"Every self respecting Scot comes over all proprietorial when introducing the glories of their country to a friend or loved one for the first time. So much so, you'd think they'd designed the whole place themselves... The Scots have every right to be proud, for when the rain stops falling and the mist clears, there is, quite simply, no more beautiful place on Earth. If there is a heaven, it must surely look like the Highlands and islands, but let's hope the petrol's cheaper."
So begins the introduction to the 5th Edition of the Scotland Highlands & Islands Footprint Handbook by Alan Murphy: and it sums up the overall approach very well. This is a book whose author obviously has a deep love for Scotland and equally obviously knows it intimately. He also pulls no punches when it comes to drawing attention to issues likely to be encountered by visitors such as the weather and the fuel prices: and midges are also well covered within the book.
There is no shortage of guide books to Scotland, or to the Highlands and islands of Scotland, so why choose one rather than another for your forthcoming trip? They say that size isn't everything, but there has been a tendency in recent years for guide books to grow in size as each struggles to ensure they include everything everyone else has covered, plus a few novel elements to give them an added twist. This approach has been challenged by the book reviewed here. There are still nearly 500 pages, so the book is certainly comprehensive, but the overall physical size has been kept to a minimum, with added durability coming from the hard covers. As a result you have a comprehensive guide to the Highlands and islands which is almost pocket sized, and certainly rucksack pocket sized.
In terms of contents, everything you might expect, want or need is here, from travel to food and drink, and from wild camping to Internet access. Most of the book is given over to sections about geographical regions, in which information is keyed into adequate maps of areas, islands and some towns, supplemented by a full colour mini atlas of the whole country. The approach adopted in the body of the book carries over from the introduction quoted above. Alan Murphy has a style that reads well, and while the fairly condensed conveyance of facts is inevitably a constraint, the author's approach adds much to the experience of finding out what you need to know: or browsing through the book while simply looking for ideas.