I have to congratulate Cameron McNeish on putting together what looks like an excellent long distance trail and writing an entertaining travelogue come guide. Balancing a reasonably detailed guide with an account of his walk from beginning to end is no mean feat.
The narrative is both informative and engaging, although it flags a little bit towards the end. I guess there is more interesting history and stories to tell in the first three sections of the walk than in the last. The last section is, however, where the grandeur of the Scottish landscape really manifests itself. It’s a shame there aren’t a few more photos of the Northwest Highlands.
The surprise to me was how interesting the first two sections from Kirk Yetholm to Edinburgh and then to Milngavie look. The border country is surprisingly wild. You could be pedantic and say that a true end to end walk should start from the southernmost point in Scotland, near Gretna. However, starting at Kirk Yetholm, the end of the Pennine Way seems somehow more satisfying, using a combination of the St Cuthbert’s Way, Southern Uplands Way and Water of Leith Walkway to pick a sparsely inhabited route to Edinburgh.
Indeed, the skilful use of existing trails to link into a longer walk means that the End to End Walk doesn’t have to wait for bureaucratic and planning wheels to grind into action before it can be used. It can be walked now, without a problem. Nowhere is this more apparent than the second section through the central belt, which follows the Union Canal and then the Forth & Clyde Canal. This section could have been a navigational and right of way nightmare, but instead becomes a largely undiscovered gem of a walk.
While the first two sections look fine walks in their own right, the last two from Milngavie to Kingussie and then to Cape Wrath are the real jewels. North of Milngavie and particularly Callender, you enter the Highlands proper. Again, Cameron makes judicious use of existing trails, particularly the Rob Roy Way. The Birks of Aberfeldy, look particularly beautiful.
Of course, the last section from Kingussie to Cape Wrath is what the Highlands is all about and uses a similar route to the existing unofficial Cape Wrath Trail. The grandeur of the Northwest Highlands demands a more detailed treatment than it gets and some sections are skipped over rather lightly. For all that, it does look an excellent route. The photos are of a consistently high standard throughout, but I would have liked more and larger pictures of the far north, as the scale of the landscape demands a whole page.
Textually, Cameron writes well and the book appears to have been well edited. I couldn’t spot any spelling mistakes, which is rare for a book these days. The print and photo reproduction quality is high.
My only minor criticism is the occasional political comment, particularly the needless paean to Alex Salmond, which I expect will date the book rather quickly. Quite frankly, I don’t want to read irrelevant party political views in a walking guide book. Aside from that, it’s a very good read and well worth buying.
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Disclosure: this book was purchased with my own money.