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'Faith tourism' experiences launched

A new tourist campaign is offering 'hands on experiences' in churches and cathedrals across the UK ...

ExploreChurches is the website which allows people to discover the wonder of the UK’s sacred heritage.

Now, ExploreChurches Experiences allows tourists, tour operators and church lovers to find and book ‘hands on experiences’ in churches and cathedrals.

A National Churches Trust spokesperson explained: "We know that visitors are looking for more; they want to try out something different and experience something authentic. So we have worked with more than 150 churches and chapels to create over 60 experiences which will go live during 2019."

Among the experiences on offer are:

  • Tale of Two Potters Tour: A guided tour of Gloucester Cathedral and a visit to the House of the Tailor of Gloucester from Beatrix Potter. 
  • Cartmel Priory: The Priory offers specialist tours about William Marshall and the Magna Carta, the Reformation, church architecture and much, much more.
  • Lincolnshire Cathedral: A guided tour of Lincoln Cathedral with exclusive access to vestments, as well as an embroidery demonstration. 
  • Faith and Food in Yorkshire: A visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey, followed by a tour of St Mary’s church and Harrogate Baptist church and finishing with afternoon tea at the famous Betty’s Tea Room.

Church of England, Baptist and Methodist places of worship are currently part of ExploreChurches Experiences with churches belonging to other denominations set to be involved in the future.

Each ExploreChurches Experience will have its own webpage and users can search these using descriptive key words  and by geographical location. Tour operators and others booking ExploreChurches Experiences will be able to register and create their own account to manage bookings. Online booking will go live in May 2019.

ExploreChurches Experiences is provided by NCT Heritage Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Churches Trust.

Funding has been provided from the £40 million Discover England Fund, administered by VisitBritain/VisitEngland, delivering world-class, bookable English tourism products to the right customers at the right time.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said: “The UK’s churches are amazing buildings which have so much to offer to tourists and visitors. ExploreChurches Experiences makes it easy to book online for a fascinating range of themed visits in churches and cathedrals. These include hands on activities, behind the scenes tours and local food and drink as added extras.”

“ExploreChurches Experiences will appeal to families, students and independent travellers alike. Thanks to the support of the VisitBritain/VisitEngland Discover England Fund, we have been targeting the US travel market and in particular the many Americans who are fascinated by the UK’s religious history and buildings.

“Churches are a vital part of the UK’s heritage. Getting more people to visit them and allowing churches to benefit from the tourist pound is a key way of securing their future.”

Andrew Stokes, England Director for VisitEngland, said: “I’m delighted to support another successful Discover England Fund project, with its collaborative approach to bringing together a wide variety of churches throughout England to work on an innovative, experience-based faith tourism product which will boost international and domestic tourism across the country.

“This is an increasingly popular segment of the tourism market and we have an opportunity with England’s unrivalled assets in this area to offer visitors activities that give them a heightened sense of local culture and a greater feeling of connection and belonging.”

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