Can you get Scotland in a pocket? It's a bold ambition for a guidebook but in the case of Insight's new Scotland Pocket Guide, they've pulled it off well.
The neat thing about the Scotland Pocket Guide is that it comes with a free ebook version that you can download from the Insight website.
You need a password from the print guide before you can download the ebook version, but once you've downloaded the main app, Insight's Walking Eye, you get access to other information and the chance to buy other ebooks direct, and the occasional free ebook too.
The Scotland Pocket Guide certainly fits in any pocket, being 144 pages and just under 6" x 4" in size. In addition there's a pull-out map, which has a road map of Scotland on one side, a scenic map on the other side, and two small street maps of the centres of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Given that the book also has lots of colour photos, it does an impressive job of covering Scotland's main attractions.
There's no getting away from Top Ten lists these days and the book begins with the inevitable attempt to list Scotland's Top Ten Attractions. These lists are always easy to argue with as they inevitably miss out something that you yourself would have included – and we do know Scotland pretty well after numerous visits, as you can see from our Scotland page – but by and large it's a good list which included Edinburgh, Glen Coe, Loch Lomond, Burns Country, Urquhart Castle and the Isle of Skye. Whisky lovers will be disappointed that the book doesn't include the island of Islay, but you can't fit everything in otherwise you no longer have a Scotland Pocket Guide.
There then follows A Perfect Day in Edinburgh, and no arguments with its suggestions. Edinburgh is the first main entry in the guide (see a sample page on the right) and again, it does an excellent job of giving you the city's main attractions, even if many of them only get 1-2 short paragraphs, for space reasons.
There's an introduction to give you an overview of Scotland, and A Brief History – though it runs to several pages as Scotland's not short of history! At the back of the book is the usual Travel Tips section, running from Accommodation to Youth Hostels via Climate, Driving, Opening Hours, Tipping and other information a visitor needs – especially a first-time visitor, which is who this guide is clearly aimed at.
At the back of this Scotland Pocket Guide there are seven pages of brief hotel listings, and that's where a small guide like this falls down. There are seven hotels for Edinburgh, five for Glasgow and 26 for the rest of the country. They cover four price brackets from cheap to expensive, but there are problems when you have so little room. If you're visiting the Borders, for example, and are looking for cheaper accommodation, there is a cheap and charming-sounding B&B listed for Jedburgh – but it's the only listing for Jedburgh.
If you're in Portpatrick on the west coast of Dumfries and Galloway but can't afford the luxury Knockinaam Lodge – or its ten rooms are fully booked – then too bad. It's the only accommodation listed for that part of the world and the next nearest hotel is several hours drive away. So you'll need a separate hotel guide if you're organising your own accommodation, and to be fair to this pocket guide it does refer you to the many accommodation guides that are available through the excellent VisitScotland website.
The same applies to the guide's restaurant listings, which are similar to the hotel listings but they do give more comprehensive recommendations for Edinburgh and Glasgow. As a result, though, you'll only find four restaurants listed for the whole of Southern Scotland including the Borders. Again, you'll definitely need another guide to help you find the best eating places.
This pocket guide would be excellent for anyone planning a visit to Scotland. It has the overview you need, and all the main attractions in Edinburgh, Glasgow and throughout the country. It would be a good planning tool, enabling you to put together your own itinerary if you were thinking of doing a fly-drive holiday.
The only caveat is that you'll also need to get another guide or guides to help you with hotels and restaurants. It's still highly recommended, though – and you could use the print edition for planning your visit, and take the ebook with you on your travels.
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