Judging by the number of books that are published about lighthouses, we are not the only ones to find these remarkable buildings fascinating. We've seen books about particular lighthouses; about the story of lighthouses in particular countries (including both Scotland and New Zealand); and books about dynasties of engineers who built lighthouses (the Stevenson family in Scotland). Many we have read have been very good, but it would be fair to say that none of them have ever found their way into the "essential reference" category, those very few select books that travel in the glovebox of our car.
Until now, that is. "The British Lighthouse Trail: A Regional Guide" by Sarah Kerr will in future be accompanying us on all our travels. Why? Well at this point we'll fall back on the publishers' description of the book as "An indispensable guide to over 600 lighthouses" and "The ultimate guide to all major and minor lighthouses in Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands". They go on to say that it: "Includes practical recommendations on how to see or visit these incredible maritime landmarks, along with details of those open to the public" and that it "Features full colour photography with location maps covering 25 regions of our glorious coastline."
In her introduction, the author describes how this book came about. She goes on to note that it may not be comprehensive (it seems pretty comprehensive to us) and then sets out a definition of what a lighthouse is, and the criteria for inclusion in, or exclusion from, this book. The rest of the book is divided into 25 regions. Ten of these cover Scotland, from Shetland in the north to South-West Scotland in the south. Having said that, the Scottish sections each tend to include more lighthouses than those further south, with the result that 294 of the 612 lighthouses included in the book are in Scotland.
To give an idea of the content, the section covering Orkney includes 21 lighthouses. The Orkney section begins with a map identifying the location of each and we then move on to their individual entries. We counted 19 individual photographs of Orkney lighthouses, meaning that the overwhelming majority are illustrated. Within each entry is information about its physical appearance and height; the date of its establishment; its designer; its Admiralty number; light characteristics; and grid reference. Then there are comments about access to the tower itself and to the site. Add in the fact that the book comes as a sturdy paperback that feels like it will survive hard handling and exposure to the elements and the end result really is a great book about lighthouses.