I Get to Buy Books

I like this idea!

In that first flush of enthusiasm, I must admit that I went a little berserk at the bookstore. Ok, maybe more than a little. On-line bookstores ( such as Amazon , and Barnes and Noble) are just so convenient and, well, I was never one to pass up an opportunity to buy a book for any reason.

For about a week, boxes kept showing up from all these places and I’d spend the evening on the couch paging through yet another glossy travel book and making notes in the ever-present notebook. Yes, Mark laughed.

So, I think I have most of the major travel guides to Scotland (and some for the UK in general). And a few minor ones, including an audio cassette tour of Edinburgh, and a teeny little book with pictures of Highland Cows.

So far, my favorites include:

  • Scotland: The Rough Guide, which is written from a pretty non-standard viewpoint and includes quite a lot of narrative about places off the beaten path,
  • Insight Guide: Scotland, another nontraditional travel guide, which included tons of historic info and cultural information, and the
  • Michelin Guide to Scotland, a slender green volume that is organized like a road atlas, with alphabetical listings of each town and nearby attractions. Not too exciting, but filled with a wealth of information about each tiny little town.

Of course I also have Frommers, Fodors, Berlitz, and the other standards. I wasn’t as excited about them (they focused on the main tourist areas and had way too much info on hotels and restaurants to be really interesting to me). They tended to focus on the “major” attractions, “american-style” hotels, and were very middle-of-the-road. Not that they don’t have great information — these were more general ‘travel guides’, too, with more info on the basic complexities of travel.

One of the most interesting books that I picked up was the Oxford Archeological Guide: Scotland which is an occasionally dry text about the hundreds of prehistoric sites in Scotland. It had historic information about prehistoric ruins such as Skara Brae, ruined fortresses and Roman camps, and extensive historical information about pictish crosses, stone circles, and other sites. Not for the casual reader, maybe, but it was interesting and well illustrated.

The Scottish Tourist Board has a wide variety of books available (although a bit hard to come by here in the U.S.) that include a Bed and Breakfast guide, a Caravaning (RV or camper) guide, and information about Hosteling and Backpacking. I did try to order them through Barnes and Noble but had little luck finding them. Apparently, they are available at the Tourist offices in most major cities in Scotland.

Don’t forget the Library. If you type ‘Scotland travel’ into one of their catalogs, it delivers a huge list of books. Broaden the search to just ‘Scotland’ and you might as well just bring a chair get comfortable!

I found some excellent books from Ordnance Survey that included town maps and detailed walks and drives in the different regions. Most were for half-day or day trips and included information about the town, the local people, and often a recommendation of where to eat and stay. They were older books, but a quick check at the OS website confirmed that they have published current versions of these books. Hmmm. More things to order!

Speaking of Ordnance Survey, they make maps. All sorts of them, from a single huge map of Scotland to incredibly detailed street maps. They are general road maps with towns, points of interest, and often elevation on them — indispensable for hikers and trailwalkers. I picked up a series of maps in the “Pathfinder” series that cover Northern Scotland and Islands and Southern Scotland the the Borders.

I figure that I’m ahead already — I haven’t started sticking pins in them.


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