Hi. My name’s Tim and I started englandrover.com in 2018; however, this is a project that has been in the works for over 20 years.
I was born in New Zealand and grew up in Australia but I have been visiting England on and off since my very first backpacking trip in 1989. In the mid-1990s I was living in London on a working holiday when I ended up editing a listings magazine for visitors to London and have since worked for travel publisher Lonely Planet and I have also written and published seven travel guidebooks including a guide to Great Britain and Ireland.
While still in London I set up hostelcritic.com, back then it was called bug.co.uk (BUG – the Backpackers Ultimate Guide), which was the world’s first hostel review site. Back in the mid to late nineties, the trend was for websites to become portals and search engines of the time (Altavista, Excite, Lycos, etc.) looked a mess with weather, news and sports results crowding their home pages. Likewise, the trend at the time was for any website to be a portal for everything relating to their niche and I went along with this adding destination guides, listings of festivals and events, forums, a virtual hitchhiking section where you could advertise for a lift, guides to buying rail passes and anything else I could think of. As you would expect, the website became so busy that the average user couldn’t find the hostel reviews that we started out with.
After returning to Australia, the BUG website keep running but it took a back seat when I started working for Lonely Planet. Although I was mostly involved with layout and creating indices and tables of contents, I was working with authors, editors and cartographers on a daily basis and got a great overview of what is required to publish top quality travel guides.
More importantly, I was working in a culture where integrity mattered. At the time, there was no advertising in Lonely Planet guidebooks and an author could lose their job if they accepted a free night in exchange for a favourable write-up. I came away from Lonely Planet realising that the role of a travel guide is to be a trusted and impartial source of independent consumer advice.
Around the time I left Lonely Planet, I started to put more time into BUG. Firstly I started to split it into several smaller websites (a site for Australia, another for Europe, etc.) and after leaving Lonely Planet I published my own series of travel guidebooks starting with guides to Australia and New Zealand. All up I wrote and published seven guidebooks: four to Australia, three to New Zealand and one to Britain and Ireland. The content from the Australia guidebooks became bugaustralia.com, the New Zealand guidebooks became bugnewzealand.com and the content from the Britain & Ireland guide ended up as part of bugeurope.com. In 2013 the hostel reviews on bug.co.uk were finally rebranded as hostelcritic.com.
Although it was becoming out of date, the information that was originally part of the BUG Britain & Ireland guidebook was a good starting point for a new website. I thought about making it a guide to all the countries in the British Isles, but came to the conclusion that it would be too much work for myself and my small team; then I considered making guides to just Ireland or Scotland but realised that England was the most thoroughly researched part of the book and the most up-to-date (I had updated all the information several times for the website since I originally wrote the book).
The new site would focus on England and it no longer just be a guide for budget travellers.
There are a lot of resources at your disposal when planning your trip to England, so why should you plan your trip at englandrover.com?
There are several types of resources you can use to plan a trip and we have looked at the pros and cons of each.
Guidebooks are great for planning a trip, particularly if you like to get away from a screen. They are professionally researched and (depending on the publisher) usually represent a trusted independent source of information.
However, one big drawback became very apparent as I started updating the content: the content in a travel guidebook just isn’t that in-depth. When you have to write about every major attraction in five different countries and fit that into a 436-page book then there is a limit on how much you can write about each sight. When I published the BUG Britain & Ireland guidebook I was pretty pleased that our average listing was more detailed than the competing Rough Guide guidebooks, but on updating the content for this website the old 106-word write-up on the Tower of London has grown to around 2400 words. Online we’re not limited by word-length so we can write as much as is needed.
As we continue building this site we will expand many of the older articles and new articles will be more detailed than I could possibly have written in a conventional guidebook.
Information provided by the official tourist information websites and tourism information centres may look nice, but it is not independent.
Although we certainly recommend popping into a tourist information centre when you arrive in a new city to pick up a map and some brochures, I certainly wouldn’t recommend using them as your sole source of travel information.
Essentially tourism promotion boards are in the business of promoting tourism and more accurately they promote the interests of their member tourism businesses. The content on each attraction listed on their websites and the brochures they publish is usually written by the attraction, so of course, they’re going to say everything is great.
Also because tourism promotion boards are interested in promoting their member tourism businesses they may not tell you about a cute little village or an outstanding natural attraction but instead give you a brochure for a tacky tourist trap.