Clock on to our 10 best factory tours

It’s not only FURNACE journalists and photographers who can go behind the scenes in fascinating workplaces. Some of the UK’s best facilities open their doors to the public.

Research by Toyin Idowu

1 EDF Energy

EDF Tour

From the viewing gallery, visitors can see over Dungeness B power station’s two nuclear reactors. And they can then take a stroll through the vast turbine halls.

2  Royal Opera House/Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production Workshop

Royal Opera House Tour

This is where the Royal Opera House’s scenery, sets and costumes are made - which means no two tours are the same. In the build area, there could be a 17th-century salon or The Nutcracker’s Kingdom of Sweets under construction. Scenic artists might be painting a gruesome kitchen scene complete with pigs’ heads, or a wonderland for Alice. And there could be tutus, animal heads or witches’ garb in the Costume Centre.

3  Growing Underground

Growing Underground Tour

This urban farm lies in the tunnels of a World War II air-raid shelter, 33m beneath the streets of Clapham. These new tours – of the hydroponic systems and LED technology used to grow salad leaves – are led by one of the founders.

4  Brompton Bikes

Brompton Bicycles Tour

Visitors can watch as the iconic fold-up bikes pass down the assembly lines, and are treated to a hand-brazing demonstration (see FURNACE 02 for a full account). There’s also a stop at the paint plant – where Brompton now does all its paintwork in-house – and the test lab.

5  Amazon

Amazon Tour

At this fulfilment centre, visitors can watch employees work with advanced technology to pick, pack and ship orders.

6  Diamond Light Source

Diamond Light Source Tour

One of the most advanced scientific facilities in the world, Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron, a type of particle accelerator which is 10,000 times more powerful than a traditional microscope. The synchroton harnesses the power of electrons to produce bright light which scientists use to study anything from fossils and jet engines to viruses and vaccines. At public open days and during group visits, visitors can see inside the particle accelerator and experimental laboratories, and can meet the scientists working there. Booking is essential (there is a ballot system as it is oversubscribed).

7  Mini Plant


The BMW Group’s MINI plant makes 1,000 MINIs each day, at a rate of one every 67 seconds. On this award-winning tour, visitors get to experience the live production line.

8 Aston Martin

Aston Martin Tour

A senior product specialist leads tours through the entire building process of Aston Martin cars. The focus is on attention to detail – with each car taking up to 225 man-hours to make – and the myriad options that buyers can choose.

9  Vitsoe

Vitsoe Tour

The company is worth a visit as much for its two-year-old, £5.75m HQ as its long-lasting furniture and coveted shelving systems. The lofty, timber kit-of-parts building is an exercise in modern working methods. Tours, by appointment only, can be arranged through

10 World of Wedgwood

Wedgwood Tour

By quizzing the artisans, the public get an insight into the manufacturing process of bone china. Techniques from 250 years ago, including hand-painting, pattern decorating and casting, are all on display.

Best Factory Tours


1. EDF Energy

Location: Dungeness, Kent
Duration: 90 minutes
Price: Free

2. Royal Opera House/Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production Workshop

Location: Purfleet, Essex
Duration: 75 minutes
Price: £11.00

3. Growing Underground

Location: Clapham, London
Duration: 75 minutes
Price: £40 – £45
Age: 14+

4. Brompton Bikes

Location: Greenford, London
Duration: 90 minutes
Price: £25
Age: 10+

5. Amazon

Location: Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: Free

6. Diamond light source

Location: Didcot, Oxfordshire
Duration: 120 – 150 minutes
Price: Free
Age: 7+

7. Mini Plant

Location: Oxford
Duration: 120 minutes
Price: £19 adult / £16 children
Age: 10+

8. Aston Martin

Location: Gaydon, Warwickshire
Duration: 120 minutes
Price: £350 for two people

9. Vitsoe

Location: Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: Free

10. World of Wedgwood

Location: Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Duration: Up to 90 minutes
Price: £10

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