There has never been a shortage of books written by authors who have taken a long walk and then set out to write about it. What this means in practice is that the average browser in a bookshop can have a hard job deciding which are the good ones that are worth carrying off to the till, and which are not. Let's put our cards on the table straight away: "Along the Divide: Walking the Wild Spine of Scotland" by Chris Townsend is an excellent book that will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the outdoors, or in Scotland (or, of course, in both).
Having got that out of the way, saying "why" we think this book is so worth buying is rather harder. The book itself is not the longest or most eye-catchingly presented you'll find on the bookshelf. And the walk at its heart, along the watershed of Scotland, is one that will only have been heard of by a few prospective purchasers.
Let's start with that. The author says at the start of his first chapter: "A watershed, a divide, between two worlds. A raindrop falls, a bog oozes, a trickle begins, running gently downhill, eventually to reach the ocean. Not far away there's a repeat, in the other direction, maybe heading for a different ocean. Watersheds are significant, dividing the land." The watershed of Scotland is the line that divides the part of Scotland that drains into the North Sea from the part of Scotland that drains into the Atlantic. Scotland is a country with a highly complex topography, and as a result it has a highly convoluted watershed. As the author says: "Scotland is roughly 410 km from south to north. The Watershed covers three times that distance, some 1,200 km."
Returning to our reader in the bookshop, deciding whether to buy, this tends to make it unlikely they will buy this particular book because it describes a walk they will want to complete themselves: which is certainly one reason people buy books about walks. No, what really makes this book stand out from the crowd, and what really makes it worth buying and reading, is that it's been written by Chris Townsend. There's something really magical about Chris's writing that transports the reader to another time and place in a way that works so well. Quite how he achieves this is unclear, but in a sense it doesn't matter. What you get between the covers is a completely engaging account of a very long (and often very wet and windy) walk across places that will be familiar to anyone who knows Scotland, though - unless you've read one of the few previous books about the watershed - never strung together in quite this way. What you also get are a series of insights arising from the author's decades as a long distance walker in many parts of the world. The blending together of the account of the walk itself with memories and reflections results in a book we would wholeheartedly recommend to walkers everywhere, whether you do your walking in boots or in an armchair.