|You are in: Talking Point|
Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 08:43 GMT
Scotland: What do you think?
Parts of Scotland have been described in the latest edition of a travel guide as "grim", "scarred" and "dismal".Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
They are unwelcome words for a nation that promotes itself as picturesque and welcoming.
The frank views are expressed by researchers writing for the new version of the guide to Scotland by Lonely Planet.
For example, Dundee - which wants to be known as the City of Discovery - is said to be "scarred by ugly blocks of flats and buildings joined by unsightly concrete walkways".
John O'Groats, the most northerly tip of the UK mainland, is dismissed as "little more than a big car park and tourist trap".
The guide also notes: "Scots take their drinking seriously, spending an average 9% of their weekly income on fags and booze".
What do you think? Are these views inaccurate or do they present a true reflection of Scotland? Where are your best and worst parts of the country?
I arrived in Edinburgh for a week's visit, and stayed for 18 months. Scotland is the most beautiful country in the world (and I have travelled through quite a few!). The country side is awesome, the architecture outstanding and the people fantastic. What more should a country offer?
I was absolutely captivated by Scotland. Glasgow and Edinburgh are so completely different and yet so close to each other. I think Glasgow is a really exciting city. Its CRM buildings are breathtaking and the Highlands, well words escape me.
I love Scotland and would go back in a heartbeat, if only I could get a job that paid enough to feed us but surely thats a whole other talking point.
I have lived in the US, Canada, and Scotland and I believe that if you look for depressing scenes in a country then you will find them. If drinking in Scotland is an issue (I have not observed that) then what about the beer guzzling that goes on in North America?
Scots television does not revolve around beer commercials the way it does in the US. If you find what you look for then I have found some of the nicest, most courteous people in all three countries.
The architecture in any large city leaves a great deal to be desired. The unflattering remarks about Dundee, a city that has far more than architecture to offer a tourist, isn't any worse than those tacky, small, coloured boxes of houses found on the hills of San Francisco. If you don't like overcast misty weather then don't go to Scotland and stay off the Northern California coast too.
I believe a reviewer should state what is to be found in a city and possibly what is to be avoided but, they should be objective.
I've been all over Scotland, and had great times throughout. From the rugged hills of the Highlands, to the spectacular streets of Edinburgh, the whole place amazes. I look forward to every trip back.
As a third year student of human geography, I am well aware of the socio-economic problems, crime and unemployment afflicting the peripheries of Scotland's large cities. For instance, Wester Hailes, Edinburgh and Easterhouse, Glasgow.
I try and not waste my time responding to such rediculous comments. Every city/country has its good areas and bad areas. People should do their homework before visiting any area. All cities have the good and the bad. Its my home and I thank my lucky stars every day that it is.
Edinburgh is without doubt a beautiful city and I couldn't see past it for many years. But go to a country like Australia where people actually use litter bins and care about the way their cities look and you will be frankly disgusted when you come home.
I've only spent three days in Scotland, but I have no complaints about my trip. I found Edinburgh to be fascinating and a pleasure to visit. It's easy to get around, has plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, and is as rich in culture and history as any major European city. And, the people are as friendly as you'll ever meet.
I'm sure there were drugs and hookers around at the time, but can't say they made a significant impact on my overall Scotland experience.
From the Immortal words of Douglas MacArthur, "I shall return..."
Quite frankly having travelled extensively around the world, I've stopped bothering to buy Lonely Planet guides, because I've found them to be largely unreliable, both in terms of hard facts as well as giving any background to the culture of a country.
Walk along St Vincent's Street if you don't believe me. Edinburgh I'm not so keen on - but there you go, I'm a good Glesga boy.
Been going to Scotland for 11 years on holiday. It is a beautiful place, but I must admit describing Wick as dismal is an understatement.
I live in Dundee. But if you take a 15-minute drive from here you will get a paradise called Arbroath. It won't be a "Dejection: An Ode"; I promise. Life is beautiful there.
This sounds like a non-story to me. Is anyone surprised that the guide says that areas like North Lanarkshire have some ugly towns? But the guide also praises the beautiful areas, like can be seen in http://www.loveofscotland.com/. Seems balanced to me.
I think we could write reports like that about any city in the world. The train journey into Barcelona take you through some pretty grim housing schemes. The comment about John O'Groats however, is spot on, if ever I saw a site crying out to be a bomb range that is it.
I have travelled overseas using Lonely Planet handbooks. Scotland is not unique in having the occassional adverse comment made about it.
