88. ‘The Story of the British Isles in 100 places’ by Neil Oliver

First published in 2018, this delightful book is not from Mum’s library, but it is certainly one that would have appealed to her enormously. Before her retirement from teaching, and before we lost my fabulous step Dad to cancer, they were planning many jaunts around the British Isles together in their ‘dotage’ as she referred to it, inspired by the TV series ‘Coast’, the first series of which was aired on the BBC in 2005; which I’m sure was hosted by the geographer Nicholas Crane, but Neil Oliver, the author of this book, took over for series two. I’m also sure ‘Coast’ inspired many other people to explore the British coastline; after all, nowhere in Britain are you more than 72 miles from the sea! This is in a similar vein.

It doesn’t focus solely on the coast though, rather, as the title suggests, it’s a ramble through time across British history, geography, industry and archaeology, presented in 100 easily digestible snippets, about places of great interest for many reasons, and written quite beautifully by an author who has a transparent passion for his subject. Whilst many of the locations are familiar, the topics are sometimes not ones you would instinctively associate with them, and others are a complete surprise but with sufficient information given to positively encourage further research…and certainly to inspire a wish to visit them!

As I write, we are in yet another period of Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK and cannot go anywhere. That was the one ‘down side’ of reading this – the frustration of not being able to simply jump in the car and go. I am currently staying with Eldest Daughter while awaiting a flight home to Australia, and we had planned all sorts of jaunts in the UK prior to my departure, obviously none of which have happened. On the plus side though, what a delight to read, to plan, to look at maps, to make a ‘wish list’ of places to visit, especially as overseas holidays are generally much less appealing in the current situation for me at any rate in the foreseeable future. (And what better way to get the economy up and running again than to spend our holiday money within our local economy, even if we cannot guarantee the sunshine…just saying!)

When my children all still living at home, the walls of our loo were covered with maps of all sorts, from a map of the world to the iconically diagrammatic and geographically inaccurate London Underground – in fact we referred to it as ‘The Map Room’, and all sorts of lovely adventures were dreamt up in there. (It also had the added advantage of providing all of them with an excellent foundation in geography). This book certainly provides a solid starting point with which to plan an interesting and eye-opening ‘staycation’ anywhere in Britain once we can move around more freely again – or just a fascinating glimpse into our incredibly rich and diverse island nation.

In short, I highly recommend this. I have been making a note of places I want to visit, ticking off ones I have seen previously, and reading this in fits and starts because it really is super easy to pick up and put down; no ‘chapter’ being more than a few pages long. It is a hard back copy, and as a result I’d prefer to gift this forward within the UK as of course I will cover the cost of the postage – plus, here is where it will be of the most use – so, if it sounds like something you would enjoy, as always please just get in touch and I will happily send it to you.

Really want to visit Iona now….!