The Highlands of the 1950s, 60s and 70s form what is in many ways a lost world. The development of the road network over that period, and in the decades since, has changed the ease of access to many places almost beyond recognition. Many lengths of single track road were replaced by new highways, complete, shock horror, with white lines down the middle. In some places the actual distances between places changed as replacement roads took entirely new routes or, as at Ballachulish in 1975, a ferry with a long detour route was replaced by a bridge.
But while the road infrastructure in the modern Highlands is vastly better than it used to be, it is sometimes hard not to regret the passing of the "lost world" it has replaced: a world in which far more places were far more remote than they seem today, and a world in which simply getting from A to B required far more commitment and usually took far more time that it does today.
John Sinclair's "Highland Buses" is a lovely evocation of the lost world of the Highlands in the 1950s-70s. The focus is, of course, on the buses that covered long distances over often challenging roads to provide an essential service to many communities, in the days before car ownership became near-universal. John Sinclair is, as his introduction makes clear, a lifelong fan of buses, and of buses in the Highlands in particular. All but a couple of the photographs between the covers are in colour, and all but one were taken by the author himself. All the photographs are brought to life by detailed and informative captions that cover both the vehicle illustrated, and the slice of geography in which the bus is captured.
The result is a surprising variety of vehicles, set against some stunning landscapes. Many of the buses carry the red livery of Highland Omnibuses, but many others carry the iconic red, cream and light green of Macbraynes. Meanwhile, the glimpses of the Highlands captured in the background are worth the price of the book alone. It is fascinating to see buses using an earlier generation of the Corran Ferry, and we've always wondered how the Connel Bridge operated both road and rail traffic in parallel: a fascinating image near the rear of this book reveals all.