Cringletie House Hotel in the Scottish Borders is entering the spy world with an intimate VIP weekend event next month. “Covert at Cringletie” sees the luxury countryside castle hotel playing host to acclaimed speakers armed with unique perspectives on the intelligence world past and present for a unique occasion that no discerning spy aficionados will want to miss.


Covert at Cringletie: Luxury spy weekend from THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL and Cringletie House Hotel.


The exclusive event, scheduled to take place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd April 2017, will offer  guests an intimate opportunity to hear from acclaimed intelligence writer Andrew Lownie and writer, broadcaster and intelligence guide Brian Gray in a number of speaking slots throughout the weekend. Accompanied by dinners and other activities, the event will greatly appeal to couples keen to learn more about the intelligence world while also enjoying the scenic delights of the rural setting located just half an hour away from Edinburgh.

Cringletie General Manager Jeremy Osborne is excited by the weekend programme.
“From the first night's informal dinner and fireside chats with our hosts, this is a unique opportunity for our guests to enjoy the intrigue of the spy world whilst enjoying delicious food and relaxing in the beautiful surroundings both throughout the house and the spectacular grounds. It offers another truly exclusive experience which is what Cringletie is renowned for.”

Having enjoyed their first night in the picturesque castle hotel, Osborne is happy to showcase the hotel’s other attributes for guests to enjoy, and even get competitive, if desired.

“After the morning’s thought-provoking talks from Andrew and Brian, we’re also going to be inviting our guests to take part in “Compton’s Croquet Championship” on the front lawn. It’s our doffing of the hat to former MI6 officer, Compton Mackenzie, who as well as writing ‘Whisky Galore’ and the like, was also the former President of the Croquet Association.”

The Saturday evening sees Cringletie play host to a formal black-tie dinner with accompanying words from Lownie and Gray, for both staying guests and non-residents alike. On the Sunday morning, there will be more talk time before departing to Edinburgh where staying guests will either join the brand new Edinburgh spy tour from THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL, led by Brian Gray, or a literary tour of the capital led by Andrew Lownie.

Intelligence broadcaster and guide Brian Gray, who conceived the event, is keen to see the event achieve its maximum potential given the never-ending interest in the intelligence world.

“Spy publishing is in rude health. Edinburgh Spy Week, which immediately precedes Covert at Cringletie, is now in its fourth year. My own broadcasting output and subsequent feedback highlights a similar story of constant interest. ‘Covert at Cringletie’ offers a unique opportunity for people to immerse themselves in key contemporary intelligence issues, as well as going back through the decades. It all makes for an enthralling and entertaining weekend for real intelligence and espionage aficionados.”

Guy Burgess and John Buchan biographer Andrew Lownie is similarly upbeat about the event.

“Covert at Cringletie is a wonderful opportunity to really get to grips with Guy Burgess and very possibly have one’s opinion of him changed considerably. And the life of John Buchan, while far nobler than Burgess, draws a lot of interest, more so around here, in an area he’s strongly connected with. The lives of these two charismatic men coupled with insight into the intelligence world past and present will make for a truly atmospheric, educational, and entertaining weekend in this wonderful setting.”

Full Details - https://www.cringletie.com/covert



THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL has been shortlisted for the 2017 Luxury Travel Guide European Awards in the ‘Holiday and Tour Specialist’ category.
Celebrating & rewarding excellence, these awards recognise all holiday & tour options from large operators to small, independent guides.

During the judging process, the panel considers areas including: Service Excellence; Local Knowledge; Online Visibility; Marketing & Branding; and Communication Skills, to name but a few.

Who nominated the ‘Trail? I’ve no idea! However, the publication states that their voters come from around the world, including 10,000 hotels and 500,000 registered subscribers. So whoever initially highlighted the ‘Trail, thank you!



