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on 23 November 2008
So many guides to cycle touring in the UK have been written that the job of squeezing some new juice from the format is a challenge. Of course, roads change and attractions come and go. (Only 20 years ago, I cycled the length of the A74 and the A9, something that would be neither fun, legal nor necessary today). Nonetheless, finding something new to say, or a new way to say requires considerable initiative.

And that is just what Lamarra has brought to this book. There may be precedents for the format he has adopted, but I am not aware of them.

Nine chapters each concentrate on different areas of Scotland. It is a pretty good spread - from the Western Isles to Galloway and the Borders. Inevitably, he does not cover everything. But he does go where many guides have avoided - rural Aberdeenshire, for example, which provides some of the best cycling country in the UK.

Each section recounts a carefully planned tour or several days made, I am guessing, in 2002. Lamarra is particularly good on capturing the flavour of places - he has the excitement of Oban to a tee, likewise the transition of wild Perthshire into the tourist attractions of Pitlochry. There are also some great route tips - anyone could miss the private, but easily accessible, roads built for hydro-scheme workers that allow one to get into the head of Glen Lyon, without cycling its length, for example.

His accounts are peppered with his own wry observations. He recounts the experience of the weather on the day that he made the rides and the difficulty or otherwise he had in finding accommodation, as well as entertaining historical asides. Each chapter then ends with a diagrammatic route map, map references, directions, accommodation and food stop suggestions and other important transport information such as ferry timetables. This information is particularly strong and he has clearly gone to some lengths to put himself in the position of a travelling on wholly unfamiliar territory.

As Lamarra suggests in his introduction, this is not a volume for the saddle bag. Rather, it is a primer to be enjoyed over the winter, while planning one's own tours in Scotland. There is much of this routes that you may wish to copy turn by turn. But the real value of his book is in firing the imagination, and giving you the wherewithal to plan. Despite having read dozens of cycling books about Scotland and ridden quite extensively in many of the areas he covers, by the end of the book, I was back with my maps, dreaming of a fresh Caledonian campaign.

If I have a beef, it would be with the title. Such a grand promise is never going to be deliverable. However, books are published to be sold, and doubtless Mainstream were keen on something that they hoped would jump off the self. "An account of nine cycle tours in North Britain, with accompanying notes for wheelmen hoping to emulate the author's progress", might well have been the title had it been published in the 1880s. More accurate it might have been - but it would hardly be the stuff to tempt the armchair cyclists of today.

PS November 2008
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on 16 January 2007
The chatty narratives give tons of detail and the get up and go to actually get out and do it. Having cycled some of the routes I found that the book gives an accurate flavour of what to expect. The route summaries provide you with all the detail you could want as to terrain, shops, where to stay, distances, bicycle repair - you name it.
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on 4 March 2007
A very enjoyable and entertaining book which gives not only details of cycle routes but a flavour of the challenges they present and the promises they offer. The touches of humour and detailed descriptions make the book informative and make the reader feel he has actually been there with the author.
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on 16 January 2011
As I am relatively new to the joys of cycling through the beautiful Scottish landscape I found this book a delightful and inspiring read. Tucked up in bed reading this book at night made me eager to go out and cycle the routes which I have since found are honestly and interestingly described by the author. Have already recommended this book to friends as I'm not parting with mine!
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on 6 October 2011
It's a bit dryer than I was expecting (having cycled round most these parts). To be fair he hasn't gone round the obvious routes but if you want something a bit more comprihensive then you should really see if you can speak to a local. The info in the back of each section is rather good.
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on 23 September 2006
Sorry to say , a very boring book .
Lack of any real detial as the route guides , just say some ups and downs.

The only plus point is after each route , does say , things to watch out for.
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