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Saturday, 12 February, 2000, 18:30 GMT
Travel guide slams 'tatty' England
Blackpool
Leading seside resort Blackpool is branded "brash"
A warts-and-all travel guide to England which describes the country in all its "tatty glory" has come under fire from tourism chiefs.

Blackpool is "brash", Dover "grim" and Middlesborough "unremarkable in every way" according to the controversial Rough Guide to England.
Horseguard
London seen as city of extremes
The guide's criticisms have ruffled the feathers of tourism bosses who have accused its writers of mischievously "stirring people up" against some of England's major tourist attractions.

Its "no punches pulled" approach includes describing Southampton as "pretty low on your list of places to visit", the Bronte sisters village of Haworth in West Yorkshire "wretchedly over-visited", and dismissing Northamptonshire "somewhere you pass through on the way to somewhere else".

'Spiralling extremes'

London - criticised in a recent publication by Rough Guide's rivals Lonely Planet - attracts condemnation and congratulation.
Stonehenge
Stonehenge slammed for 'misleading' guide
Praised for the quality of its cultural attractions and its nightlife, London's "spiralling extremes" of "ostentatious public affluence and increasing public squalor" are highlighted.

The Tube system is described as "at breaking point", and buses as "notoriously unreliable and crowded".

Stonehenge is criticised for having a "misleading and patronising" headphone guide.

And Land's End is pilloried for ruining the natural beauty of the headland.

Basil Fawlty
Torquay condemned for Basil Fawlty attitude
"The trivialising Land's End Experience substitutes a tawdry panoply of lasers and unconvincing sound effects for the real open-air experience," say writers.

As for Torquay, the guide says it has taken on the persona of its most famous fictional inhabitant, Basil Fawlty, "whose jingoism and injured pride perfectly encapsulate the town's adaptation to the demands of mass tourism".

'Guide stirs people up'

Southampton city council leader John Arnold said Southampton was more concerned with business than the opinion of the Rough Guide.

He said: "Southampton is a prosperous city with a wide range of commercial activities. It is a city that's concerned with earning a living.

"The Rough Guides are designed for people who are making very short visits to Britain on holiday and that's their judgement.

Portsmouth Society member and architect Deane Clark disputed Rough Guide claims that Portsmouth's post-war developments were "the nadir of British architectural endeavour".

He said: "Personally, I think that's a bit unfair because we have a good quality of building."

"There is a lot of exciting architecture around Portsmouth and we are very keen to stimulate people into enjoying it."

He added: "The Rough Guides do stir people up, and that's a good thing." Deputy leader of Blackpool Borough Council George Bancroft advised Rough Guide readers to come and see the infamous Lancashire resort for themselves.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but there's no doubt about it - Blackpool is in your face."

Praise for Birmingham

But the book is equally keen to give praise where it is due.

While admitting Birmingham is "few people's idea of a good-looking town", and that the Black Country "amply fulfils the negative stereotypes", the guide gives the region credit for its efforts in regeneration.

Birmingham is singled out for having "long outgrown the squalor and misery of its boom years".

Its "cultural initiatives ... have no equal outside the capital", the authors say.

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