About Britain by Tim Cole

After discovering guidebooks written to coincide with the Festival of Britain in 1951, Tim Cole revisits some of the recommended routes 70 years later. Choosing just one journey from each guide, there were thirteen books in all, he sets off to discover what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Quite early on I realised that reading About Britain on a kindle was not ideal; I plan to buy a paperback when they are published in 2022. This is the sort of book you can dip into, perhaps when planning a trip of your own, as each chapter deals with a different part of the country, and not necessarily read all the way through in one go. I found the chapters dealing with East Anglia, and the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland to be the most interesting as I knew the area and could visualise the routes taken. It would, however, be a good introduction when planning a visit to an area you do not know.

My only criticism is the use of Google Maps Street View for the tour of the lowlands of Scotland. I realise that lockdown prevented all but local travel at this point, but do not think this was quite as effective.

These guides were originally designed to encourage the growing number of motorists in 1951 to explore parts of this country not always easily reached by train, with an emphasis on post-war industry and manufacturing. About Britain is not really a travel book, but more a fascinating, well-researched history of the areas visited, detailing the decline of British industry and manufacturing, and what has sprung up in its place.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Continuum and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.