About Me

Being a Blue Badge Tourist Guide is only one of my many achievements. But it’s the profession that draws together all the other talents I’ve gathered under my belt so far. This has enabled me to deliver a truly memorable tour based on my long experience on the Road of Life.

In order to have the right to wear that Badge and show off London, the city of my birth, and other places within a day’s ride of it, I underwent two years of thorough training culminating in the passing of several rigorous exams, both written and practical, designed to satisfy course tutors of my competence to guide tours.

And membership of my professional body, The Guild of British Tourist Guides, means, importantly, that I have two essential things for your peace of mind: public liability insurance and the Good to Go certificate. This was introduced by national tourist organisations in conjunction with health bodies after COVID struck. It ensures that I as a guide and my travel partners stick to rules to ensure tours are conducted safely within hygiene rules.

I also belong to the Institute of Tourist Guiding, the umbrella organisation of all professionals in the UK. Its main role is to set the professional standards and the code of conduct that we all agree to adhere to.

With that in mind, I have kept my knowledge up to date since qualifying by attending lectures, walks led by other guides with a particular specialism – and more recently have taken part in the COVID version of that, Lockdown Learning, given virtually through my guiding organisation. Crucially, I have also learnt the technology that is needed to deliver my own Virtual Tours.

Being a Blue Badge Tourist Guide is the latest professional pinnacle I’ve climbed. But I never would have made it at all if it hadn’t been for all the other previous experiences and skills that collectively have taken me along a network of paths leading to this point.

My main career was as a journalist working both locally and nationally. The training to become qualified for that career and reveal stepping stones to greater things had one set of features that I have carried forward all the way through – curiosity, discretion, endless research and attention to detail.

Along the way, I also became a tour manager, leading groups around the British Isles and across Europe, mainly through Italy. During that time, I gained a love of art, history, cuisine and life as seen through the eyes of others. I came to admire the registered qualified guides who did the in-depth local tours of the places we visited. I quickly realised I was thirsting for more, and research back in London soon led me to the Blue Badge course, a natural follow-on from tour managing as one profession very much complements the other. When I was a journalist, the view from my editorial window was beautiful, but static. Now it’s an ever-changing moving feast. Come and take a peek yourself!

How Others See Me

Anthony Silberfield.
Director of Transatlantic Relations The Bertelsman Foundation. Washington, DC
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“Penny is a tremendous asset as a guide and historian, but her qualities as a person are equally notable…”
Vickie Finney White
Owner Vickie White Group Tours and Travel Sherman, Texas, USA
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Penny Bowden has proven herself more than capable in challenging situations, creative in easier ones and always charming and charismatic
Tamara P.
New York
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“Goes out of her way to make things work”
Jackie Y.
Isle of White, UK
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“If you want someone to banish jet-lag and give a tour group something to remember, Penny’s the one for you…”
Nancy de P.
Chicago, USA
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“Penny’s knowledge of history and all things that make London what it is, is quite remarkable…”
Martha V.
Chicago, Illinois
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“She is worth every penny you pay for!”

Aspects of London

Heading into the Lions’ Den

The set of rules for Millwall fans in 1919 couldn’t be applied now…or could they? It was a different world when the club was first formed by a group of workmen champing at the bit to let off steam.

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Scandalous London

The Premier and the Prostitutes: The Prime Minister regularly slips out incognito at night from Downing Street and cruises the London streets looking for prostitutes.

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Three religions under one roof

As the world holds its breath over the latest Middle Eastern conflict, it’s comforting to think that in London’s East End, three religions traditionally normally associated as being at loggerheads with each other have peacefully evolved over three centuries in one building.

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