TOUR NEWS:          RARE PUBLIC TOUR SCHEDULED FOR MAY 2015     (London, 12th April 2015)


THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL, London’s in-depth private spy tour provider, is offering students, spy aficionados and others interested in the intelligence world a rare opportunity to join the ‘Westminster & Water’ tour next month on a scheduled public spy tour.

The central London walking tour – limited to only 30 people – on Wednesday 20th May at 7pm, lasting over two and a half hours, offers a fascinating insight into some of the intelligence world’s key personalities and incidents as well as providing an appreciation of more current issues facing Britain’s main intelligence services, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

Beginning beside St. James’s Park underground station, the tour passes by not only locations used by the agencies but other institutions associated with the espionage and intelligence world from the 1920’s to the present. Both famous landmarks and lesser known buildings are passed by. Whilst some locations will appeal to those wishing to learn about institutions involved, there are plenty of opportunities to become acquainted with key personalities (heroes and villains alike) within the intelligence services – and some Parliamentarians -  throughout the decades.

While the ‘Trail ran public tours up until the end of 2012, it has since focused on private and corporate tour provision. Owner Brian Gray however felt the time was right to run a public tour once more.

“There’s a never-ending fascination with the intelligence world. If anything it’s grown with the Edward Snowden saga and relations with Russia which currently are best described as ‘interesting’. From a cinematic perspective there’s also the forthcoming Spooks movie, ‘The Greater Good’ released in May which will create additional interest.”

Should the public tour be well received, Gray may run more throughout the year. Those wanting to join the tour should contact THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL as soon as possible, to receive further instructions and online payment details. Advance booking and payment is essential and a minimum of ten people are required for the tour to run.

- ENDS –


London’s in-depth spy tour provider, THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL was founded in 2009 and since then has attracted domestic and international intelligence, military, diplomatic and governmental personnel among its clients, as well as international media coverage.

“…highly recommended.”      Major, Royal Marines, Defence College of Intelligence

As an author, I am unable to spend thirty seconds with a subject matter expert such as Brian without asking a question; he had all the answers and he took me deeper into the history of London's intelligence community than I could have imagined.”       Mark Greaney, bestselling author



New tour pricing, based on booking period has been introduced. This offers superb value for group travel organisers with groups of up to 30 people who can book several weeks in advance.  Full price plans can be found here , including the move to quick and secure online payment procedures. Whilst tours were primarily based on number of people, the 'Trail now hands the reins over to group leaders. Pay the flat price, then have as many (up to 30 people) or as little on your own private tour. This offers much more choice, eliminating group size updates in the run up to a tour - and subsequent price changes.

Put simply, if you're well-organised and can book several weeks in advance, you'll save significant amounts. What are you waiting for ?!


TOUR NEWS:          SMALL GROUP TOURS EXTENDED TO AUGUST 2014           (London, 14th June 2014)

From mid-August 2014 THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL will focus exclusively on large private tour groups of fifteen people or more, and associated teambuilding events (although smaller groups can be accommodated if requesting the tour as part of a comprehensive teambuilding package).

Anyone wishing to book a smaller sized private tour is strongly advised to get in contact as soon as possible to reserve tour slots in the limited time remaining. A schedule of time slots will appear on the website shortly and all tours (Classic, Westminster & Water, Early Years, Cold War, Sexpionage) are available for booking.




London’s in-depth spy tour provider, THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL, will be providing tourists, locals and students alike with an absorbing introduction to Britain’s intelligence services with the launch of the new ‘Westminster & Water’ tour on 1st September 2013.

Starting beside St. James’s Park tube station across from the former MI6 HQ at Broadway, the tour proceeds to Westminster, visiting inner and riverside streets. Smaller residential areas as well as major thoroughfares are traversed before finishing on the Thames beside Vauxhall Bridge.

And this time, it’s institutional. Not only will some of the central London locations used by MI5, MI6, and GCHQ over the years be passed, walkers will also see key institutions associated with the espionage and intelligence world.

