No-one who has travelled around the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, or Moray and northern Aberdeenshire for that matter, can fail to have been struck by the numerous planned villages that are found throughout these areas. Even to the uninitiated, it is obvious that (usually) straight roads (often) set out on a grid pattern marked a significant departure from an earlier pattern of much more scattered settlement, whose remains can also be seen in many places in the landscape. The story of the development of the new towns and villages built in these areas between 1750 and about 1830 is an important part of the story of Scotland, and fascinating background for any visitor with more than a passing interest in how what they see around them came to be.
After introductory sections on the historical, cultural and political background, much of the book is divided into a series of geographical sections. That covering the Moray Firth, for example, takes a detailed look at ten towns or villages, from Pulteneytown in the north, before moving south to Beauly and east as far as MacDuff. It then looks in less detail at a number of other villages in the area.
Gordon Haynes is to be congratulated on taking an intrinsically interesting subject and treating it in a way that has produced a book of lasting value. Some books are interesting to read, but destined to spend their lives languishing forgotten on a bookshelf. "A New Way of Living" is different: here we have a book we know we will be referring to time and again in the future; a book that fills in the background of so many interesting and often very picturesque corners of Scotland; and a book that answers so many questions about why these settlements developed, about how they developed, about the similarities and differences between them, and about the individuals and organisations responsible for developing them. In his postscript the author says: "One of the reasons for undertaking this study was that I couldn't find one like it anywhere, and yet it seemed an obvious subject for research, treating the new villages and towns as a set whilst exploring the history and analysing the design qualities of each one." This is a book that should be read by anyone living in or visiting the large swathe of Scotland it covers.