Peter Caton's "No Boat Required: Exploring Tidal Islands" is an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable account of a series of excursions by the author to reach all 43 of the tidal islands that can be walked to (not necessarily all with dry feet) from the mainland of Great Britain. You'd think that in the modern era there was nothing entirely new left to do, especially on this relatively small island of ours, and you'd also think that in the information age everything that was knowable about just about anywhere would already be known, and readily available.
What makes "No Boat Required" such a wonderful read is the sense that it represents a real journey of discovery by the author. He starts out with a clear rationale for wanting to visit tidal islands (he likes islands, but gets easily seasick), and a clear definition of what he means by a tidal island (of significant size, with traces of human habitation, and which is both passable and impassable at least once each month). He also starts out under the impression there are around 20 such islands, but by the end of the book has become the first person to visit all 43 tidal islands. He also considered, and in some cases visited to check them out, a similar number of "nearly tidal islands", which failed to meet the definition for a variety of reasons.
As the book unfolds we accompany the author through both successes and failures as he ticks off several islands in a day: or spends hours waiting to access an island along a non-existent route that remains stubbornly beneath the waves. Adding greatly to the atmosphere of the book is that in order to visit his islands the author made some 30 separate trips from his Essex home, using public transport wherever possible, and only as a last resort hiring a car. This adds to the sense of genuine exploration that gives the book an attractive nineteenth century feeling: complete with an explorer trying to find his way through - all too often - inadequately mapped tidal margins. Though partly because of this, the inclusion of sketch maps of the islands covered in each chapter would have been a considerable benefit.
The best books of exploration inevitably inspire their readers, and "No Boat Required" is no exception. We knew of some of the tidal islands Peter Caton visited around Scotland, but have only visited one ourselves (Cramond Island): and quite a number were simply unknown to us. Our "must visit and photograph" list has just grown a little longer with the addition of the author's other Scottish tidal islands.