Given the time and money I would love to make (another) visit to Scotland, warts 'n all. It's a beautiful country.
The book prides itself in 'telling it how it really is'.
Scoland isn't (and never was) Brigadoon!
I don't see that any of the comments are actually wrong. People might not like what they say, but that's a different matter.
This only really becomes an issue if it's rather more generous about places outside Scotland!
Helen, Nottingham, England
As a Scot who lives away in Holland, I am very proud of the country I come from. I fly the St. Andrews flag, and I tell people how wonderful Scotland is at any chance I get. Most people here who have been to Scotland loved it too.
Scotland is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Among many other splendors, try the Firth of Forth at twilight.
Might be worth noting that the prostitutes in Edinburgh have a lower rate of sexually transmitted diseases than the rest of the young female population in Britain. Then again, perhaps we don't want to see THAT in a tourist guide.
I think the BBC is blowing this out of proportion and possibly taking the statement out of context.
The Lonely Planet guides, while I don't agree with everything they say, make an effort to point out bad sides of town so that tourists do not find themselves in dangerous situations.
This is true in all the guides I've purchased: Sweden, Paris, and yes, London.
They have a "dangers and annoyances" section which is designed to give a little wisdom to the otherwise naive tourist.
That's it. Further, the Scotland book (which I used last year when I visited the country) is written by a native of the country.
Perhaps for this reason he feels comfortable pointing out what HE sees as flaws.
Meanwhile, I spent a week in Glasgow and found the city and the people to be lovely.
Don't take offense at what was probably one line out of an otherwise praise-filled volume.
I recently visited Scotland for an entire month and thought it was the most beautiful place on earth. Edinburgh is one of the most enjoyable cities I've ever visited with good restaurants, friendly people and so many lovely things to see.
The countryside and coastal areas are gorgeous and every square inch of the place is brimming with fascinating history to discover.
Wondrous castles and gardens, Skara Brae, St. Magnus Cathedral--it's all fabulous. And there's nothing wrong with John O'Groats.
I adore Scotland--it's wonderful and the people at Lonely Planet have no taste. Pay them no mind!
Speaking as a Sassenach, I think Edinburgh is the coolest place on the planet, and I would love to live and work there (again). As it is, I just go there for a few days during the Festival.
As for Lonely Planet - that's a terribly dismal series of books. I was thinking about the Pacific North West for this year's holiday, so I took out their guide from the library. It makes gloomy and dismal reading, and I may have changed my mind!
In recent years I have noticed a distinct change to their style. The guides have always contained information on the less savoury sides of countries. This information was stated as a fact, and the reader had to make up their own mind.
In more recent books the comments have become more personal, therefore comments such as "the cities architecture is not very nice", or, "a bus ticket is expensive" have morphosed into "scarred by ugly blocks of flats and buildings joined by unsightly concrete walkways", and, "travellers will have to stop eating to afford the bus ticket".
This is very disappointing and I hope that Lonely Planet begin to revert to their widely appreciated style of providing unbiased, accurate and useful information.
Scots have lost pride in their country.
The people are friendly, but they have lost that day to day care for Scotland. They no longer bother. Time to leave , and will the last person out please switch off the lights
But on the subject of the Lonely Planet Guides - They also slate London in one of their guides too, so fairs fair!
Scotland is God's Country - Just beautiful - people are the most friendly that I've ever met
Me and my wife visited the UK two years ago on our honeymoon.
All I can say is that we were largely disappointed until we reached the Scottish border below Edinburgh.
The days that we spent driving across the country and visiting the towns from Edinburgh to Islay were wonderful and we couldn't have spent a better time.
I have seen much of the USA, Western Europe and bits of Asia, none of these locales can rival the charm and beauty of Scotland as a whole and the Western Isles in particular.
If you want to know what a country is like, read what the average traveller has written and not the media.
Don't worry about how your country is portrayed in Lonely Planet, I have fallen in love with it from all the information I have read and my fondest dream is to come to Scotland.
I worked in the Inner Hebrides for a year and can vouch for the stunning beauty of the more thinly populated parts of Scotland.
I do think it's unfortunate that many of the Scots people whom I met in urban areas seem to have turned drinking into a national sport.
One should perhaps remember that their national icon - Robert Burns - was himself a hopeless alcoholic, so perhaps it's just a case of a poor choice of role model.
In their favour is the fact that the Scots tend to be an evenly balanced people - although this might just be the result of having a chip on both shoulders.
