I really do love a map and I love Scotland even more! So this book always seemed like a good choice for me. If the word atlas conjures up for you towns, roads, mountains and rivers you might be a little disconcerted. This atlas is very pictorial (as the book’s name should suggest!) and highlights a few significant features of each area.
It’s probably inevitable that anyone looking at this type of book will be drawn first to the places of most significance in their lives. Or is that just me? I’ve lived in some very different parts of Scotland and I’ve chosen them to highlight the wonders of David’s and Anders’ work. But first Orkney.
I’ve never lived here but my family tree is littered with Rosies and Groats and Stouts thanks to my Orcadian great-grandmother. Whenever I’ve visited I’ve enjoyed feeling that I have a connection to this beautiful island group. I haven’t taken the world’s shortest scheduled flight from Westray to Papa Westray, preferring to stay on the larger island where Great-Grandma taught in the school at Pierowall. I’ve watched planes make the 90 second journey though! As you might expect from an amateur student of the First World War I’ve spent time further south at Scapa Flow where the Germans scuttled their fleet rather than have it fall into British hands.
My life so far is bookended by homes in Edinburgh. Clearly, there is so much in the capital that David and Anders had to make difficult choices about what to include in the city’s double-page spread. There’s a fairly smelly theme (a plant at the Botanics, the Nor Loch and very basic sewage treatment in the Old Town) alongside some of the city’s standout attractions, my favourites being the Zoo’s penguin parade and the One O’Clock Gun, the idea of which fascinated me as a child.
South and west to Dumfries then which is included in the pages of South-west Scotland. This is a vast and diverse area that could have easily filled all the pages of the book. Many of my favourite places and experiences don’t make the Frang-MacPhail cut but I was delighted to see Ailsa Craig which I first saw as a very little girl whilst on holiday in Girvan. I remember my Mum telling me then about curling and the fact that virtually all stones were made of Ailsa Craig granite. This was many years ago so I’d had time to research the subject and become a curling expert by the time those Winter Olympics made the sport more generally known!
My heart’s home is Lossiemouth in Moray so it was to the pages of Aberdeenshire and Moray I first turned. And I was sad, very sad. As in life, Moray is overshadowed here by the admittedly significantly larger area of the Shire. The single mention relates to the Deskford Carnyx, an ancient battle trumpet of sorts. However, I can’t deny that tiny Crovie, the Granite City of Aberdeen and the castle on the edge – Dunnottar – are fascinating and well worth highlighting.
Taken as a whole the Amazing Illustrated Atlas of Scotland is a brilliant introduction to the country for young children. David’s snippets of information are well-judged and leave room for young readers to research further. And Anders’ illustrations are dynamic and gently funny as well as adding to David’s written descriptions.