Head of Marketing for the ‘Trail, Brian Gray, comments: “Whilst the other tours running since 2009 have focussed on key individuals – traitors or heroes – or specific themes, the Westminster & Water tour places more emphasis on the agencies and institutions themselves,” although hinting that a handful of individuals throughout the decades would also be highlighted.

Gray is also acutely aware that the continued media spotlight on the intelligence services and the scope of their activities has brought with it a newer audience, not just international relations or security students, keen to learn more.

“There is no doubt that the recent revelations involving Edward Snowden, the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ have piqued the interest of many people who previously thought the espionage world was far removed from them: a trenchcoat-filled world of Le Carre and Deighton plots. Not so. Whilst human intelligence is far from obsolete, the importance of cyber security and espionage cannot be overlooked. Neither can the relationship between governments, politicians and the intelligence services themselves.”

As with the other critically acclaimed tours offered, discounts will be available to all serving UK Emergency Services personnel together with NATO servicemen and women as well as those serving in the Australian and New Zealand armed forces.

Click here for the Westminster & Water tour briefing


NEWS RELEASE:      THE FUTURE OF THE ‘TRAIL          (London, 19th November 2012)

THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL, London’s in-depth spy tour company announced its 2013 plans to the travel and tourism industry, with re-focussing and innovation at the heart of its operations.

Public tours will end in December 2012, as the company focuses on private and corporate tours and VIP experiences, as well as new publishing projects.

"The public tours have always been great fun and it’s sad to see the end of them,” said ‘Trail Head of Marketing Brian Gray, “but commercial realities are what they are. The ‘Trail doesn’t operate as a “pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” tour company and it’s not about to. The tours are priced higher than other competing services, but there’s a good reason for that, namely content, credibility, and quality provided.”

Gray added: “That said it’s been clear during 2012 that despite what some figures say to the contrary, London tourism has been affected by the double whammy of the Olympics – and related hotel and airline pricing - scaring tourists away, coupled with the continuing harsh economic realities affecting UK households. The middle ground is most definitely still being squeezed.”

Against this backdrop of tough conditions in the public tour market, the ‘Trail has continued to attract a high proportion of overseas clients, particularly from the US, Canada, and Australia. Many of them opt for exclusive private tours and this is a segment that the ‘Trail is looking to capitalise on.

The secret world of intelligence covered in the ‘Trail is fascinating in its own right, but Gray highlights the desires of a growing number of discerning tourists wanting more, and willing to pay for the privilege. With this comes a focus on private tours and optional VIP experiences offering increased content, including personal introductions to those associated with the secret world. Special events are also being earmarked for 2013 with key strategic partners.

With the rise in global smartphone ownership and solo traveller segments, the ‘Trail will also be developing new GPS-enabled routes. Appearing next year, the new routes will feature full directions and images as well as audio commentary from ‘Trail guide ‘Mr. X’ and will be available via a leading smartphone tour app provider for both iPhone and Android-based devices.  

“The smartphone tours will include appropriate content although not to the same amount as that given on the face-to-face tours,” commented Gray. “User experience for these types of device-based tours show a desire for much shorter ‘stays’ at each location, with opportunities for additional content when en-route from one site to another.”

As the smartphone tours are targeted at a different market segment from customers joining the guided tours, they will be marketed under a separate brand, announced in 2013.

The final area of activity earmarked for the ‘Trail concerns the writing of new spy-tourism books further highlighting London’s status as the ‘spy capital of the world’. “Initial work has begun on one title aimed at both discerning intelligence aficionados and the London travel trade,” said Gray, “and will certainly be an entertaining, informative and eye-opening read for many.”


THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL is London’s in-depth spy tour company, providing guided walks and custom VIP experiences for intelligence aficionados. Since its founding in 2009, the ‘Trail has been chosen by foreign diplomats, and military/security professionals from around the world, the ‘Trail has received widespread acclaim in both print, online and TV exposure.

