Review: The Next Stop

Posted 19 June, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Next Stop: Inverness to Edinburgh, station by station
By: Simon Varrell
Format/Source: eCopy kindly provided by the author for review

After years travelling by train between Inverness and Edinburgh, Simon Varwell realised that he knew very little about the places he would merely pass through, and to which he would pay no attention as they rushed by in a train window blur.

So over the course of six days in 2012, he travelled the line and stopped at all twenty-three stations. It was a trip that led him to the unknown, the beautiful, the isolated, the depressingly mundane, the run-down, and the haunting. From picturesque Highland villages to post-industrial towns, and from crumbling castles to dodgy pubs, a host of curious nooks and crannies across Scotland lurking virtually on his doorstep were finally demystified.

He finished the week with some places he was eager to return to for a deeper exploration, and a few others he will be quite happy to never visit again…

I love train rides. All of my trips in Europe involved train travel and I’ve enjoyed every aspect of it: it was the only time I never grumbled about getting up early in the morning to reach the early train out of town, I got the hang of foreign-language kiosks to get tickets, I didn’t mind some of the older carriages that I ended up in. And most of all, I enjoyed the scenery; I could never get sick of just staring out of the window for a whole two hours, even on the wettest, gloomiest, snow-filled day.

Anyway, I’ve never been to the United Kingdom in any capacity so I was curious about this travelogue about train stops in Scotland. I received a copy of this title from the author, which I read in exchange for an honest review.

Just to start things off, for those of you who need a visual of the distance between Inverness and Edinburgh, here’s a map of Scotland (I know I certainly needed it! Luckily there is a map included in the beginning of the book).

Just like the author’s other book, The Return of the Mullet Hunter (review), his narrative was just as welcome and inviting as he recounts his experiences visiting all twenty-three stations between Inverness and Edinburgh. Quite a feat too because, like he mentioned in the first chapter, we don’t often think about the stations and places in between our home and destination during a bus/train/etc ride. I enjoyed reading his descriptions of the landmarks, the atmosphere, and the history of the towns that he visited–some of his descriptions of situations he comes across over the course of his journey made me laugh at times.

As someone however who does not live in Scotland or never even visited the place, sometimes the descriptions and customs flew over my head or I just could not relate to some of the practices and references, but they were ultimately very informative. A lot of the places (well, all of the places, really) in between Inverness and Edinburgh are not well-known places to foreigners but I learned a lot about them; even in his accounts, the reader gains a sense of how different life is in these places. As a bonus, if anyone is ever considering travelling to places in Scotland that are off the well-trodden tourist path, this book is something to check out.

The Next Stop was an interesting read with a great premise and mission so to speak. It’s always nice to explore places that are not commonly visited by tourists, you really get a feel for life in a particular area or country that way. While I still much enjoyed The Return of the Mullet Hunter for its livelier happenings and accounts, I recommend The Next Stop for readers of everything Scotland, readers of travelogues for a different change of pace, and if you’re just interested in learning something new.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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2 Responses to “Review: The Next Stop”

  1. Ok, seeing as I live in Edinburgh and know very little about the country surrounding it (i’m a displaced Canadian) I think i need to read this book. In September we will be going camping near Pitlochrie, which I believe is on that train line. It is such beautiful country side.

    • I had to double-check but there is a chapter on Pitlochry (granted, a very short chapter, but the author did stop by there nonetheless) 🙂 Hope you enjoy the book, that’s awesome that you’ll be going camping out in the countryside later this year. I can only imagine how gorgeous it is over there!

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