This was an inspiring and engaging discussion at the Edinburgh Book Festival about the rising popularity and demand for travel books. With the internet being the first place to browse to find out about airlines, hotels, holiday cottages and campsites, why are bookshops piled high with guide books on Scotland and destinations worldwide?
Peter Irvine published his first “Scotland the Best” book in 1993, which continues to be revised every two years. Robbie Porteous is the publisher of Pocket Mountain books for hillwalkers and bikers, a very popular series. Paul Murton is a filmmaker who was inspired by Black’s Tourist’s Guide to Scotland, (first issued 1877), to create a series of TV documentaries on the Grand Tour.
“Scotland the Best” is a personal list of Peter Irvine’s favourite and recommended places to stay, eat, walk, climb and visit based on extensive touring and research. There are no images because there is no space, but also because he wants the visitor to see a magical sunset over a loch in reality, not a photograph in a book.
Robbie Porteous designed his innovative walking and hill climbing route maps to fit into a pocket, and now a bestselling series. Murton’s TV series explores the history of Scottish tourism which began with the Victorian romanticised view of the Highlands and Islands and Sir Walter Scott’s novels.
The conversation turned to how Scotland should market and promote tourism today and whether tartan, golf and whisky is still the best selling point. As it is this image which continually entices the Americans, Germans and Japanese, Peter commented that “it would be madness” to turn away from tradition.
The three intrepid travellers agreed that the Scottish tourist industry has improved in the past ten years and that it is important to ensure quality and authenticity in all aspects of Scottish hospitality, culture and heritage.
Peter Irvine, Robbie Porteous and Paul Murton appeared in The Travel Guide Revolution at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 25 August