"A Handbook of Scotland's Coasts" edited by Fi Martynoga is a lovely book that serves as a perfect primer for anyone interested in, as the title implies, the coastline of Scotland. The book is subtitled "The Essential Guide for Beachcombers, Walkers, Wildlife Lovers, Rockpoolers, Wild Swimmers, Foragers, Fossil-Hunters and History Buffs", and while that may not roll easily off the tongue, it does provide a pretty good indication of what you can expect between the covers.
What makes the book so good is the breadth of material packed within it, combined with the depth of expertise of those sharing their knowledge. The chapter on "The Geology of Our Seashore" is written by Ronald Turnbull; that on "Coastal Wildlife" by Jim Crumley; that on "Scotland's Islands" by Ian Stephen; and that on "Coastal Culture" by Michael Kerrigan. Meanwhile Andy Wightman chips in a contribution on "Our Coastlines: Who Owns the Land", while others make contributions on surfing and sea kayaking. But however good the individual parts, this is a book that succeeds in being much more than the sum of them. Fi Martynoga knits everything together with an excellent introduction, and writes the detailed chapters on "Coastal Plants" and "Coastal Bounty". She also writes the "Islands Jaunts" and most of the "Great Days Out" sections, which for us are the highlights of the book. The latter takes the reader on an anti-clockwise tour of Scotland's coasts with a series of snapshots of places to visit, ranging from Eyemouth, North Berwick and the East Neuk of Fife in the south east to Portpatrick, Wigtown and the Machars, and Kirkcudbright in the south west. It is perhaps arguable that enjoying the coastline of "Applecross", "Bettyhill, Tongue and Durness" or "Salen, Strontian and Sunart" involves rather more than a day out for most people, but it is wonderful to see such remote and beautiful places included alongside more easily accessible ones.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to emerge from a book that paints on such a broad canvas is that there remains space for fascinating detail. For example, the section explaining why the length of the coastline of Scotland cannot be correctly measured is a real gem, and will be a surprise to many. Scotland's coasts are an integral part of what makes this, in many people's eyes, the best small country in the world. This book will help you gain more from the experience of visiting and exploring them.