Natural bookshelf

Scotland is well served by publishers, and in recent months there have been some interesting additions to the ranks of books dealing with natural history. In this column we look back on four newish titles.

Set in Stone by Alan McKirdy looks at the amazing story of Scotland’s geological evolution. It is a book aimed largely at the non-specialist reader and neatly reveals how with a little detective work we can understand why the Scottish landscape looks the way it does.

Written in a conversational style it is a book that demystifies what has the potential to be a complex story. Beautifully illustrated throughout, with a lovely mix of photographs and clear diagrams the book also contains a very handy ‘geological’ glossary. The book also deserves praise for its production values. Not only is it a convenient size to slip into your rucksack if you wish, but in having ‘luxury’ margins in the fore-edges it allows for grouping the captions to be neat and tidy, whilst giving the reader a good thumb-hold. Published by Birlinn this is another fine addition to their excellent Scottish collection.

Youngsters will enjoy reading, or having read to them, the story of The Grouse and the Mouse. Emily Dodd’s last title ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’ proved very popular and the tale of Bagpipe the Black Grouse is destined to be equally well received. There are starring roles for Red Squirrels, the Scottish scenery and a Highland cow in a book that is illustrated by Kirsteen Harris-Jones.

Gregor Ewing has written a book that details his walk of over 1,000 miles in a continuous journey following in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce. Using several of our Great Trails he and his dog Meg encountered many super natural history spectacles along the way and he details them in his book – Bruce, Meg and Me. The Great Glen and the Fife Coastal Path feature heavily in his route.

This is the second time Gregor has undertaken a major journey of this nature. Back in 2012, he walked over 530 miles, following the route of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Carrying his own food, shelter and equipment, and with just his border collie, Meg, for company Gregor retraced the Prince’s route through the Highlands and Islands of northwest Scotland. So the Robert the Bruce book follows that successful format.

Finally The Rainforests of Britain and Ireland is Clifton Bain’s follow up to his very popular 2013 book The Ancient Pinewoods of Scotland.  In his new book Clifton turns his attention to the mixed oak, birch and other woodlands that line parts of the west coasts of Scotland, Northern England, Wales and Ireland. Often described as a rainforest, these trees take a higher rainfall than some areas of the Brazilian rainforest. The unbroken lineage since the Ice Age has provided resource for the human population, habitat for wildlife, and acted as a lung for the planet. The book is published by Sandstone Press and is introduced by Vanessa Collingridge.


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