Unfair generalisations perhaps - but based on experiences which left me with these rather sour impressions.
John, Edinburgh, Scotland
I wonder if the people who write such nonsense have ever actually been to Scotland. I now live in London but I still miss Scotland dreadfully. All countries have areas that are not the best to look at but i really don't think that can be said of Scotland. I now live in London and people often tell me how beautiful and amazing they find our country. Sounds like someone is trying to be controversial to make up for their mundane writing ability.
My wife and I spent the most amazing Hogmanay in Edinburgh. The celebrations were superb, the people, tourists and Scots fantastic. The fireworks amazing. Prostitutes, drugs, I did not see them. Edinburgh remains my favourite city and I would love to live there if I could find a job.
What a revelation - towns in the UK with areas of bad housing, crime and drug abuse. Not as bad as London though! Give me Scotland anytime - at least you don't have a five-hour journey to see a hill or meet somebody friendly.
Patrice Boutellier, France
John A., USA
There seems to be a concensus that it is you sad people in the media who are, as usual, jumping on the few negative aspects of a positive story. If you weren't so excited at getting yourselves some catchy headlines, you would take more time to report what's actually happening. Perhaps Lonely Planet should note some of our populations' obsession with talking our country down and tell potential visitors to ignore it.
There's an element of truth in the saying that 'travel narrows the mind', and it can often apply to writers of travel guides with their tendency for sweeping generalisations.
Rather than criticising Scottish cities for problems which are common to cities worldwide, my gripe about Scotland as a tourist destination is the number of cafes, hotels and restaurants in more rural districts which still insist that they can't serve meals outwith strictly defined hours, with the result that a tourist can be denied a sandwich because he has arrived after 2pm. Good service is what attracts tourists and keeps them coming back.
Kirsten Garratt, Edinburgh, Scotland
I think the descriptions are accurate. The Scots DO drink and smoke too much and there is a hardcore of people who simply refuse to use a litter bin. However, every country or location can be negatively described. Therefore if you want to truly appreciate Scotland, then leave the towns behind and stay in the countryside. You'll be impressed.
Nowhere is perfect. We can't deny that some of our cities have bad spots, but that should not be presented as the whole story. Anyway, perhaps some "Trainspotting" fans would rather visit some of Edinburgh's run-down areas than the castle. I see an opening for "alternative" tourism!
All the comments made seem fair enough to me and as a Dundonian I can't really argue against both the comments made about my home city. Yes it is "scarred by ugly blocks of flats and buildings joined by unsightly concrete walkways" and yes the people are the "friendliest and most welcoming in Scotland". However it would be nice to see if the guide has taken note of the vast improvements made to Dundee city centre over the last few years.
After visiting Scotland for many years as a tourist and working out of Aberdeen for a couple of years I used to love the country for its beauty and friendliness and recomended it as a destination. Unfortunately some years ago on my last holiday visit I came across an increasing racist attitude towards the English (including painted signs on overhead bridges "F*** off English"). Perhaps the Scottish tourist board should address this attitude before using the tragedy of 11 September 11 to promote their hypocritcal tourist industry.
Lonely Planet should be more responsible before publishing superficial opinions without doing proper research and which reduce tourism in that wonderful country. I hope others see the superficiality and lack of depth in Lonely Planet guides and stop purchasing them.
Dougal McKinnon, Scotland
I can only talk about Edinburgh and Leith (where I live). The two main points made are in relation to drugs and prostitution. DRUGS - A visitor will not happen upon dealers etc.by accident,the visitor would have to have local knowledge and be guided to the source. PROSTITUTION - As with drugs the visitor would not happen upon prostitutes by accident,he or she would have to actively seek them out in a)Licensed Saunas or b)"Licensed" Red Light Area in Leith. The impression given that Edinburgh is overrun with both drugs and prostitution are false. Yes Edinburgh does have its fair share of the above but so do many cities. Edinburgh is well policed and scaremonger stories from writers/journalists,who get their stories 2nd/3rd hand from unreliable sources must take their share of the blame for stories that are proved false and that the majority of "normal" tourists would never encounter.
