Travel guides

by Chas Parker on November 19, 2009

It’s very easy these days to research any place which you plan to visit. You just type the name of your intended destination into a search engine and everything is revealed. But before the advent of the internet we had to rely on printed travel guides, and these are still very popular.


You just search, and there it is!

We’re all familiar with the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, or the more traditional AA and Berlitz ones, but years ago, and I’m thinking particularly of the 1930s, the definitive travel guide to anywhere in the UK was the Ward Lock Red Guides. These delightful pocket-sized publications contained detailed information about any area of the country, including maps, lists of hotels and boarding houses and how much they charged, along with details of schools, bus services, railways, shops and even estate agents, should you be thinking of moving to the area.

But the thing that comes across most when reading these publications is that, a bit like the modern-day Rough Guides and their like, the people writing them have actually visited the places and not just regurgitated a list of facts about the town or village they are describing. And because of the age, the style of writing is a pure delight.

How delightful

How delightful

Take this example from the 1937-38 Red Guide to the Isle of Wight. The book is comprehensive and includes an entry for each town and village on the island. It is mostly complimentary , until you get to the entry for the town of Bembridge.

“Let us say frankly, lest we be accused of raising false hopes, that Bembridge will not suit every taste. It is a quiet, unconventional, old-world spot. Concert parties may pay occasional visits, but we have never seen them; it has no band that we ever heard of; and its residents and frequenters seem to have come to the tacit understanding that in the matter of dress ‘anything will do’. The scenery is not sublime; the smaller shops are still rather primitive; and we are not even sure that the older cottages conform to the very latest requirements of civilisation. But f you care for a place where the only noise is the laughter of children, where the only daylight occupations are yachting, golfing, bathing, tennis and fishing, and the evening occupations as nearly as possible nil, then Bembridge is not likely to disappoint.”

Isle of Wight

What what what?

They don’t write ‘em like that anymore.

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