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Here’s a tip from one who knows. Avoid the free tours. They’re a rip-off. Yes, you don’t have to stump any cash but they remind you of your obligation to fess up continually, which is so annoying – and who carries much money around with them anyway these days? – but you’ll be wasting your time, and your intelligence will be insulted if you make the mistake of going on them.

If you’d like to discover a general broad-brush history of Manchester there’s a “Discover Manchester” tour going on every day at 11am from Central Library, hosted by our colleagues from Manchester Guided Tours.

The free tours might sound like a good idea, and the guides young and enthusiastic, but they don’t know what they’re talking about! They’re not trained, they’re not qualified, they’re not accountable. They haven’t conducted proper research.

They don’t know how to research. They’ve been offered proper training but have refused the offer. If you think you’ll uncover Manchester’s rich history on these tours, let’s put it this way. You might as well ask your plumber to take you round.

These are some of the gems we’ve come across:

  • A guide stopped her group outside the Town Hall and said: “The architect was Alfred Waterhouse. He was a Scouser. Everybody boo.”
    Have you ever heard anything so pathetic? 
  • We heard a guide tell their large group. “There is St George’s House where George Orwell stayed.” No he didn’t. “Orwell described Manchester as ‘the belly and guts of the nation’ in The Road to Wigan Pier.”
    No. He didn’t! It takes 10 seconds to look up this quote in the text of the book. Orwell never said anything like it.
  • A colleague heard a guide claim outside the FTH: “The suffragettes were arrested here [correct] and sent to prison”.
    No. no. no! We have habeas corpus in Britain. You can’t be arrested and sent to prison. Strewth!

They’ll probably also tell you that Rolls met Royce at the Midland Hotel and that the pillar box on Corporation Street is the one that survived the 1996 IRA bomb!

So, forget the free tours. Don’t waste your time. Go on a proper, professional tour conducted by New Manchester Walks or Manchester Guided Tours.