“…highly recommended.” Major, Royal Marines, Defence College of Intelligence

For more information, please contact Brian Gray, Head of Marketing. Telephone +44 (0)1753 290007 or email info(at)intelligencetrail.co.uk.


MESSAGE FROM 'TRAIL HQ:     North American media exposure     (London, 26th July 2012)

Spy fans in Canada and the USA will get their share of the ‘Trail in the coming days. Canada’s National Post newspaper will be featuring the ‘Trail in an article written by Toronto journalist Nancy Wigston. It appears in a London-themed part of the newspaper’s ‘Travel and Escapes’ section and appears in the Saturday 28th July edition.

Just across the border, the Seattle-based King-5 TV station will be doing their best to keep their Olympic viewers entertained during their Games coverage. With their film crew over in London in June 2012, they set about uncovering some of the more interesting aspects of the capital. Needless to say, a meeting had to be arranged with ‘Trail guide Mr. X! The short TV segment with Mr.X broadcasts during their Evening Magazine show on 2nd August and is likely to be shown again later in the year. As well as Seattle-based spy fans, the segment will be shown throughout Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska.

If you can’t wait until then for a flavour of what went on during filming, head to the ‘unofficial official’ tour blog Below Top Secret for the inside scoop!



MESSAGE FROM 'TRAIL HQ:     Welcome to the new website!     (London, 3rd July 2012)

...and hopefully you like it! Whilst the website in its first incarnation served its purpose well since 2009, the time had well and truly come for a new and much improved ‘shop window’ for the ‘Trail. And here it is.

Although the dramatic black landing page admirably sets the scene for what follows, a new style was required to make the viewing experience as simple and enjoyable as possible. So imagine a well-thumbed ‘old school’ Cold War era Dossier; that’s what you’ve got. Something visually appealing, yet straightforward in content and structure. Hopefully the balance is just right: if not, then do tell! Especially once you’ve paid to come on the tours! Just kidding.

The second part of 2012 - and beyond – will see a variety of new initiatives coming to fruition. Of course, in the best tradition (and thoroughly in keeping with the world of secrets you’ve now entered) these will remain under wraps until the time is right, or until a laptop gets mislaid in a tapas bar in south London (a little joke there; it happens to the best, you know!). So do keep visiting the site to see what’s new and improved as time flies by.

Rather than spend even longer getting everything on the website absolutely perfect (and even then, there’d probably be something else to change or try and improve), it has been uploaded with most of its bells and whistles in good working order and with the rest in hot pursuit. Again, when you periodically return to the site, you’ll notice the tweaks, improvements and extra content.

The ‘Trail attracts a variety of different groups: the ‘professionals’ from the security/military arena; international diplomats; university students (particularly in intelligence/security studies, politics and international relations, and modern history); UK leisure travellers and their organisers; and discerning tourists from further afield. The website must appeal to all such groups and contain the appropriate information you need to decide whether the ‘Trail is right for you. Please get in touch if you think the website is missing a trick or two in this regard. Actually, get in touch if you think it’s great as well: all feedback is welcomed. 

So on behalf of myself (and of course Mr X!), welcome to the new ‘Trail website, and hope to see or hear from you soon!

Brian Gray, Head of Marketing.



NEWS RELEASE:     It’s Spy Sunday in London this Autumn     (London, 14th October 2011)

With hit BBC drama Spooks currently showing at the weekend, Londoners and visitors to the capital can now experience ‘Spy Sunday’, according to acclaimed spy tour company THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL.

With both the acclaimed walking tour and the hit spy series both running on Sundays, it is an ideal opportunity to immerse oneself in the real and fictional worlds of espionage and counter-espionage in the same day.

“For the last three years, Autumn has always been the busiest period for the ‘Trail,” commented its Head of Marketing, Brian Gray. “I’m sure that Spooks has contributed to this, being shown at the same time.

While the television show is counting down to its last ever episode in a few weeks’ time, THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL is not following suit, and will continue to offer spy fans an absorbing journey into the last 100 years or so of Britain’s most famous intelligence services: MI5 and MI6.



