BOOK REVIEW

Front cover - 15k Loch Lomond & The Trossachs
by Rennie McOwan
pub. Pevensey Guides, 2000
Paperback, 112 pages, 8.99
ISBN 1-898630-09-7

Rennie McOwan's interest in history and literature is evident in this new Guide from Pevensey. While many travel and guide writers content themselves with waxing lyrical about the beauty of the countryside and nature, there's hardly a page within this small tome which does not have a historical or literary reference; the natural history and hiking aspects of your Loch Lomond and Trossachs experience rather taking a back seat. This is not a real criticism of McOwan's work, simply an observation on his different approach to writing this particular Guide.

The Guide covers one of Scotland's most scenic parts and some of the photographs are stunning; although its probable that you could not point your camera and take an interesting photograph is this part of the world. One of my favourite pictures in the book is of the mirror-like waters of Loch Ard reflecting the surrounding forest greenery, and there's another speactacular one from the summit of Ben A'r looking down on Loch Katrine. That said, there are a number of naff picture-postcard shots which rather let down the more rugged image content.

However, it is McOwan's written words which create a sort of reverential magic for the area. He tells us that Robert Louis Stevenson brought the hill of Uamh Beag into Kidnapped, how Ruskin and Millais stayed at the village of Brig o'Turk in Glen Finglas in 1853, and that the Wordsworths met with Samuel Coleridge on the shores of Loch Katrine. Typical of the 'colour' that McOwan brings to this work he comments that: 'The Wordsworths were initially sniffy about Loch Katrine and considered it inferior to Ullswater.' Well! And, of course, there are references to the Rebellions, cattle raiding clans, political intrigue and family fueds, and folklore.

One interesting aspect about Loch Lomond which I didn't appreciate until reading McOwan's guide is that Loch Lomond has about a dozen islands within its circumference. On Island I Vow the cattle-raiding MacFarlane's had their stronghold, Sir William Wallace had a wee hidy-hole on Wallace's Isle, while King Robert the Bruce is said to have planted yew trees on Inchlonaig to supply wood for bows. Interesting details which almost make you want to set sail to these small hillocks in the centre of the Loch.

Despite the criticism of a number of pictures, this guide to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs is a delightful read. Perhaps, because of his interest in history, McOwan is able to bring the local countryside 'to life' rather than merely commenting on its appearance. Certainly this Guide is one you should seek out if you want more than a mere walking guide to the area.

For your information:
Pevensey pulishes a number of other Guides covering Scotland's islands: The Isle of Arran, Mull & Iona, Shetland, Orkney, Skye, Islay, The Isle of Bute, Kintyre, Uist & Barra, and Lewis & Harris.

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