Sunday 12 February 2023

Book Review: Scottish Wild Country Backpacking by Peter Edwards, David Lintern and Stefan Durkacz

This guide to backpacking routes in the Highlands and Islands is an excellent introduction to the possibilities for overnight and multi-day walks in this glorious landscape. I’ve done most of the routes, either as described or as part of other walks, and this is a good selection. At the same time it is only a selection. There are dozens more routes that could be added. Those familiar with the area can enjoy thinking of favourites that have been omitted. If you’ve not backpacked in the Highlands before poring over the book deciding which walk to start with would be very enjoyable while those with a little experience will find many mouth-watering ideas for further adventures.

The book is big and heavy so not one for the pack. Unless you’re spending months walking many of the routes consecutively you’ll only ever need one section with you anyway. Photographing the relevant pages is the way to go if you want the route description with you. Or you could rip the pages out, but that would be to desecrate a lovely book. Don’t do it!

The book has 1:100,000 maps that show the routes clearly. But as the authors point out you’ll need more detailed OS and Harvey maps to go with them. The relevant ones are listed at the start of each walk description.

I think, anyway, this is far more than a guidebook. It’s a book for inspiration and encouragement, showing the beauty and variety of the places described. This is enhanced by the wonderful photographs which show the landscape, the wildlife, backpackers, camps, places and more. Hours can be spent dreaming over them.

There’s a long thoughtful and informative introduction – almost a quarter of the book – about the Scottish Highlands and backpacking here. The first part briefly discusses Highland history, the concept of wilderness, and land ownership – quite weighty matters for a guidebook – before looking at the important matter of access and the authors approach to what ‘wild country’ is and means. Wildlife, plants, and geology are all covered too.

The second part of the introduction is more practical, dealing with travel to and around the area, equipment needed (some excellent advice here), bothies, weather, winter, environmental impact, safety, route finding and more.

Anyone who loves the Scottish Highlands and backpacking should enjoy this book. I recommend it.

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