Recording experts on site for a wildlife podcast
Recording experts on site for a wildlife podcast

I established Audio Trails in 2006 after creating the UK’s (and probably Europe’s) first downloadable MP3 audio guide; the Moors for the Future “audio tours of the moors” are still available to download today.

At the time I was working for the Peak District National Park Authority and one of my projects was to unobtrusively interpret the perceived wild moorland areas of the Dark Park. Sticking interpretation panels across the landscape was not an option. In 2004 when I began looking into the viable options Apple were still dipping their toes into the mobile device market, but the growing popularity of the iPod and iTunes made me think, “if you can download an album of songs why can’t you download a narrative of audio files that guide you along a walk?” It turns out you could. I did some research and came across a driving tour project in the United States: MP3 files you could download and listen to at set locations.

Over the course of the next two years I taught myself sound engineering and recorded National Park Rangers delivering their standard guided walk patter for popular walking routes. We launched 5 audio trails initially and they were a great success. Overnight, the Rangers had become virtual guides. No more did visitors have to book onto a walk that may only appear in the walking calendar once a year. Like photographs, the audio tour user leaves nothing but footprints.

My first audio trail as a freelance consultant was at the National Trust’s Hughenden Manor. In the years since I have written and produced over 150 audio guides. Many incorporate oral reminiscence sound bites. These are my favourite because you can hear the authenticity in the interviewees voice. It has been a real privilege to record a wide range of passionate people across the country. I love recording ambient sounds to use in the audio guides, and creating effects e.g. 18th century scythe making machinery, through the layering of sound files gathered and manufactured.

In 2010 I started looking at app development and using GPS to trigger the audio files automatically, based on a user’s location. Our audio tour guide app platform has proven popular with tour operators looking to automate their audio commentary, allowing drivers to focus on the road. Health and safety is one benefit, along with the consistent message that using audio can deliver to passengers, regardless of who is driving the coach, boat, train or bus. Whilst some drivers are natural tour guides others haven’t the knowledge or the same personality to thrive in this role. Our audio tour guide apps ensure consistency and safety. The app platform works equally well as a self guided walking tour for visitors to heritage sites, tourist attractions, urban and rural locations. For all users you can just press play and put the screen away.

So now you know why I am here let me know why you have read my short history about Audio Trails. I’d be happy to discuss how Audio Trails can bring your project to life. Get in touch.

Dan Boys, Founder/Owner Audio Trails

P.S. Over the years I have worked on wide variety of heritage interpretation projects across the UK, which has been recognised with Full Member accreditation of ahi.org.uk. To ensure this website remains focused purely on audio tour projects I set up at-creative.co.uk to showcase my other work. Read all about the multimedia apps, interpretation panels, heritage trails, websites, interpretation planning etc at at-creative.co.uk.

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