as teacher, leader, and friend. We enjoyed his great humor, amazing knowledge, and fun rapport with our coach driver. He's eager to share his love and pride of all things UK — especially the prehistoric stones! He always found opportunities to acknowledge tour individuals for something they noticed, said, or did. Mark frequently invited us for extra hikes (you'd think he might want a break!) and we all gleefully took him up on his invitations."
— Priscilla in Newcastle, WA