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Grand Alpine Tour - Lesson one
Grand Alpine Tour - Lesson two
Grand Alpine Tour - Lesson three


'From the Field' Awards

Inspiring fieldwork supported by the RGS-IBG

In collaboration with:

The Goldsmiths' Company


Grand Alpine Tour

Key words

  • Alpine
  • Glaciers
  • Retreat
  • Landslides
  • 3D modelling
  • Landscape change
  • Geospatial data
  • Heritage
  • Climate change
  • Extreme
  • Spatial perception
  • Tourism


Undertaking a grand tour became a popular pastime for the upper classes of British society in the seventeenth century. Often travelling across Europe sometimes for a number of years, the tour was designed to provide a formative experience in which these relatively inexperienced young men and (occasionally) women sought scientific insight, faced new cultures and created art based on the new landscapes in which they found themselves.

Scrolling forward four hundred years, The ‘Grand Alpine Tour’, undertaken in the summer of 2014, encompassed a six thousand mile journey through some of the Alps’ toughest terrain for a team of three British academics. Following in their historical tourists’ footsteps Mark Allan, Dr Mike Lim and Thomas Shaw, all from Northumbria University, looked to explore the magnitude, frequency and spatial distribution of landslides above thinning and retreating glaciers in the region. Using the Society’s extensive historic archive of Alpine based resources the team compared historical data with that of modern times, collecting the latter through new and exciting methods. The team also sought to use both data sets to examine how the Alps have been perceived and portrayed by different cultural groups over time.


Lesson one

Lesson one »

Lesson two

Lesson two »

Lesson three

Lesson three »

The researchers

The team consisted of three British academics: Mark Allan, Dr Mike Lim and Thomas Shaw, all from Northumbria University

Find out more about the team

The Grand Alpine Tour is funded by the Land Rover / RGS-IBG ‘Go Beyond’ Bursary, an annual award given to an expedition that pushes boundaries and encourages a greater interest in Geography.

Land Rover


Key topics and themes

  • The indicators of glacial retreat in Alpine regions
  • How the processes that create landslides inform wider understanding of Alpine environments
  • The challenge of living and working in Alpine environments
  • The factors that continue to draw people to the Alps, as researchers and as tourists
  • How different groups, both from and visiting the region, perceive the Alpine environment and culture
  • Comparing how the Alps has been portrayed through history in a visual form

GCSE specification links

AQA A Ice on the Land
AQA B Investigating Global Tourism; The Challenge of Extreme Environments
Cambridge iGCSE Tourism
Edexcel A A Tourist’s World
Edexcel B Extreme Environments
OCR A Extreme Environments
WJEC A Tourism

Documents to download

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