What are books for? Usually they are intended to inform or to entertain. "The Highlands" by Paul Murton does both of those things. More important, however, is the way it excites and enthuses. There are books out there that cover parts of the Highlands in more detail and in a more pocket-friendly format, but that's not really the point. What Paul Murton succeeds in doing is conveying his love for the Highland, and he does it in a way that seems certain to inspire his readers to follow in his footsteps.
Many will be familiar with Paul Murton. He's the presenter of BBC TV's "Grand Tours of Scotland", as it says on the book's front cover, and you can think of this book as in some ways being the written embodiment of the TV programmes. Though only up to a point: this is a book that stands on its own merits, and you certainly don't need to have seen Paul Murton on your TV to be caught up in the sheer magic of the Highlands.
A quick word about geography might help set the book in context. In his introduction, the author says: "This book concentrates on the 'classic' Highlands - the Grampians. The region is bounded by the Highland Boundary Fault in the south, the western limit is largely formed by the Trossachs and the A82 as the road heads across Rannoch Moor towards Glencoe. The lochs of the Great Glen and the Caledonian Canal mark the northern border, and the eastern edge roughly follows the eastern boundary of the Cairngorms National Park as it meanders over high tops towards the Angus Glens." It's no criticism to say that what are traditionally known as the Northwest Highlands are not included: after all the author and his publishers had to draw a line somewhere.
The large format book that emerges is a wonderful evocation of the Highlands, divided into a series of more manageable chunks. The presentation is excellent, with maps and plenty of very good photographs, many taken by the author himself. The text is well written and enjoyable, and those familiar with the author's TV programmes will probably, like me, hear his voice in their heads as they read. The content is a fine mix of history, geography, human stories and anecdotes and the result brings the areas covered to life in a very attractive way. This is a book that will appeal most to - and be of most value to - people fairly new to the Highlands, as opposed to those who live here or have been visiting for decades. But that is also not a criticism: if you want a book to start you on your journey of exploration of the Highlands, then you could do far worse than this one!