Culture

Scotland The Best – The Islands: Peter Irvine’s Stunning New Book

Looking down on the Pierowall and its natural harbour in Westray, Orkney, Scotland. Image credit: Jim Richardson

Peter Irvine, author of the best-selling Scotland the Best series, has now produced a very different kind of guide. Scotland the Best: The Islands is an appreciation of islands as unique geographical, natural and social entities, all intrinsically different but with shared histories, challenges and their own relationship with land and sea.

This beautiful book also sees the islands through other lenses: those of a curated collective of acclaimed Scottish and international photographers. Many live permanently in the islands, some are frequent visitors who hike, cycle, camp out and wait patiently for the light.  All pay homage to their subjects with time and respect and strive for distinction in an Instagram world.

St. Magnus Kirk on Egilsay, Orkney, Scotland. Believed to be built on the site where St. Magnus was martyred during a dispute with his cousin. Image credit: Jim Richardson

Pete Irvine said:

“It’s a continuously reinventing pleasure to disembark from a Calmac ferry after a journey with dolphins and porpoises, Scotland drifting past, the breezy deck and the maccy cheese and step ashore into the different small worlds of Scotland’s islands. 

“That’s what I did last summer as I have many times before, but for this book, it’s been a great privilege to follow in the footsteps of some outstanding photographers.

“I hope you enjoy their intriguing images and that my introductions and recommendations may be useful in your explorations. 

“‘The Islands’ is for everyone who loves Scotland, who loves or may come to love small islands and who will revel in the life enhancing experience of discovering them.   But go quietly and if you are in a vehicle on single track roads, please don’t forget to pull over.”

Scotland the Best: The Islands features all the main islands: the archipelagos of Shetland and Orkney through the Western Isles to Skye, Mull, Islay and Arran and a host of smaller islands, some rarely visited.

Sun on the cliffs at Yesnaby. Image Credit Ingrid Budge

The book’s images point up remote and unheralded places – beaches, headlands, remnants of more populous times – but don’t ignore the many remarkable, more signposted ‘attractions’ where tourists converge.  Like Scotland the Best (first published in 2001, work has started on its 14th edition), ‘The Islands’ is intended to be useful and easy to navigate.  

Each of the main islands is presented from the main point of arrival and imagines how a visitor might most productively and joyfully explore. Illustrated bespoke maps indicate landmarks as well as the inspirational photo locations and Irvine personally recommends the best walks and places to stay and eat.

  • Island based photographers include:  Mhairi Law in Lewis, Rebecca Marr and Ingrid Budge in Orkney, John Maher in Harris, Ben Shakespeare and Mark Unsworth in Islay, Andy Surridge in Arran, Ross Evans in Coll and Cailean Maclean in Skye.
  • Frequent visitors and island lovers include: American and National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson (St Kilda,  Staffa and Orkney),  Scotland’s revered Douglas Corrance,  Dalziel (of the artist partnership Dalziel and Scullion), frequently exhibited and published  photographers Julian Calverley and Malcolm MacGregor, meticulous outdoor photographers Richard Cross and Michael Stirling-Aird and Paul Tomkins who has 12 images in the book from his many island expeditions.

Scotland The Best:  The Islands – published on Monday 28 March 2022 by HarperCollins. The author’s journeys in the Western Isles were supported by Caledonian MacBrayne.

Going to the Spoots. Image credit Rebecca Marr

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