* Prices may differ from that shown
This travel guide - The Best of Britain - Northern Ireland is the first in the Best of Britain titles that I have purchased. It is a reasonably weighty book, at 355 pages but I figured this would be fairly comprehensive for our ten day stay in the region. The book, published by Crimson Publishing, is one of a series of around ten that cover the main touring hotspots of Britain and Ireland. The author is local to the area, in this case Mal Rogers, an Irish man who studied at Queens, Belfast and played in a folk band before becoming a journalist, who writes regular travel columns in the Irish Press.
The cover price is £12.99 although I managed to get it for £8.64 via amazon.co.uk, and I feel this represented excellent value. The book has a small full colour glossy section at the front, followed by around 8 subsections on green/white recycled paper - representing a facts section, followed by Belfast, and then each of the six counties that make up Northern Ireland. I mention the paper colour as hubby's only slight grumble was he felt the print in some of the green boxes was difficult to read - I must point out he is of an age where he needs reading glasses but is in denial, and I had no such problems.
My first read through the book, prior to departing on holiday, was exciting, and it really gave me a good flavour of the key attractions/places to visit - so much so that I was starting to think the holiday would not be long enough and mentally started planning a return trip! The initial glossy pages highlight the top ten must see attractions in the region, of which we managed to tick off five, and there was also a "secret" top ten, which is compiled by locals. I have to say we endeavoured to find one of these, a monument near Bushmills, and were unable to do so, even after asking about it at the local distillery. Generally though, the book seemed reasonably accurate and up to date and we didn't encounter any problems as a result of following its information.
It was easy to thumb between the various sections i.e. counties, and this meant that the second read through was easily digested, with typically 40 pages or so for each county - and unfortunately we weren't planning to cover all six in our stay. In the theme of "The Best of..." each county had a top ten of unmissable things to do, and I particularly liked the interviews from locals in each region - a column of quick fire questions as to the best places to eat, and visit etc. Each region also had a section on what to do in wet weather (not needed at all!), and where to go with children or indeed where to go to avoid them. There was also a useful Places to Stay section for each region, useful for a return visit as we had already booked a cottage, and places to eat, which we tended to consult on occasion. We also made use of the city/town street-maps in the key towns and cities we visited.
The book is jam packed with information for tourists including information of historical interest, some occasional humour in the text and it was an invaluable companion. My only criticism was it is slightly heavy for lugging around in a handbag for a week, and a pocket size version might be preferable, although there was no part of this book which I felt was surplus to requirements, it was packed from cover to cover with material which we genuinely wanted to read - not something that all travel guides can claim. I will certainly consider this series again on my next UK holiday.
www.crimsonpublishing.co.uk (input BBS at checkout for 10% discount)