There are many who will tell you that Edinburgh is the best city on earth and, despite its sometimes very changeable weather and its tendency to suffer from chill winds, that's not a description we'd wish to challenge. There are many reasons for Edinburgh's greatness. Variety and topography are certainly amongst them, though bagpipes may not be. Also high in the city's list of attributes are two that are closely interdependent: character and history. Edinburgh is a city whose character has been shaped by a long and often bloody history. That history is best expressed, and appreciated, along the city's Royal Mile. This is the main street, variously called Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate, that extends from Edinburgh Castle in the west to the Scottish Parliament Building and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the east.
From a visitor's point of view the problem is knowing where to start. Some of the attractions are obvious, but many are not, and the complex network of closes that lead off both sides of the Royal Mile are easy to overlook and sometimes less than inviting. But now there's a solution. If we knew someone coming to spend a few days in Edinburgh we'd wholeheartedly recommend they buy a copy of "The Royal Mile: A Comprehensive Guide" by Jan-Andrew Henderson. This book works its way from Edinburgh Castle at the west end of the Royal Mile to Holyrood at its east end. In doing so it draws on the author's twenty years of experience as a tour guide in the city.
The author's own description of the book is an accurate one: "All the little closes, wynds and courts running off the main street that people often ignore, with a handy rating guide to the most interesting ones. It contains the significant buildings and monuments, noted pubs, restaurants and visitor attractions. It recounts the bloody and spectacular history, including all the movers and shakers who lived here. It even lists haunted sites, of which Edinburgh is particularly proud." We've spent years visiting Edinburgh, and have come to know it pretty well. Or so we thought. This book threw up lots of interesting ideas of places to see that we were previously entirely unaware of: so it's certainly successful in terms of the depth of its information.
The book comes with a number of maps and a selection of photographs. It's perhaps a shame that quite a few of the photos seem to have been taken on rainy days, or perhaps on the same rainy day. We also disliked the odd way in which one or more of the margins of many of the the photographs have been blurred out. This is clearly a digital effect, as versions of the same images on the front cover don't suffer from it. But at the end of the day this is not a book you buy for its photographs, it is a book you buy for the information it contains, and on that basis it does very well indeed.