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Scotland the Best Paperback – 3 Dec 2007
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'The only guide worth a damn'
'Infallible and quite brilliant'
'Makes all other guides to Scotland redundant'
The Sunday Times
'Apart from a clever structure and the highest journalistic standards, this book is a joy. The clever thing about such opinionated copy is that pretty soon one picks up the character of the writer, and thus can get a much more accurate and tactile impression of a place than from so-called even handed reports. This book can only enhance the pleasure of visiting or living in Scotland'
About the Author
Peter Irvine is a director of two of the leading edge events companies in Scotland who produce most of the major public events in Glasgow and Edinburgh, including the annual Glasgow Art Fair and Edinburgh's Hogmanay, which is now the biggest New Year festival in the world.
In 2000 Peter Irvine was given the Thistle award for his personal contribution to tourism in Scotland and in 2002 gained another Thistle award for the Glasgow Art Fair.
Top customer reviews
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The thing I like most about this guide is that it's not neccessarily "Scotland The Most Expensive". It has everything from "Best Fish and Chip Shops" through to top michelin starred restaurants. All this via "Best Waterfalls", "Best Woodland Walks", "Best Scenic Drives" etc. etc.
Once you get into the way this book works (persevere - you will get used to its indexing), it becomes indispensible.
Don't visit Scotland without a copy in your bag.
So, what makes this different from other guides? Well, Irvine has developed his own way of sorting, referencing and laying out the contents of the book, making it (in theory) as user-friendly as possible. You've got codes, grid-references, categories and indexes coming out of your ears here. Does this make it user-friendly? Actually, on paper I would say 'Yes'. Certainly with a few aspects its quite easy to locate information in particular areas. However, for the main part, although I'm a bit hesitant to dismiss the book entirely, I still have to say it certainly could have been made a quite a bit easier to use.
Here's an example. I'm a bit of a whisky enthusiast. And so, surprise surprise, the first thing I looked up in the hefty (27 pages!!) index at the back was the word 'Whisky'. With it being a guide to Scotland of all places, I thought there'd be plenty of pages and references, perhaps even a whole section in the index dedicated to the beautiful amber spirit. And the results...one listing! This being for - Whisky Shop, The (Dufftown). Hmmmm I thought. So I immediately tried another word 'Distilleries'. Here we had one listing with just that one word. So, flipping to page 260 I was confronted with the guide's entire section on Whisky. Four pages! Just four!! A guide to Scotland...and there's just a four page section on Whisky. With over 125 distilleries in Scotland, many offering tours, tasting sessions, visitor centres and the like, not to mention the amount of independent retailers of whiskies, as well as the numerous whisky bars...and the 431 page guide to Scotland has just four pages on whisky. Very, very unimpressed!
The book does however contain some handy maps of Scotland, with the various codes dotted across the maps, allowing the user to find what's in certain areas just by looking at the map then finding the corresponding listing in the main body of the book. Handy? Well sort of...if you have enough time and will-power to do all that cross-referencing to find things that might be of interest to you.
Furthermore, there's a distinct lack of any pictorial / photographic aid in the book as well; relying almost entirely on just a few short sentences per listing. Ok, so we're mainly talking about space saving here. But with just eight pages offering any colour photos (none of which are much help), you do feel like you're reading an instruction manual on Scotland rather than a book to inspire you of potential places to visit.
So, with my whisky rant put to one side (because it's obviously not a subject that will interest everyone), what do I make of the book as a whole? Well, we're off to Scotland again in a few weeks' time (we go there quite regularly), so I thought I'd do a bit of research / planning of places to go and things to do (as well as restaurants to eat at etc). My conclusion after fumbling about with the book for half-an-hour (jumping back and forth in its oh-so-user-friendly-way)? Well, put it this way, I'm now going to go onto the internet to do my planning instead. I may even order a guide to Scotland. Just as long as Mr. Irvine hasn't tampered with it first that is!
This book filled the gap perfectly and my partner enjoyed reviewing and planning our visits using this book. It's well organised if a little hard to read but only because of the sheer volume of content it has. It also doesn't have much in the way of pictures which surprised me but didnt stop it being useful.
My only bugbear is the author seems to use his book to take a dig at and berate caravan and motorhome owners for example and doesn't waste an opportunity to say what a blight they are. Ironic really as they are probably a good portion of the people who are his customers. These little remarks grated on me even though I had neither a carvan or a motorhome and is why I have docked it a star. I felt like he was saying "Best country in the world, but if you are in a caravan, campervan or motorhome don't come visit!". Just felt a little unprofessional in an otherwise outstanding guide.
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