Books and Travel, Part 6: The North Coast 500 and Blue Guides

We unwittingly drove a currently very popular route known as The North Coast 500. It starts and ends in Inverness, and just follows the whole coastline all around the north of Scotland. We just passed by Inverness coming and going, but we certainly did the whole route.

Travel guides and touted routes are interesting things. When I was a kid, we always went on car camping trips in the summer all over the west. We used the trusty AAA Accommodation books to find places to camp and also motels from time to time. I still remember how much fun it was to determine a destination with my parents and then look in the book to see what we could find. If it was a motel with a swimming pool, that was the best!

The whole travel guide industry had certainly expanded, but having guides is as old as traveling. The Baedeker guides of the later 19th – early 20th century were the indispensable companions for the wealthy traveler of their era. My favorites of the 20th century were the Blue Guides. I still have a few, and we actually brought our 20-year old Scotland Blue Guide with us on this trip and it’s been very helpful. These guidebooks were first published in 1918, and they published the English versions of Baedeker. These guides are still being published in various forms, and you can read more about them here: I love them for their detail on every single thing, and so enjoy reading the little things about a town or a person that I would never have discovered any other way.

In the 19th and 20th centuries you might have seen travelers with a red Baedeker or a blue and white Blue Guide as you traveled around. These days in Europe its likely to be Rick Steves’ blue and yellow books, or a well-work copy of a Rough Guide, a Lonely Planet, or a DK visual guide. And the internet provides access to information that could only have been dreamed of before. But being guided into new places and adventures is the whole purpose of guidebooks, and they are good to have in any form.

Our North Coast drive brought us to the small community of Dundonnel on a beautiful loch in a lovey B and B. Gaelic was spoken around us, as was something from Eastern Europe, showing again the great links across cultures we have where we live and where we travel.

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