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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 17:48 GMT 18:48 UK
UK Lonely Planet winners and losers
By Liam Allen
BBC News

A new Lonely Planet travel guide praises the UK's cities and concludes that the north-south divide is a myth. But which places were the winners and losers in the latest Lonely Planet guide?

The UK is on a par with Italy for its "magnificent cities", the guide says

With each publication of the latest version of the Lonely Planet guide, councils and tourist boards have been variously offended and delighted.

The latest edition, published on Tuesday, is no exception.

It says that dynamic development has transformed the north of England dispelling the "grim up north" myth.

It also admiringly describes Britons as "uninhibited, tolerant, exhibitionist, passionate, aggressive, sentimental, hospitable and friendly".

But it is not so kind about other aspects of the UK.

Here are some of the Lonely Planet winners and losers:


Cities, in general, fare extremely well with Lonely Planet claiming that Britain is on a par with Italy for "magnificent cities".

Edinburgh is praised as "one of the most loveable cities on the planet"

Among those praised in the north, Leeds is described as the "Knightsbridge of the north" and Manchester is hailed as "one of Britain's most exciting and interesting cities".

Liverpool, it adds, has thrown off its reputation as a city "full of smart-arse scallies who would as soon nick your car as tell you a joke".

And in Scotland, "loveable and liveable" Edinburgh and "unforgettable" Glasgow are both must-sees, the guide says.

By contrast, Worcester is said to be "smothered by modern architectural blunders and possessed of a rather soulless centre". A spokesman for Worcester City Council said that the comments, "while not without a bone of truth" were outdated thanks to massive redevelopment in the city centre.

'Numbers on increase'

While Lincoln was praised for its "charming" locals, it was slated for its "fairly drab, modern suburbs". This was at odds with the city being voted as the UK's ninth favourite in a recent national newspaper poll, a spokeswoman for Lincolnshire Tourism countered.

And a spokesman for Gloucester City Council, reacting to the guide's assertion that "the city's glory days are long gone", said visitor numbers were on the increase.

Perhaps one of the cruellest putdowns in the whole guide is directed at the people of Wolverhampton.

"If you thought Brummies sounded funny, wait'll you get to Wolverhampton," it reads.


By contrast Britain's seaside, with the exceptions of Eastbourne, Newquay and previously-maligned Blackpool, come in for a bit of a pasting.

For anybody coming to Ilfracombe it would take more than a fortnight to see everything
Ann Doody
Ilfracombe and District Tourist Association

Eastbourne is praised as "a lovely Victorian seaside town that your bold and artsy aunt might enjoy".

Newquay is hailed as "Cornwall's biggest party town" and Blackpool is said to have 21st century amusements "to thrill even the most jaded".

The English Riviera, meanwhile, is described as "a rather optimistic" term to describe the Devon resorts of Torquay and Paignton while Ilfracombe, according to Lonely Planet, "can feel like the end of the earth on a wet afternoon".

Ann Doody, of the Ilfracombe and District Tourist Association, slammed the guide's authors as "lacking imagination", saying it would take "more than a fortnight" to experience everything the resort had to offer.

'Unimaginative view'

Scarborough, meanwhile, is said to be full of "seaside kitsch".

This was "a very unimaginative view", a spokeswoman for Scarborough Borough Council said, adding that the town was the oldest seaside resort in the country and had "plenty to offer". "I would question if they've actually been here," she added.

Lincolnshire resort Skegness, says the guide, features "thousands of pasty optimists doing brave impressions of sunbathing regardless of the weather".

A Lincolnshire Tourism spokesman defended Skegness, pointing to its "award-winning" beaches, "ideal for sea swimming".


Towns faring well in the guide include Windsor, whose castle is described as "a stunning display of royal wealth and power that dates back nearly 1,000 years".

And drinkers are tipped off that Perth is "bustling with some cracking pubs".

But the guide's authors are far less complimentary about many more towns. A number are berated for their non-progressive nature including Harrogate, described as not having changed much "since Agatha Christie fled there in 1926".

Borough council leader Mike Gardner hit back by saying that, while townsfolk were proud of their Victorian heritage, Harrogate's third position in the national league of conference towns in the country proved it to be a "vibrant cosmopolitan".

Arts festival

Pitlochry in Scotland is described in the guide as "teeming with visitors" and "rapidly losing the Highland charm it once possessed".

Visit Scotland Perthshire area director Vicky Miller said tourists of all nationalities who visited and enjoyed "lively" Pitlochry would disagree about such a loss in charm. Ipswich is said by Lonely Planet to now "barely register on the list of England's most important towns".

A spokesman for Ipswich Borough Council pointed to the annual Ipswich Arts Festival (Ip-art) as just one reason for the town's "irresistibility".

He added: "If Tracey Emin's coming to Ip-art this summer, why can't Lonely Planet?"

Your comments

Any place can be interesting and fun if you're with the right people
Ryan Notz, Bristol, England
Of course we're going to disagree with half of what they have to say, it's a book full of opinions! Any place can be interesting and fun if you're with the right people and do the right things. And you can have a rotten time anywhere.
Ryan Notz, Bristol, England

I was born and bred near Wolverhampton before moving to beautiful Northumberland, and I couldn't help laughing out loud about the "if you thought Brummies sounded funny, wait till you get to Wolverhampton" quote. At least they noticed the difference, which most people don't.
Dave Edwards, Alnwick, UK

You can't sell books or get media attention these days without being controversial. LP sets out to do just that and should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Pete, Manchester

Why did it take so long to realise that the UK is a truly excellent country?
Alberto, England
I lived in Italy for almost 18 years and I am very glad to be back in Britain. I fully agree with the new Lonely Planet guide. Nevertheless, why did it take so long to realise that the UK is a truly excellent country that deserves full marks (and I mean people and landscapes)?
Alberto, England

It puzzles me that while Birmingham is Britain's second largest city and has more shops and pubs per square city mile than any other city in the UK and more academic institutions than any other city, it rarely gets a mention anywhere.
Alan, Birmingham

That Ipswich "barely registers" is a good way of putting it. What was once a major engineering town and port is now trying to be a commuter dormitory - but it's too far from London.
Keith, Ipswich, UK

As usual Wales has been completely overlooked.
Alwyn Lynn, Neath, South Wales

I'm not sure if LP are aiming to compliment Harrogate for not having changed since 1926?! If the authors were to spend a night on the town they'd realise it was probably just as buzzing as back in the roaring 20s. Why not bring your handle bar moustache and penny-farthing up to God's country and try Harrogate's delicious spar water. Top hole old bean!
Roger Sangwin, Harrogate

Using a guide when visiting a city is much like painting with the draw-by-numbers pages in a children's book. Leave your books at home, just go and ask the locals.
Sina Bahrami, London

Manchester is the shining light of the North, full of culture and atmosphere to cover the age spectrum. With a backdrop of rolling countryside on its backdoor, the North West is the place to be at the moment!! Add that to the musical festival scene that covers the whole of the UK and it's no surprise that the UK is re-establishing itself as a country well worth visiting for any unearthing traveller.
Martin Bushell, Crewe, Cheshire

At last some recognition for cities in the UK that aren't London. Don't get me wrong, it is a fabulous exciting city, but my favourite, Manchester, is mentioned which I am most pleased about! But where is Newcastle, home of the friendly Geordies?
Hayley, Witham, Essex

Northern outpost dubbed 'seedy'
23 May 05 |  Scotland
City steps up 2008 culture plans
19 May 05 |  Merseyside

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