Front cover - 20k Rambler's Guide: Ben Nevis & Glen Coe
by Chris Townsend
pub. Collins, 2000
Paperback, 192 pages, 9.99
ISBN 0 00 220115 1

Written by Chris Townsend, this Guide is one of a new series of Rambler's Guides published by Collins in association with The Rambler's Association and HARVEY Maps, the makers of well-known maps for walkers. From the looks of it the new Series appears to have a lot to offer walkers.

The Guide is broken into an Introduction, and four sections relating to 'walking difficulty' - from easy to very difficult - covering 30 walks in total. There's also a two page fact file covering local tourist information, weather forecasts, transport, useful addresses, further reading and natural history guides particularly relevant to the area at the back of the Guide plus a key to the maps and symbols used.

The Introduction is truly informative, and written with an easy style which doesn't 'lecture' as many Guides sometimes do. That said, the text provided by Chris Townsend for each of the 'walks' is more descriptive and doesn't really sparkle in the same way as his Introduction does. However many of the accompanying photographs offer the would-be rambler a glimpse of the spectacular views achievable by the entrepid walker following Townsend's walks. Photographs of the views of Loch and Glen Etive from Beina Trilleachan, and Loch Leven from Am Meall are breathtaking and should inspire.

Returning to the Introduction, the author provides us with: a rudimentary geological and geographical overview; a brief, but fascinating local history that just makes you want to learn more; some details on the local flora and fauna; and then a whole series of items which affect the walker/rambler (access, path erosion, safety and mountain rescue, and a few precautionary words on a number of 'wee beasties' - midges, ticks and clegs - that the walker is likely to encounter).

As for the individual 'walks' featured, each carries a boxout indicating the start and end points, distance, approximate time, highest point, OS and Harveys's Walker's Maps which cover the area, an indication of any en-route refreshments, and 'advice'.

The latter ranges from: 'An easy walk for a bad weather day' on a simple route, to 'To be avoided when snow-covered except by experienced mountaineers'. Perhaps a timely reminder that no one should take Britain's higher reaches for granted, even in the Summer.

The remainder of the featured walks neatly combine a route map (courtesy of Harvey Maps) with interest points and route notes highlighted by upper and lower case letters. These relate directly to Townsend's text descriptions and also to side profile Naismith charts provided for each route. [The charts are based on the Naismith formula calculating en-route steepness and climbs. This is based on 1 hour for each 5 map km. covered plus 30 minutes for each 300m of ascent. Then add your own rest periods to take in a view or catch your breath.]

It's a very effective combination which should allow walkers to monitor their progress easily. After all, there's nothing like knowing that the peak in front of you is the last, and that it's all downhill from there to a cup of hot chocolate, or perhaps something a little more more fortifying.

As mentioned previously, Townsend's descriptions of the basic walks themselves are really more descriptive than flowery; although the odd snippet of local history, gossip or reflection add colour along the way. More interesting are the sporadic boxouts with particular interest features. There's one on red deer for example, another which explains what a 'Graham' is [actually a Scottish hill between 2,000 and 2,500ft with a re-ascent to any adjacent hill of at least 500ft], and that in Celtic legend Glen Etive is the land of Deidre of the Sorrows. All of which may help brighten up your rain-sodden day while awaiting more clement Scottish weather.

In a handy plastic-jacketed A5 format this new series of Collins Rambler's Guides should find a home in many a walker's jacket pocket; particularly those who are not content with strolling along a tarmacced country lane.

Well recommended - and assuming that all the Guides in the series are of a similarly high standard - a well recommended Series.

Copyright © 2000