I've no complaints. Looks all right to me. Besides the wonderful countryside I've found most people to be welcoming. This is a bit of a vague question to be honest. For people to moan about grim council estates etc, they obviously have not travelled enough. I'ts like that everywhere in the UK where there is a large centre of population. I've lived in the south east of England all my life and despite the rumours of enormous wealth in that region it should be understood that although we are one of the richest countries in the world, that wealth is owned by a small number of people. Therefore there will be an abundance of less well-off individuals requiring 'affordable housing' wherever you go. It's wrong to generalise. Anyway, Edinburgh is a fantastic city and lets not forget Glasgow's elevated status to Euro city of culture in recent years.
I feel that this article is not portraying the correct information. Whilst Glasgow may be "surrounded by a grim hinterland ... of grey council houses", I'm sure that the guide also points out what the city has to offer - museums, archeticture, a stunning univeristy, some wonderful parks as well as a wealth of restaurants and bars. I have used these guides extensively and they are correct to portray the darker side of any city. I was particulary glad of the author's real life point of view on Shanghai, so why should it not be the same in my own country?
What a terrible thing to write about Scotland. I had two horrific holidays last year, both of which cost me a fortune.
I then spent three days in Glasgow. The weather was superb, the food fantastic, the city was not ugly plus the people were really really friendly. Londoners are totally miserable and if you want to take a trip to a drug-infested council estate then I suggest you go to Limeside on the outskirts of Oldham. I used to live there and to be honest it is disgusting and makes London, Glasgow, Manchester and the rest look like a day in Hyde Park.
I have been to Scotland many times and I must say that John O'Groats may be not bigger than a parking lot but I have found beatiful scenery and an incredible amount of welcoming people. Lonely Planet says about the same things also in the Italian guide. Have you read about Wick?
Lonely Planet caters for spoiled rich kids, travelling the world on daddy's money, pretending they have some affinity with the locals they exploit before going back to take some job with a multinational. I think we can live without them.
I've visited a number of cities abroad and all of them are the same. Like Scotland's cities they all have their good and bad points with troublespots, areas of poverty and dilapidation. As for John O'Groats, we advertise it as a tourist attraction but it also provides and excellent ferry service to the Isles of Orkney (which are worth a visit).
I was lucky enough to visit Glasgow last weekend. The Scots were incredibly friendly, the town centre picturesque, the bars and clubs buzzing and the cultural scene vibrant (I especially recommend the Museum of Modern Art). Can't wait to visit Edinburgh!
Comments such as "drugs problem" and "scarred by grey council houses" can apply to any city within any country around the entire world. As a tourist guide book, perhaps the Lonely Planet team should focus more on what tourists will choose to see and do during their visit to Scotland - namely visit buildings of architectural interest and enjoy the countryside. At the very least, can they please balance their comments with similar observations about London, Birmingham, Manchester.
I just wonder what the guide books have to say about other parts of the UK. I doubt that they have as many nice things to say about England or Wales.
Having spent a few years living in California I can tell you Malibu and Venice Beach aren't that far from some dismal black spots too. Anaheim, home to Disneyland, is bleaker than Dundee and let's not even go near Bakersfield. Hollywood is no picture postcard either. The difference is the people there are friendly in a very shallow manner. Scots are genuine and that's why I was happy to return.
While I have only read the comments published and not the guide in full, it does seem to be a fairly accurate description of the central belt of Scotland and areas further a-field. If VisitScotland or anyone else for that matter believes that the all the council housing in Scotland adds to the scenic splendour of our fair nation then they have to wake up. The guide appears to tell it as it is. As an internal tourist in Scotland many of the sites are very disappointing with the services available second rate in many cases. If VisitScotland wants to improve this then maybe it and we as a nation should take heed of an outsider's view of the country.
As Mr Mitchell suggests the extracts do indeed paint an image that are none to far from the truth. I have travelled the world as a backpacker myself and found the Lonely Planet guides an invaluable resource in the planning of my itinery and can only praise them for the truthful nature of their reviews. Imagine yourself turning up to John '0 Groats on a February afternoon as a backpacker, I'm sure you would have the same comment to submit.
I love everything about Scotland and the Scots! They're the most incredibly generous people, and their country is the most beautiful.
After the ravages of the glaciers and the English what do you expect a country to look like?
I'm a Glaswegian currently living in England. Comments like Douglas Murray's apparently (yet again) blaming the English for the state of things north of the border do nothing for the tourist industry, which is surely up to Scots themselves to sort out? We return to Scotland two or three times a year, the natives are friendly, the food often dire, and if you're in remote parts, don't expect tourist information offices to be open on Sunday, which is a real pain. How many visitors to Scotland actually go to council estates anyway?
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Travel guide paints grim picture
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy