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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

on 13 June 2013
When I first saw this I was really pleased. Obviously loads of research and compilation work has gone into this book and in that sense it's very impressive. So much diverse information in one place - and I will continue to use it as a reference point. However, I do have a few points to make - mostly about the author's style and approach.

Firstly - whilst I totally agree with the principles of environmental conservation e.g. pages 64-65 - I think there's far too much emphasis on avoiding the potentially damaging effects of 'wild camping' which is one of the most sensitive ways of staying in the mountains compared with (say) windfarm development, excessive use of cars (rather than public transport) and other environmental aspects like climate change and overgrazing (by deer and sheep). I think it would have been more helpful to focus more on the really critical environmental issues for the Scottish Mountains and what we can do about them to give them more balanced and careful consideration. Is it more helpful to lobby for restrictions on windfarm development rather than pick up fluff at wild campsites? On page 64 Chris writes about removing stone rings from overnight sites - presumably then he spends time removing the 'extensive low rock walls' on Sgurr nan Eag (page 503) constructed by Cuillin Ridge walkers! I think there's a bit of inconsistency there! Again on the topic of wild camping - there seems to be a current practice of stopping the car and putting up a tent next to a convenient layby or in a field. This isn't wild camping as defined and permitted by law and it has a lot more environmental consequences than true wild camping. It would be really good to encourage people to get away from campsites and roadsides and I don't really see this emphasised.

Secondly - I would have preferred a more objective and less personalised writing in some places. This isn't a magazine article describing a specific walk or day in the hills. As a reader I'm not particularly interested in what the weather conditions were when the author did a particular hill walk etc. I would treat this more as a reference book and source of good quality information (whether about mountaineering, the environment, history etc). However, Chris is a good writer and there are plenty of really good sections that are loaded with interesting and useful information.

On actual scope and content, I appreciate that it's already a big book. Activities covered include walking, climbing ski-touring etc. I'd have been happier to see some more mention of mountain biking (both positive and potentially negative aspects), kayaking and other mountain activities. Many people use the mountains for a diverse range of activities and whilst clearly the author has concentrated on those with which he's most familiar - it would have been good to recognise that other people may have different preferences which are equally as valid.

Finally on transport and 'getting around' - public transport is briefly mentioned over a few pages at the start. I don't think this is sufficient. There are some excellent bus routes that enable access to many parts of the highlands and islands. They get very poor coverage in this book and few people use them. I guess that's why (for example) the old bus into Glen Brittle stopped operating - because it was often empty whilst the car parks were generally full! If we want to really be sensitive to environmental concerns we need to start with our own approach - getting there and getting around is part of that. Plus - buses offer the opportunity for end to end walks rather than circular routes. I appreciate that information like this gets quickly outdated - but that's not the point - it's more about trying to convince people to stop driving everywhere in their cars.

If these comments all sound very negative - I apologise. I have enjoyed this book and I expect I'll continue to use it for many years to come. I'd recommend it for anyone who knows the mountains of Scotland - because there's always something new here.
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on 30 October 2010
This is an extensive guide to walking in Scotland. The book is not massive, but you would not want to take it up a mountain either. It is quite thick. 557 pages of walking and information on walking in Scotland.
All of Scotland is covered.
If you have an area you want to walk in, it is colour coded and paged.
If you have a hill or mountain you want to walk up or climb, look it up in the index, find the page, and read about it.
Chris details different ways of walking them, he also tells us the time taken and the total assent. There are also maps of many areas.
The book is broken down into sections.

Practicalities. When to go, weather, getting there, getting around, accommodation, maps and guidebooks, equipment for hill walkers.
The Mountains, Topography, history, names, national parks, activities, long distance, rock climbing, ski touring, avalanches, mountain rescue, access, wild camping, fires, sanitation, plant and wildlife.

Chapter 1, The Southern Uplands.
Chapter 2, The Southern Highlands.
3, The Central Highlands.
4, The Cairngorms.
5, The Western Highlands.
6, The Northern Highlands.
7, The Islands. Arran, Jurra, Mull, Rum, Skye, Harris,South Uist,
All have access, bases, maps and guides.

There is then an Appendix, which includes all the Monroes and Corbets.

So let's say I wanted to walk up Ben MacDui. I look it up in the index. There are several references, but pages 280 onwards look good, so off we go. Page 281, 4.9, the Ben MacDui and Cairngorm Plateau. we are told where it is. A little history lesson. Did you know it is the biggest area of sub arctic tundra like terrain in Scotland? We are told who measured the height of it and when it was first climbed. We are warned about the terrain and white outs. We are given route ideas and time taken. There is also a limited amount of climbing info, but it is a walking book, after all. But it would be enough to get you going. But someone else can do that, I will stick to the walking. Shame I am a few miles away.

