I loved this book. It’s one of a series of guides to Scotland (The Queen’s Scotland, edited by Theo Lang), pointing out points of interest in as many towns and villages as the author can cram in. But it’s also approximately 60 years old. It’s like an old postcard: outdated but from a time so close to ours that you can almost touch it. My parents were at school when this book was researched and written: this is genuinely living history.

I know a lot of the places in the book, and the changes in the landscape are scary. Where the book describes green fields cut by sparkling burns, there’s now concrete jungles; where the book discusses prehistoric antiquities and the remains of medieval mottes, there’s now housing estates. Some if the prehistory has survived, but much of it is in the museums.

And it’s not just the landscape.

In the book, the Clyde is a river full of shipping being built and docks taking goods all over the world. All gone now. In the book, Kilmarnock in Ayrshire is described as the perfect town that could never lose its industry because it was so varied. There’s none left.

On the other hand, places that I know as smart and elegant are described in the book as filthy and black. Industry has gone, but it’s taken a lot of the pollution with it. It’s not all bad.

And of course, there’s that voice from the past describing places I’ve never been to yet, and telling me stories I’ve never heard of places I thought I knew well. It’s a voice full of affection for its subject, even the grimy bits, and I can’t wait to get out and about to explore with my brand new 60 year old eyes.

There are six books in the Queen’s Scotland series, all published in the 1950s, but Nigel Tranter updated the books in the 1970s, visiting all the places involved all over again.

Bliss 🙂