NEWS RELEASE:     Sex and spying come together on London ‘Sexpionage’ spy tour this summer     (London, 6th June, 2011)

Friday evening walking tours in London will be taken to their hottest levels yet, as spy tour company THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL announced the running of the x-rated ‘Sexpionage’ tour until the end of July 2011, with possible extensions throughout the summer months.

The adults-only tour fully justifies its status as the edgier antics of the 'second oldest profession' are recounted in the spy capital of the world - London.

‘Trail Head of Marketing Brian Gray explains further. “While the classic 'Trail tour itself offers a potent mix of sex, violence, treachery and betrayal, the Sexpionage tour concentrates wherever possible on the ‘fruitier’ aspects of the second oldest profession. In other words, the sex and violence! So whilst the route is similar, the content is decidedly hotter!”

So what can be expected on tour? Walkers will certainly learn about Britain's most well known intelligence services: MI5 and MI6, as the tour jumps around the decades of the last 100 years. But there will also be scandals, entrapments, and defections galore, as the world of ‘honeytraps’ and ‘romeos’ is brought to light.

After learning about some of the more eyebrow-raising aspects to the life of James Bond creator - and WWII Naval Intelligence Officer - Ian Fleming, the focus turns to some of the fruitier antics of the Cambridge Spy Ring, Britain's infamous spy traitors. In addition to this, there are some sexual twists to the early days of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), and explaining Britain’s worst Cold War political scandal. There is also the opportunity to learn about MI5 redressing the balance after catching an undercover KGB officer undressing, and the revealing of the former Metropolitan Police Officer who became a KGB ‘Romeo’ agent.

Gray maintains no other tour like this exists in central London. “In terms of fun things to do in London on a Friday summer’s evening, this is the hottest walking ticket in town, and most definitely a fun experience for couples who are fascinated by the coming together of sex and spying – the two oldest professions. It will certainly make for an interesting date instead of a trip to the cinema!”

And as could be expected the tour comes with its own ‘health warning’ – the tour is not for the narrow-minded or easily embarrassed.

Tickets for the tours are priced at £17.50 per person and can be bought online at www.getyourguide.com



NEWS RELEASE:     London Spy Tour Wants You to Come on Valentine's Weekend     (London, 8th February, 2011)

London's acclaimed spy tour, THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL, is celebrating the forthcoming Valentine's celebrations in its own way - with a specially themed 'Sexpionage' tour on Sunday 13th February.

"The first and second oldest professions in the world - sex and spying - are going to come together on Sunday's tour," commented Brian Gray, the tour's Head of Marketing.

"Scandals, prostitutes, and defection will all feature, introducing walkers to the world of 'Honeytraps', 'Swallows', and 'Romeos'. The tour will certainly justify its adults-only status this weekend, as we chart some of the more edgier and spicier antics in the intelligence game as Britain and her adversaries have played it through the century."

The walk starts at 2pm on Sunday 13th February, and will last between two and two and a half hours. Advance booking is essential and further details of how to do this are available on the official website www.intelligencetrail.co.uk

The London spy walk continues to attract not only 'civilian' spy-lovers but also those more closely involved in the clandestine world at one time or another. And for tour guide 'Mr X' it is always a pleasure to hear their views on the stories not only covered on the 'Trail, but relating to other events too.

As the vast majority of people joining the tour are couples, it should be an interesting few hours for them. And as Gray cheekily suggests, "Maybe the secret agent fantasy will be used by some of them later on in the evening!"




THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL, London's in-depth intelligence and espionage guided walk, responds to 'substantial' increases in Autumn tour numbers with a series of changes to its schedule in the run up to Christmas.

As the BBC shows its current series of the hit spy drama 'Spooks', Brian Gray, the tour's Head of Marketing is in no doubt that the show is driving significant interest in the spy tour.