I ordered this book as soon as it was out. The price on Amazon is a great bonus.
I highly recommend it to anyone thinking about walking in Scotland or who enjoys reading Chris' books. A valuable addition to any book shelf.
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on 30 October 2010
6 or 7 years ago I bought a new Cicerone title from Kev Reynolds, the first in a new series of World Mountain Range guides from Cicerone. This was (and is) a beautifully designed guide to the High Pyrenees. It was a book, book more of a breeze block than a walking guide. You wouldn't have wanted to carry this in your pack! The book was a resource tool, a great trip planning companion to see you through the long and dark nights of winter. The joy of this guide was that you had one book with which to select an area for the next trek. The guide covered routes, access, local facilities and amenities, local history and the geology, fauna and flora of the Pyrenees. This book gave you everything you needed to select your destination and leaving it a relatively simple task to consult other specialist guides to fill in the intimate details of the area that you'd settled on.

When I complimented Kev and Jonathan Williams of Cicerone on the guide they laughed. They told me that Chris Townsend had been commissioned to produce the second in the series, about the Highlands of Scotland. There were lots of jokes about this being a project that would keep him quiet for a long time! When I mentioned the project to Chris in a phone conversation there was a discernible groan coming down the line. I think Chris had realised what he'd let himself in for.

Fast forward to this earlier this year I was delighted when Jonathan proudly announced that he was in possession of the finished manuscript. The book was ready for layout and design. And now, the finished product has arrived!

I should say upfront that this is every bit as good -- and as useful -- as the Pyrenean guide. It is a work of which Chris should be rightfully proud. This book is the starting point for the planning of a trip or trek in the Scottish Highlands.

So, how does the book work?

The book is over 550 pages long and packed full of useful guidance and information.

First up are the introductory sections and guide to the practicalities of Scotland. There are details of when to go, weather, getting to Scotland, getting around Scotland, accommodation, links to important maps and guidebooks and a section on the equipment needed for the Scottish Highlands.

There is a section of the Topology and the geology of the mountains together with a cultural history of mountaineering in the area. Also upfront is an explanation of Scottish names (useful but I've long ago given up trying to pronounce them), details of the national parks and a description of the plant and animal life of the Highlands.

Chris also gives us details of the various mountain activities that are available and includes an important section on responsible mountaineering, including advice on wild camping, sanitation and campfires.

There is a lot in the information but it doesn't seem to be too much. It says something for this book that 60 pages of introductory information doesn't impact much on the mass of the substantive guide!


There is a clear statement of philosophy in the book. Chris sets out to encourage people to explore the wild land of Scotland and he uses the practical definition of wild land as set down by the National Trust for Scotland:

"Wild land in Scotland is relatively remote and inaccessible, not noticeably affected by contemporary human activity, and offers high-quality opportunities to escape from the pressures of everyday living and to find physical and spiritual refreshment."

The guide covers: the Southern Uplands; the Southern Highlands; the Central Highlands; the Cairngorms; the Western Highlands; the Northern Highlands; and the Islands.

Each of these individual sections is broken down into `regional chapters' each of which covers a distinct glen or hill chain.

Book Sections

Each of the above sections follows a similar format.

The section starts with a two page Summary, a list of section assets and contents that is beautifully clear and concise by glen or hill chain.

Let's have a look at one of the sections, the section for the Central Highlands.

The summary lists the following:

Each summary starts with a Highlights section. This one starts with Low Level Passes and Walks, and there are three of these listed here with each labelled with the Chapter number where they can be found.

Next comes a list of long distance walks -- there are two in this section, the West Highland Way and a walk from Fort William to Dalwinnie via.Corrour.

Then come summit walks -- there are over 20 of these.

After this come details of scrambles, rock climbs and ski tour options.

Then comes a full contents listing for everything in this section. This section has chapters on: Ben Cruachan and Glen Strae; Glen Etive; the Black Mount; the West Highland Way; Glen Coe; Beinn a Bheithir and Glen Creran; Rannoch Moor; The Mamores; Ben Nevis; The Aonarchs and the Grey Corries; Loch Treig; Loch Ossian; Ben ALder and Laggan hills; the West Drumochter Hills; The Monadh Liath; Creag Meagidh and Loch Laggan Hills; Glen Roy; and a section a long walks -- Kinlochleven to Spean Bridge and Fort William to Dalwinnie.

Chapters can be two to four pages long.

This Section Summary is a wonderful thing, beautifully laid out and magnificently designed, and clearly presented over two pages.

How Sections Work

So, let's go beyond the Summary.

Each section comes with an Introduction to the region and a crisp and clear, large scale map.

Each chapter is accompanied by a more detailed map (or maps) and offers an introduction to the glen or chain of hills. Individual hills, or clusters of hills, each have their own entry and each one easily references the `highlights' that were featured in the Section Summary.

