Those who have traveled through Scotland know it as the myth-shrouded, precipitation-drenched northern kingdom of the island of Great Britain—a ruggedly beautiful place. The author did just that, clocking 2,789 miles by car and ferry (Scotland has numerous costal islands), but he did so with a particular agenda: to retrace the three-month journey undertaken by 1773 by England’s famous man of letters, Samuel Johnson, and his ever-faithful companion, James Boswell. Starr constantly references the activities and attitudes of the duo as he puts in his own many-miles-per-day travel, but in no way is this narrative technique distracting; rather, it adds a layer of interest for the contemporary reader, allowing us to compare and contrast past and present in this still-remote part of Europe. Equally well integrated are Starr’s digressions into events in Scottish history. As with any good travelogue, engrossing anecdotes abound; and the author’s writing style is direct, comfortable, effortless. (“Edinburgh is memorably striking to the eye,” for instance.) This delightful book ends with a discussion of the issue of Scottish independence. --Brad Hooper
We read travel books in order to quicken the corpse of desire so much so that we imagine tramping over the hills and far away. Bill Starr carries us along as he follows Johnson's and Boswell's path across Scotland with the highly sensible intention of seeing what he can see. What he shows us is wondrously satisfying: castles and history, single malt Scotch, breakfasts, and days sweet and sour with appealing meanderings.