A new flight-free travel firm has secured £100,000 in government funding from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund.

Byway, created from the Founders Factory start-up studio backed by lastminute.com co-founder Brent Hoberman, now has Abta protection in place and is poised to launch once the current lockdown lifts.

The operator has created a new type of slow, hyper-personal holiday, taking travellers off the beaten path by train, boat and bike.

The company aims to accelerate the transition to sustainable leisure travel and draw tourists away from hubs suffering over-tourism.

Trips are currently available across the UK and France, including the Scottish Highlands, Yorkshire and the west country as well as France’s Alsace region and Corsica.

Byway packages up complete trips online built around customer  preferences.

Customers can adapt their itinerary while they are away the operator will issue an immediate refund if government restrictions mean the trip can’t go ahead.

Round the clock assistance has been developed to keep in contact with travellers using WhatsApp, avoiding local lockdowns and providing last-minute tips based on openings or closures.

Byway founder and chief executive Cat Jones said: “I raised a few eyebrows in March when I left a wonderful job to found a travel start-up the week lockdown was announced – but now is actually the perfect time for Byway.

“Holidays built around delightful experiences away from the crowds have never been more needed, and lockdowns have shown us the environmental recovery that’s possible when we stop flying.

“We have an opportunity to catalyse a sustainable recovery for the industry, supporting local businesses away from traditional tourist hubs and bringing flight-free holidays to the mainstream, and now we’ve secured government backing to do it.”

Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund invests in “clean growth” projects to develop new technologies, secure and create new jobs, drive productivity and tackle climate change.

Executive chair Dr Ian Campbell said: “In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation.

“The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy.

“Byway, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development.”