Best of Britain

Lonely Planet's Discover Great Britain

The Best of Britain is what Lonely Planet promises for their Discover Great Britain title. It first came out in April 2010 and must have done reasonably well as this new edition appeared in July 2011. It seems to be aimed at people planning to spend a short time in the British Isles, maybe 2-3 weeks, but wanting to travel around and see the highlights.

It’s the kind of guide which fits in well with the Beyond London Travel philosophy. Yes, we assume most people taking a trip to Britain will want to spend time in London, and so too does this guide. The capital and day trips out of London take up over 70 pages of the book. After that, the guide zeroes in on what it picks out as the highlights, and we can’t argue with the choices. Well, only a bit. You just need to know what it does and does not cover.

Great Britain or the United Kingdom?

If you don’t live in Britain - and even if you do - it’s very easy to get confused about the various names that you see. The United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland (just remember that it’s the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), but Great Britain doesn’t. This guide covers Great Britain, i.e. England, Scotland and Wales.

The Best of Scotland

If you’re wanting to visit Scotland then this Lonely Planet guide divides Scotland into two main regions. The first is Edinburgh and Central Scotland, which includes Glasgow, Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, St Andrews, Stirling and as far north as Speyside. The only area not well covered, that we could see, was the lovely Scottish Borders. The second section covers Scotland’s Highlands and Islands, and takes in places including Orkney, Skye, Mull and Iona. In short, pretty much anywhere you might want to see in Scotland is probably in this guide, though obviously not in the depth you would find in a dedicated guide to Scotland. Lonely Planet’s Scotland Travel Guide has 516 pages, while in Discover Great Britain you get about 75 pages on Scotland.

The Best of Wales

The Welsh section of the guide is called Snowdonia and Wales, and runs to about 35 pages. It covers Cardiff, though not Swansea, and also takes in popular spots such as the Brecon Beacons, Hay-on-Wye, the Gower Peninsula, Pembrokeshire, the North Wales coast and, obviously, Snowdonia. Again, the book does cover all the highlights, as it promises to do, but sometimes quite superficially. Hay-on-Wye, to pick a place at random, has only one paragraph of description and three recommendations of places to stay/eat.

The Best of England

The section on Bath and Southwest England doesn’t include one of our own favourite regions, Exmoor, which often gets overlooked, but nor does Dartmoor appear in the index, which is surprising.

Otherwise you will find coverage on most of the places we’d expect, such as YorkOxfordCambridge and Salisbury and Stonehenge.

Best of Britain: London Day Trips

On our London Day Trips page we list the ten most popular day trips from London according to both visitor numbers and to various tourism organisations. A good test of this Lonely Planet guide should therefore be to see how many of those top ten trips are included. The answer is… all of them.

There is lots of helpful practical information in the book, if you’re planning a visit to Britain, and some informative essays on topics including music, sport, history and architecture. We’d say that if you’re coming to Britain to visit London and several other places - and you know already where those places are - then this is a good, concise guide, easier to carry around than the brick-sized guides to the whole of Great Britain in depth. Just check first, if you can, whether the places you’re planning to visit are included. If you’re only going to a few places, say London and Edinburgh, or London and the Cotswolds, then consider buying another guide that will give you more detailed coverage, and more hotel and restaurant recommendations.

Buying this Best of Britain
Lonely Planet’s Discover Great Britain guide costs $24.99 in the USA and £17.99 in the UK. It is available on Amazon USA and Amazon UK (and almost half-price at the time of writing this review.) 

Updated Edition

Since we reviewed the 2011 edition a newer updated edition of the book has been published:

UK

USA





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