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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 14:04 GMT
Travel guide paints grim picture
Dundee skyline
Dundee: "Scarred by ugly blocks of flats"
Scottish towns and cities have been given a blunt assessment by a new version of a popular tourist guide.

The new Lonely Planet travel guide warns its readers about some of Scotland's most popular tourist attractions.

Dundee is described as "scarred by ugly blocks of flats and office buildings joined by unsightly concrete walkways".

Glasgow is "surrounded by a grim hinterland ... of grey council houses" and Edinburgh, is marred by "problems with drugs and prostitutes", says the guide.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh: "Marred by drugs and prostitutes"

But the researchers for the "backpacker's bible" save their most unflattering appraisal for Wick in the far north, which is described as "dismal".

Wick's neighbour along the north-eastern tip of the UK, John O'Groats, was dismissed as "little more than a big car park and tourist trap".

Travellers visiting Dunoon, in Argyll and Bute are warned to "be careful after dark".

Highland councillor, Graeme Smith, said that the guide was based on a very superficial shallow assessment.

The second edition of Lonely Planet's guide to Scotland gives great emphasis to the Scots enjoyment of cigarettes and drink.

'Cynical hype'

According to the guide book, 9% of weekly income is spent on them.

After the foot-and-mouth epidemic and the 11 September attacks, Scotland's tourism officials have been desperately trying to revive its fortunes.

In a multi-billion pound industry, revenue is already down an estimated 700m.

A spokesperson for tourist board VisitScotland said: "This is about selling a book and we hope that most people will recognise the true image of Scotland and see past the cynical hype."

Highland bothy
The Highlands: "Wide, empty, exhilarating space"

But Lonely Planet, which has been producing guidebooks for 29 years and has more than 670 titles, insisted that although the new guidebook was blunt in parts, it was "overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic".

It sets out to debunk some myths about the Scots, noting "surprisingly few eat porridge", and dispelling the stereotype that Scots are a "tight-fisted bunch".

Edinburgh is complimented for its "superb architecture" and its "lively and sociable" atmosphere.

Glasgow, despite being prone to periodic eruptions of sectarian soccer violence, has a "unique blend of friendliness, urban chaos and energy", and Dundonians are "the most welcoming and entertaining people in Scotland".

'Fantastic destination'

Scotland's scenic grandeur also comes in for praise. The castles, forests and glens of the Scottish Borders possess a "romance and beauty of their own".

And the Highlands' "wide, empty, exhilarating space ... (is) more beautiful than you can imagine".

The book, however, does advise visitors to the Highlands to steer clear of the cattle there: "Take care ... they look cuddly but have foul tempers."

Lonely Planet spokesperson Jennifer Cox said: "We're not the tourist board. It's not realistic to say everywhere in Scotland is paradise, but we thought Scotland is a totally fantastic destination and that's really reflected in the guide."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Asad Ahmad reports
"The Lonely Planet guide hasn't been too kind to Scotland generally"
Clare Griffiths of VisitScotland
"Lonely Planet do this everytime they bring out a new book - it's a sensational and easy way of grabbing some headlines"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Have your say on whether or not you agree with a travel guide's view of ScotlandTravel woes
Is Scotland "grim, scarred and dismal?"
See also:

26 Apr 99 | UK
Sights for sore eyes
09 Apr 99 | UK Politics
SNP hits back at guidebook
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