The members of the Association of Independent Tour Operators are all specialist companies who provide unusual and stimulating holidays all over Europe (and beyond) for travellers who want to get away from the mainstream, but who still want the security of a bonded tour operator (the ‘bond’ ensures that your money is safe once you’ve booked and that you will be repatriated if something goes awry while you are overseas). Find more details on all the following new tours at www.aito.com

Arblaster & Clarke Wine Tours has launched a brand new ‘Gourmet Luxury Whisky Tour’ for 2015. Taste your way around the magnificent Scottish Highlands, experiencing the world-famous whisky ‘appellations’ of Speyside and the Isle of Skye, as well as trying an array of gastronomic Scottish delights and taking part in a blending masterclass.

CICERONI Travel’s 2015 programme includes an exciting new tour led by Shakespearian actor James Howard, discovering Shakespeare’s Way via a journey from London to Stratford-on-Avon.

Expressions Holidays’ new Spanish programme includes a Spanish art and architecture tour which visits Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid: home to iconic Spanish buildings and outstanding art collections.

Ffestiniog Travel has added a number of new departures to its popular programme of escorted tours to Switzerland, enabling clients to enjoy its many attractions year-round. Several of the itineraries also incorporate onward travel to Italy and France, adding an extra dimension to the classic Swiss rail tour, including The Rhône from Sea to Source, which travels from the Camargue Delta to its source in the Swiss Alps.

Inntravel is offering three-night festive breaks to Prague, Copenhagen, Salzburg, Lucerne and stylish Gothenburg, where the spectacular Christmas markets are guaranteed to get visitors in the Advent mood. Alternatively, for low-key charm, opt for one of the handsome villages on the shores of Austria’s Wolfgangsee that hold traditional markets every bit as captivating, while staying in neighbouring Fuschl

Pure Crete has introduced its new autumn special interest holiday for 2015: a guided week-long tour in Western Crete which includes wildlife photography, local seasonal gastronomy and wine tasting, visits to vineyard and olive oil producers, a Chestnut festival and the Imbros Gorge walk

Wilderness Scotland has introduced an easy winter walking adventure, complemented by classic Highland hospitality. Explore the beautiful lochs, glens and ancient Caledonian pine forest of the Cairngorms National Park and keep fingers crossed for a sighting of the Northern Lights.