I found myself with a spare hour or so whilst in Bath recently, and suddenly remembered something I’d spotted online – an audio walking tour of the city. Rather than having to wait at a tour stop and join with a random group of people to be ferried around the famous streets, this was a solo adventure. The site offers two tours, for free, and the one I opted for was the Jane Austen Walking Tour.
You can download in advance or on the go, and you get 15 individual mp3 tracks that guide you around the city and its sights. There’s a pdf map too, which I only referred to when checking the starting place – although this was outside the Roman Baths, so not too hard to find. I plugged in, and listened to the first track and at the end, it tells you where to walk with some really decent directions, and then tells you to play the next track when you arrive at your destination.
I really enjoyed the tour. It had interesting facts, sometimes interviewing historians about the place, sometimes reading relevant passages from Jane Austen’s book, but always limiting each section to just a couple of minutes so there was no time to get bored. I did feel a bit conspicuous at the start, loitering around some of the areas and gazing up at the buildings, but by the end I’d got into a good pattern of listening as I arrived and then perusing as I passed.
The tour fixed all the things that I don’t like about some of the more touristy tour experiences – the loitering, the boring bits, the inability to go rogue on the way round. Here, you’re totally in charge. Follow it in order at your own pace, pause it to go shopping, skip bits, mix it up, it’s all down to you and which mp3 you opt to listen to next.
This got me thinking about what a great idea it is and how it’d be great if more people did audio walking tours. A quick search proved that there are other ones available out there, including the VoiceMap app. I’d like to go one step further and have audio guides to more rural walks – coastal paths, or national trails – because I’m starting to grow my love for walking but I require a lot of direction along the way. It’s a great addition to my walking library though, and I know now that Jane Austen would have been aware of the Sally Lunn bun! I’m definitely going to check out more of these types of experiences in future.