Book Review: Experience Scotland From Lonely Planet

The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Are you planning a trip to Scotland this summer? Looking to explore beyond the obvious sights and destinations? Experience Scotland, a new title from Lonely Planet, might be just what you are looking for.

Experience Scotland, An Anti-Guidebook

Book cover with title Experience Scotland and a picture of people with deckchairs on the grass beneath a tall hill with castle on top

Experience Scotland is part of a new series from Lonely Planet that they have dubbed “anti-guidebooks”. These are based more on experiences than on sights, and on the idea that trips should be customised to the traveller’s own interests, rather than following a well-worn tourist itinerary. They describe it as a “more interactive way to explore”, allowing you to pick and choose, to focus on the aspects that catch your attention.

The book is an inviting mixture of inspiration, background information and practical advice. It has maps and infographics, as well as in-depth articles. Frequent QR codes take the reader to further information (and bookable activities) on the Lonely Planet website.

Looking Beyond The Obvious

The series is subtitled “Get away from the everyday”, and the contributors are local experts, not just travel writers. This means that it is full of the under the radar activities that are mostly known to locals rather than to tourists. You’ll find all the experiences and places you knew about, and quite a few you probably didn’t. 

So, for example, the section on Edinburgh has the Castle, the Royal Mile and the Festival. It also has “Writers, witches and wizards” and “Foodie Leith”. There is a hidden nature sanctuary and the locals’ favourite pubs. And the listings have burgers and cocktails as well as the more conventional upmarket restaurants.

Curved railway viaduct with a steam train running between mountains topped with trees
Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct in Scotland with the Jacobite steam train passing over (Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet (c)2021)

Using Experience Scotland For Inspiration

There is a lot to inspire you in this book. It is divided into sections: Edinburgh and Glasgow are dealt with individually, followed by the different regions of the country. The sections are thematic, focusing on each region’s distinct historic and cultural background. So we have, for instance, a Whisky tour of Speyside or Neolithic Orkney.

Longer articles include an interview with a master distiller and “The land of the Vikings”. The infographics cover subjects as diverse as the Highland Games or What to look for in a castle (don’t forget to look out for “murder holes”…) And, of course, the book is full of stunning full colour photos.

There are also walking tours and suggestions for road trips, all clearly marked on maps. You could avoid the holiday crowds by taking the intriguingly named “Secret coast road trip” (but you’ll have to buy the book if you want to know where it goes…)

Mountainous landscape running into the sea
The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland (Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet (c)2021)

Planning Your Trip

Once you’ve been inspired to plan your trip, there is plenty of information to help you, whether you are arriving from overseas, or from elsewhere in the UK. There are also useful extra details, such as where to find wifi, or activities you can enjoy for free. The emphasis is upon sustainability, with public transport options where available, and a section on responsible travel.  

Lonely Planet’s aim is that the books in this series will be used both pre-trip and while on the road. The idea is that you can dip in and out, discovering “unforgettable experiences and interesting local surprises” along the way. Experience Scotland is certainly a book that could be used for planning as well as inspiration, or even just for a bit of armchair exploration at home.

Experience Scotland, Lonely Planet, 2022, paperback, £16.99, 9781838694708

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I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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