- Britain by Britrail 2008, by LaVerne Ferguson-Kosinksi, published by Globe Pequot Press, 283 pages, $17.95
A promising start
And the book did get off to a promising start, with an opening section that is full of practical information about using Britain's rail services. There's a map of rail routes just inside the cover that quickly establishes how well connected most of the UK is. There's up to date information about crossing the Channel Tunnel and a lengthy appendix full with extra information covering everything from useful phone numbers, public holidays, tips and trivia, passport information and other bits and bobs.
I suppose that if you are a train fanatic and the train journey itself is the point of your excursion, then a 5 1/2 hour train journey - each way - might be considered a "day trip". That's about the amount of time the author suggests a traveler might want to spend taking a day trip from London or Cardiff to Penzance. Many other supposed day trips involve journeys of between two and three hours each way. That leaves relatively little time - or energy - to explore the destination once you arrive. Which may explain why beyond instructions about how to find the local tourist office and tourism website, the local detail about attractions is pretty slim. There are also no suggestions about places to eat or places to stay.
And Look What Else's Missing
No sign of Bristol either, though this gateway city to the Southwest on the Bristol Channel and the River Avon, is becoming increasingly popular. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, one of the starting points for visits to Haddrian's Wall and, together with its riverside neighbor Gateshead, a new destination for architecture fans, is missing too.
I was also puzzled that Birmingham's role as an important British travel hub, not to mention its growing popularity for shopping and dining, was overlooked.
A Missed Opportunity
But the real adventure of having a rail pass is the ability to hop on and off trains and visit out of the way places that may involve changing trains several times in single journey, stopovers and the like. And while those kinds of journeys are exciting and lots of fun, they can also be rather intimidating for the novice train traveler - especially if they are visiting from another country.
A guidebook that enabled a visitor to undertake more interesting, but perhaps more complex and, therefore, more intimidating journeys would have been really useful. By focusing on the simplest and most direct journeys, I believe this author has missed a great opportunity.