"The show has a huge - and loyal - following both here in the UK and around the world. I've been a huge fan of the show from the very start, even if the professionals view it as a tad unrealistic. But it's certainly thrusting the worlds of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ into the minds of those who love the spy genre, and explains the surge in tour numbers at this time of the year."

In response to the increased numbers, THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL now announces:-

An extension of the 2pm Sunday afternoon public tour to run until Christmas; The re-introduction of Wednesday evening public tours; An additional number of private group tour booking slots.

Sunday afternoon public tours

With the current series of 'Spooks' running, the Sunday afternoon tour will remain available for spy lovers until 19th December. The tour however will not run on 14th November - Remembrance Sunday.

As well as capitalising on the 'Spooks' popularity, the tour will also appeal to those taking a break from central London Christmas shopping expeditions, including tourists from further afield. Despite the tour being an obvious choice for men trying to escape from the shopping ordeal the vast majority of tour members are couples. "Maybe guys can negotiate a compromise with their beloveds," added Gray.

Wednesday evening public tours

Having already run similar tours in the spring months, Wednesday evening tours return, starting at 7pm (no tour however on Wednesday 3rd November) until 15th December. As Gray explains: "When darkness falls, it lends itself perfectly to the whole dark and murky spy world being entered, and really helps create the perfect atmosphere."

Tours start at the 'Trail Rendezvous Point at 7pm. As with all tours, advance booking is required. If no bookings are received by the cut-off time (3 hours before the scheduled start time) the tour will not run.

Private tour slots

To accommodate the growing number of private groups - both small parties and major corporate bookings - being requested at this time, additional private tour slots have been released.

As well as catering for the 'Spook' popularity, with Christmas fast approaching the 'Trail can also be seen as an interesting and fun alternative to the traditional office party. Gray is however adamant that for office groups coming on tour, on no account will THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL  be responsible for employees subsequently acting out their 007 fantasies in the workplace! For more details, contact Gray directly.

With the World Travel Market (WTM) expo - the premier global travel industry fair - coming to London in November, additional attendee-only tours are also being held. Travel representatives from around the world will be offered the opportunity to savour the murky goings-on in the last century in the spy capital of the world during their time in the city.

THE INTELLIGENCE TRAIL will be attending the WTM as a Meridien Club member and will be happy to meet with industry colleagues, or those simply wanting to hear some amusing spy anecdotes between keynote sessions!

Since starting in 2009 the 'Trail has become one of the most thought-provoking walking tours in London, and justifiably proud of its position as London's in-depth spy tour. Coming highly recommended from the professionals themselves, no less - Gray has been extremely satisfied with the results so far.

"The success of the 'Trail is proof that when it comes to spy tour lovers wanting to know what has really gone on in the spying world, being led by an knowledgeable guide with specialist academic knowledge in this field is a key asset. It is without doubt the most in-depth and enthralling London spy walk to come on."



NEWS RELEASE:     Join The Intelligence Trail - London's In-Depth Intelligence And Espionage Guided Walk - As Britain's Spies Celebrate Centenary     (London, 23rd July 2009)

Spy thriller fans and students of politics, international relations, or modern history alike, are in for a treat as a new guided tour - The Intelligence Trail - offers walkers the opportunity to enter the real cloak-and-dagger world of intelligence in central London - the espionage capital of the world.

As Britain’s Security Service (MI5) and Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) celebrate one hundred years of operations this Summer, http://www.intelligencetrail.co.uk [The Intelligence Trail] guided tour enables walkers to see the key locations where the intelligence services operated and key decisions taken, starting from 29th July.

“Considering Britain’s pre-eminent role in world affairs in the last one hundred years, it is undeniable that the histories of the intelligence services can be described as ‘colourful’ as they played ‘The Great Game’ with friends and foes at home and abroad,” said the Trail guide - known only as 'Mr. X'. “Being involved in two World Wars, the Cold War, and the Middle East remaining a constant hotspot, the intelligence services have played a pivotal – and sometimes controversial – role in all of them."

