"It's a Long Way to Muckle Flugga" by W.R. Mitchell is a beautiful, lyrical book which conveys one man's love of Scotland superbly well. Bill Mitchell was born in Skipton in Yorkshire in 1928 and spent 40 years working at "The Dalesman" magazine, many of them as editor. In 1996 he was awarded the MBE for his services to journalism in Yorkshire and Cumbria.
You could be forgiven for asking where Scotland comes into things. As the author explains in his introduction, he and a group of friends from Yorkshire would get together for a week or two each spring, travel north to pick up the final member of their group in Perth, and head on to whichever part of the country they had decided to enjoy that year. "It's a Long Way to Muckle Flugga" was first published in 1990, and although dates of visits are never discussed in the text, it is clear from the context that the period covered was the 1970s and 1980s. It is wonderful to see this book returned to print, and Amberley Publishing are to be congratulated for making it available to a modern audience.
The list of people who have written about their holidays in Scotland is a long one, and if with the likes of Samuel Johnson, Dorothy Wordsworth and W.H. Murray, it has included some very distinguished names. W.R. Mitchell's contribution is so outstanding because he brings to bear a huge depth of expertise about the natural world; because as a knowledgable outsider he can and does highlight much that is interesting about Scotland and the Scots; and because he is an exceptionally fine writer. All these elements combine to ensure that "It's a Long Way to Muckle Flugga" is a book that should be read by everyone who loves Scotland, and in particular the highlands and islands of Scotland.
The book is subtitled "Journeys in Northern Scotland", though Arran, Mull and Rum are all included. The ultimate objective of the book is, however, without doubt in Northern Scotland. The friends had for years hoped to one day reach Muckle Flugga, for practical purposes the most northerly point in Britain. The final chapter fittingly relates a journey that ends on the north coast of Unst, within sight of Muckle Flugga.