The text is peppered with highlight boxes that might tell us about the history of the area, give details of a key supply village, share with us a famous story or myth (yes Shirl the Grey Man is here) or feature on the geography or wildlife of the area. And on every page spread you will find one of more of Chris' inspirational photographs.

Concise Brilliance

All of this detail is given in the most clear and concise manner which really must have taken a lot of work. Chris has the knack of using just enough words to give us a proper flavour of the place.

Here is detail from the entry for Ben Alder.

Ben Alder (1148) is the dominant summit of the area, a big plateau topped hill with steep craggy sides.It's flat-topped bulk, with the distinctive slash of the Bealach Dubh to the north, is easily identifiable from many other hills and useful for orientation.

... from the top of either Leachas it's a walk of about 1km across the plateau to the summit cairn. The Plateau is extensive, with some 4km2 lying above 1,000m. The landscape is a mix of high moorland grasses, patches of gravel and granite boulders, evoking comparisons with the great plateaus of the Cairngorms.

Just a few details here from the entry on Ben Alder. But you can see how -- if you don't know this hill -- Chris gives you the basics of everything that you need to know.

Section Resources

Each section is rounded off with the detail off with a resource section covering details of: access to the area; details of bases from which to explore; maps; walking guides; and climbing guides.

Each Section follows a similar pattern. Phew!


The book concludes with a series of useful appendices. There's a glossary of common mountain words in Gaelic and Scots, en extensive bibliography for further reading, the current list of Munros (with height and OS reference), the current list of Corbetts, an index of maps included, and a comprehensive index.

There are other comprehensive guides to Scotland and its regions -- I'm thinking about the series from the SMC. But this book is both more up to date and more comprehensive.

The First One Stop Book for Route Planning.

This really is a great and practical guide. Look up an area and you'll find details of its history, the terrain you will be trekking through, help in approaching summits, details of bothies and tips of great camp sites.

`Scotland' really does take you a long way before you have to drill down into the detail with a specific hill guide. As such, this is a book that is a real reference guide to the hills.

Wonderful Design

The content of this book has been put together in a wonderfully effective manner. But the layout of the guide is superb as well.

I've been lucky enough to meet the design team from Cicerone and to see them at work in their design studio. Cicerone's new guides -- and new series of more substantial books -- are characterised by really effective and clear design. In Scotland they have probably delivered their best work yet. The design really does contribute to this being a very useful book.

... In Conclusion

This is a book that should grace the bookcases of all hillwalkers and mountaineers that love the hills of Scotland.

I'm loving the detail here and I'm already using the book to plan a couple of trips to Scotland, including a route for next year's TGO Challenge. I could go on and on but thing I'd better stop here.
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VINE VOICEon 19 April 2011
I got his book by the reviews giving it 5 stars and I wholly agree, Chris Townsend is one of the most travelled experienced outdoors people around, having travelled all over the globe.
This time it's Scotland he writes about, really you have to delve into this to realise how much effort he his put in, It's not just the basics of getting from A to B as a lot of guides do.
he gives a bit about the terrain, history, access and much more and done in a easy to read manor. The maps are good to and obviously set out by area, This is then followd by lots of detail as per the previous statements. Get as a dipping into book and also great as a good read about areas you are about to travel to or even tempt you to go there, I have lots of other guides but this one is a good alrounder and certainly one of the best. Highly reccommended..
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on 20 May 2013
"Scotland" is probably the most informative and beautiful book about Scotland as a mountain area. Chris Townsend shares with the reader his encyclopedic knowledge of these Scottish hills.

This book is not a walking guide; it's not the type of book that shows you the fastest way up each Munro or the type of book that gives you detailed walking descriptions for a certain route. It rather gives you some information about the history and geology of the area followed by a number of route ideas. The description of the route tells you what the walk, scramble or climb is like rather than the way to guy.

Combined with the stunning photography, "Scotland" is a truly inspirational book for preparing your journey on the Scottish hills.
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on 25 September 2017
amazing book
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on 16 June 2015
All OK.
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on 5 April 2013
An excellent companion to take on a multi-day mountain hike. Would not be practical to carry in print, but ideal on Kindle.
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on 2 January 2011
Although the layout and arrangement of sections in this book take a little getting used to, it is a mine of information with plenty of useful detail - a reference work in fact. Definitely the book to dig into if you are going walking/backpacking/climbing/scrambling/cross country skiing in any area of the Scottish mountains. My only slight disappointment is the quality of the colour photos in which the printer has not done justice to the photographer's skill and beautiful choice of pictures.
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on 18 December 2011
Must admit I was a bit disappointed. From other reviews I somehow believed the book would give route suggestions a la "The Munros", but that wasn't the case. Beautiful pictures and basic maps gave inspiration though. The text on suggested ridge walks could've been more comprehensive. Not a book for route planning, but for inspiration.
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