Interview: Robert Lundgren Jones, the best tour guide of Northumberland

An interview with the founder of Lundgren Tours, a company showing off the beauty of North-East England and Scotland.

Lenka Minarovicova
21st March 2022
Image: Lundgren Tours
After a captivating GIAG trip operated through Lundgren Tours, I got really interested to hear the story of this business, so it was an honour to interview the founder, tour operator and guide Robert Lundgren Jones.

Lundgren Tours is a company based in the northeast of England providing among other things, guided tours to North-East England and Scotland targeting mostly (international) university students, though, in my humble opinion, anyone can enjoy.

What exactly is your job?

On the actual trips, I am the tour guide. I dress up as a variety of costumes, as my cupboard could show you, to try and bring history to life. We try and do a few activities as well. To give you an example, our Harry Potter trip and a castle, we always provide a character service, we do karaoke, and as we’re approaching the filming location for Hogwarts, the castle, we play the Harry Potter theme tune. I then provide a Harry Potter and history theme tour of the castle; we show all the filming location and then we do a broomstick training. We go inside the state rooms of the castle, which people still live in today. It’s the second largest inhabited castle in the UK, second only to Windsor. People also get to cast spells and get cool videos and then we go to taste free samples of locally brewed potions, ehrm, alcohol. And then we go to the tree house and so on… so very much packaged day of immersive experiences and to give you as much value as possible.

How did it all start?

So, I never dreamed of being a tour guide. For my A-levels, I did Maths, Physics and Economics and very much went down that traditional career path. And at the end of school, I realised I don’t want to do career in any of these subjects (laughter). I liked Physics, I have a deep passion for astronomy and cosmology, space… but I thought it would be quite hard to get a job at NASA. And so, you know, that left me where it leaves a lot of people. I’ve chosen these subjects just because I have this expectation that if I did academic subjects I do well in life. But in reality, all I wanted to do is to do something that allowed me to stay up in the North of England, which I'm very passionate about, doing something that I enjoy. So all that, and the fact my dad set up his own business and I saw how much happy he was, to be honest. And I wanted that for myself. So I found a very practical degree at the university, an entrepreneurial course that allowed you set up your own business and you’d relate all of your assignments to it, which was great because it was basically a testing ground of doing business. Then, my mom and I talked about what I can do, we said maybe tourism which very much fits in keeping me in the North-East because it’s a big industry here, and talking to people which is what I enjoy. And then there was an opportunity in 2016. I set up my business and did then twice a week in August I did a coach tour around the area for a big agency. I really enjoyed and clearly, I wasn’t that bad, so in my second year, I came back to what I knew – students, because if we’re going to do coach trips, it needs to be targeted groups. So relating back to the passion I had for Astronomy, I approached a Physics society and asked if they wanted to go stargazing at the Kielder Observatory and it was a hit, fully booked. In my final year, the one thing that really pushed me to continue in the business, other than the fact that I really enjoyed it, was how much agony my friends were going through applying for jobs and how awful the experience him to be (laughter), so that really motivated me.

Image: Lundgren Tours

What’s your favourite part of being a tour guide?

A tour guide specifically? Because my favourite part of my business is actually developing partnerships. It’s really exciting when a new partner comes into play or when a partner you’ve been working with for a while proposes something new. For instance, NUSU, which is probably one of our best clients, promote all of our trips, but they also now provide a mini bus trips with me around Northumberland, which was their idea that I love, because it’s Northumberland. Obviously, I do enjoy the trips, some more than others. I’m more of a nature person than the city person, so I tend to enjoy the ones in Northumberland over for instance York or Manchester. Though I do love Edinburgh, but everybody loves Edinburgh (laughter). People ask me all the time “Do you not get bored doing the same tours?” and the answer I always give is: “No tour is the same because the people are always different.” It’s not just me talking and giving them the tour content, it’s all the interactions outside of that as well. And obviously, I am an entertainer, I’m a show off, so I enjoy being in the spotlight, I can’t deny that (laughter).

What is your favourite place?

For me, it’s usually based on memories and attachment, for instance, my favourite beach is called Howick Beach and it’s very hard to get to. It’s very secluded and not touristy at all. It’s actually a quite small beach but ever since a child, I’ve absolutely loved to climb, and it’s got lots of cliffs and caves to explore. It’s also got breath-taking views of the coastline. It’s called Howick but until the age of 11, I used to think it was called Robert’s beach because as a child, I loved it so much my family would call it that. In terms of trips, Holy Island is my favourite place. I don’t know why, but I get this special feeling whenever I’m there. It just feels unique to me, I suppose.

Since the pandemic people close themselves, they might not have even noticed, but I have...

Robert Lundgren Jones

What is your favourite memory from the trips?

Can I even answer that… I mean, when a trip goes perfectly, no issues, the weather’s amazing, that’s just an incredible feeling. And when students genuinely come up to you and really tell you how much they’ve enjoyed the trip, but a specific one… Last year, at the beginning of October, I think, we did the Holy Island and Bamburgh trip. This trip was particularly special because the weather was amazing to start with and all the students were really enthusiastic. And it makes a difference, you know, when they’re all engaging and interacting. I feel like that’s rare now because since the pandemic people close themselves, they might not have even noticed, but I have… so, usually, when the weather’s good, we all go to the St Cuthbert’s Isle. This time, there’d a particularly low tide and a storm a week prior to this, and it somehow resulted in land being created. It was almost like a film, there is just this massive sand path that took you from the St Cuthbert’s Isle good 1000 metrer into the sea. It was an insane feeling to describe. And at the time, there were lots of seals swimming around and you could get really close up to them. It was something that was so unexpected that’d happened that made the trip extra special.

Many thanks to Robert for finding some time for our chat. If you are interested in going on a trip with Lundgren Tours, have a look at their website or Instagram @lundgrentours.

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