Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 10:56 UK

New guide to 'irritating' England

Onslow from TV show Keeping Up Appearances
Typical English citizen? Overweight, lager-swilling TV addict Onslow

England is a nation of "overweight, alcopop-swilling, sex- and celebrity-obsessed TV addicts", according to a new tourist guide book.

The latest edition of the Rough Guide says no other country is as "insular, self-important and irritating".

But in turn none is more "fascinating, beautiful and culturally diverse", with such "an unparalleled range of historic buildings, monuments and landscapes".

Oxford is "superb", Bath "unmissable" and Newcastle "vibrant", it adds.

The Rough Guide produces travel manuals for more than 200 destinations worldwide.

'Deeply conservative'

Back-handed compliments abound in the book, which was produced by four British travel writers.

I'm married to a non-Brit and after 10 years here he still looks on in amusement when he spots a voluntarily orderly queue
Sue, Glasgow

"It's a nation that prides itself on patriotism - yet has a Scottish prime minister, Italian football coach and a Greek royal consort," it says.

England "isn't just one place, but a perpetual collision of culture, class and race".

On the one hand, "a genuine haven for refugees" with immigrants from more than 100 ethnic backgrounds, but on the other, "a deeply conservative place".

In some ways the country is losing its diversity, the guide claims, "where the hearts of many towns - and increasingly their outskirts - consist of identikit retail zones".

"Yet it's also a country where individuality and creativity flourish, fuelling a thriving pop culture and producing one of the most dynamic fashion, music and arts scenes to be found anywhere."

Plymouth city centre is described as "bland and modern"

Certain towns and cities are recommended to visitors, such as Bath which has "graceful, honey-toned terrace, beautifully preserved Roman baths and a vivacious cultural scene".

The Lake District, South Downs and Royal Tunbridge Wells also all find favour.

But many other places are criticised. Plymouth has "a bland and modern face", Derby is "unexciting" and Essex is "an unappetising commuter strip".

'Footie not soccer'

The nation's favourite pastime also takes something of a kicking.

"Football, footie, call it what you will (no English fan ever says 'soccer')", the Premier League is overpriced and with players "more famous than pop stars".

The guide suggests heading to an "unfashionable provincial" club for the "real experience".

"Macclesfield Town against Rochdale on a wet Tuesday night in February - that's a proper football match," it enthuses.

When it comes to England's people the guide gives with one hand - kindly describing them as "animal-loving, tea-drinking, charity donors" whose "warmth is in the humour".

The guide says Oxford's dreaming spires are "superb"

But it takes away with the other hand, saying: "The English have become obedient consumers rather than active citizens, with brand loyalty the nearest thing to religious/spiritual belief."

All in all, the Rough Guide concludes: "The only certainty for visitors is that however long you spend in England and however much you see, it still won't be enough to understand the place."

A spokesman for the company said he believed would-be visitors would recognise that the comments were "tongue-in-cheek".

"Our sense of humour is one of the many reasons, along with heritage and culture that people come here," he said.

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