There is no doubt that the spy genre - the worlds of James Bond, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt and George Smiley - is intoxicating for many and The Intelligence Trail rightly capitalises on this. On each tour, the first customer to correctly recite a code phrase (heard on the daily http://www.intelligencetrail.co.uk/price.html [Intelligence Trail Hotline], updated each morning) to 'Mr. X' receives half price entry. Discounts also exist for those coming to the morning tours accompanied by a friend or partner. 

Secret tunnels and hidden passageways, covert exfiltration, ‘Sex-ed up’ dossiers, sexed-up agents, and famous actors and performers are all talked about on the Trail among other things. Similarly, many London commuters will be unaware that some of the London Underground and railway stations they stream through every day have been the location of key episodes. Furthermore, did MI6 have its own underground line to ferry employees to their office?

Anyone interested in intelligence affairs knows only too well that for decades after WWII Britain’s intelligence services and government departments such as the Foreign Office and Admiralty had been penetrated by the Soviets. The names George Blake, William Vassall, and the members of the Cambridge Spy Ring (Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, John Cairncross, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby) are synonymous with Soviet success and a failure among the British to detect them before it was too late.

This however came to an abrupt end in 1971 with the expulsion of over one hundred KGB and GRU agents - from which they never recovered. Payback time was further facilitated with the recruiting of KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky, who provided MI6 with valuable intelligence from 1974 until his dramatic exfiltration from Moscow in 1985. What is less known is that Gordievsky's MI6 handler for several years - including the time of his hasty exit from Russia - was none other than John Scarlett - former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee (and 'Sex-ed up Dossier' notoriety) and current MI6 Chief.

Britain’s intelligence services have always had a reputation for gizmos and gadgets – no doubt inspired by MI6’s original Chief, Mansfield Smith-Cumming - but more mundane objects have made their mark on Britain’s intelligence efforts. Had Hitler invaded Britain for instance, the Auxiliaries - guerrilla-like cells of the Home Guard - were trained in rigging milk churns packed with explosives underneath bridges to harass the potential invaders at every opportunity.

Fifty years later the humble milk churn played its part in giving MI6 one of the biggest intelligence coups in history, when former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin and his family defected to Britain in 1992. Previously responsible for the transferring of around 300,000 secret files from the KGB’s Lubyanka to a new Moscow facility, Mitrokhin began taking notes of the most interesting files whilst avoiding any suspicion from his employers. 

His notes were carefully hidden in two milk churns underneath one of his countryside dachas. When the churns reached London in the diplomatic bag, they were accompanied by another four cases of material. The Russians now faced the prospect of thousands of past and present intelligence officers being identifiable to the West.

Given the common perceptions of the intelligence services however - whether from the television series 'Spooks', the recent Facebook furore, or Bond himself - it can be easy to position the services between the proverbial rock and a hard place. "The intelligence services are accountable for their actions, without doubt." comments 'Mr. X'. "They deserve criticism if there's an intelligence failure - either at ground level or at the assessment stage; losing laptops does not endear them to taxpayers either." 

"But the intelligence services are also victims of the 'business' they operate in. They do not have a well-oiled corporate PR machine peddling out 'success stories' at every given opportunity, in contrast with large commercial organisations. They can’t do that. A success story for them represents failure for another organisation - a terrorist group or hostile intelligence agency for example, who can hastily change their modus operandi as a result.  In this respect, it’s inherently tough for them, and we should not forget there are extremely brave and dedicated men and women working in the intelligence services - and the uniformed services also - who deserve our support."

About The Intelligence Trail:

The Intelligence Trail is London's in-depth intelligence and espionage guided walk, highlighting some of the key episodes in the history of Britain's intelligence services in the last 100 years. The tour guide - 'Mr. X' - is a BA (Hons) graduate in International Relations, specialising in security affairs, and former politics and economics lecturer. For further information, visit the website or The Intelligence Trail page on Facebook.