Founded in 2021 by friends and colleagues, Brant Clayton and Matthew Thomas are the two friendly faces you'll be greeted with when you book Lincoln Free Walking Tours. Born out of a love for history, walking and Lincoln itself, Brant and Matt have taken this passion project from strength to strength over its first 18 months, transforming it into not only a legitimate business with plenty of room for future growth but also a visitor economy experience Lincoln can be proud of. Fresh from winning the Arts, Culture and Heritage Award at the Destination Tourism Award 2022, we caught up with this friendly pair to find out more about our flourishing Partner.
"Having been on plenty of city breaks and experienced tours across the UK and Europe we felt that we had a good lie of the land regarding what was involved in walking tours," said Matt. "Having been brought up in Lincolnshire we both had thorough background knowledge of the local history. When friends came to visit we'd end up giving them a tour and it grew wings from then really."
"When it came to actually setting up the tours, we wanted to make our walking tours in Lincoln accessible to a wider demographic, promoting tours as city-wide rather than just uphill Lincoln," added Brant. "We wanted to market Lincoln as a whole experience to give a well-rounded overview of the city. We just felt the offering we developed for the main tour was something the city could benefit from, to help shout about Lincoln as a whole while appreciating the urban context.
Matt said: "The Cornhill, for example, is such an interesting area. It's unrecognisable today and shows off the recent history Lincoln has in comparison to what you find uphill. What we love, no matter where in the city we are is the little local stories that come out of the woodwork. They are ingrained in our history and are what we feel sets the city and the tours apart - they aren't just factual but anecdotal.
"We weave stories throughout our tours, and we are constantly adding to them too. So many people that join us add their own tales into the mix. Snips the Dog is a favourite of ours. Nichola de le Haye too - Constable of Lincoln Castle, Nichola was vital in winning the 1217 Battle of Lincoln. It's interesting too that when we visit the University on the tours, a lot of their new buildings are now being named after these historic characters, further interconnecting the eras of history and bringing these characters back to the present day."
Taking place every Saturday, the original free 3-hour walking tour of Lincoln takes you through the history and heritage of the city from historic Castle Square to the modern Brayford Pool. Meaning modern history, say the last 100 years or so, are also covered alongside the Roman, Medieval, and Middle Ages.
"For us, the tours have always been a fun thing to do, we didn't ever expect anything to come out of it. For us it's a good time, it's not like work. And the demographic we have is such a mix - both locals and visitors. It's always surprising how many local people we get on the tours eager to learn more about the history of the city. And then we find, they come back to experience one of the spin-off tours," continued Brant.
"We feel well-ingrained in the community now. People have come to recognise us when we're out and about and in all weathers too. You feel as though you are giving something back to the city.
"As for the awards, well to be shortlisted in Destination Lincolnshire's Tourism Awards this year was an apt reward for us. To attend the night itself which fell near our first anniversary made it special, and to win the Arts, Culture and Heritage Award against such incredibly established businesses - New Theatre Royal Lincoln, NTKO Art Gallery, St Botolph's Church, and Trinity Arts Centre - was just incredible. It has transformed a passion project into a legitimate business opportunity."
Four tours are currently running, Lincoln Free Walking Tour, Roman Lincoln, Industry and Innovation and - new for this year - the Christmas Lights Walking Tour. More tours will be launching in 2023, keep your eyes peeled for updates, and book a tour here.
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