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About me: (4th Mar '13) - And here I go again!

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Quote-start

A good hiding?

Quote-end
17.09.2010

Advantages:
Wide coverage, mostly well produced, fairly easy to read

Disadvantages:
Sometimes feels like a promotional flyer, at least one glaring error

Recommendable No:

Detailed rating:

How useful was it?

Would you read it again?

Degree of InformationMedium

How easy was it to read / get information fromRelatively easy

How interesting was the book?Mildly stimulating

Value for moneyGood

31 Ciao members have rated this review on average: very helpful See ratings
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very helpful by (94%):
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I love going to Wales. Admittedly it isn't quite as exotic as the South Pacific or the Rocky Mountains, but it has a strong claim to being the part of the world I most love. Although I do have some Welsh ancestry, I've never lived there myself and it's not a place I've adopted as any sort of spiritual home; I just like it. But there are only so many times you can go to the same few places, so when I spotted The Hidden Places of Wales I grabbed it at once. The fact that it was the 6th edition encouraged me, as surely that implied that it had kept a loyal customer base for some time, and so would make it likely to be something special.

Unfortunately, it isn't. It's by no means a dreadful guidebook, so long as you'd rather have breadth than depth of coverage, and it does seem to be kept well up to date. However, it is flawed. One problem is that I'd been hoping for something along the lines of the Rough Guide books, but with even more little details about interesting places even they hadn't reached. I'm sure that all of us have favourite haunts within a few miles of our own homes that the travel writers never seem to discover, and that's the sort of "hidden place" I was hoping to see revealed here, preferably with both praise and criticism dished out as appropriate. However, the introduction reveals that the guide has deliberately avoided giving "merit awards or rankings", and has preferred to concentrate on description. I'm not entirely sure that's the right approach for a guidebook like this, as opposed to a coffee-table book.

The guide is laid out in geographical areas roughly corresponding to the Wales Tourist Board areas, a sensible move. However, guide author Peter Lord (who as far as I can tell seems to have written the whole thing himself!) tries to cover so much ground that there is rarely any depth to the entries for each individual town or area, and that rather prevents finding much out about actual "hidden places". Llandudno, for example, is covered in barely four thin columns of text - and it doesn't help that there is a glaring error here, with a picture of the town's Cabin Lift being captioned "Great Orme Tramway"! That sort of thing doesn't inspire confidence in a guide's accuracy elsewhere, and really should have been caught before publication.

I always find it irritating when a guide seems to be trying to promote its area to an excessive degree, and a bit of whitewashing does seem to be taking place with the Hidden Places book. I don't mean to suggest that it is deliberately covering up attractions' shortcomings, but (for example) calling Abergavenny "particularly pleasant" is perhaps pushing it a bit. I've certainly visited worse towns, and it does have some good facilities that make it worthwhile to call in at (not least Crumbs café!), but in my experience it's much better used as a base than as a destination in itself, and so for the guide to describe it using a phrase that implies that it is one of the touristic jewels of south Wales is really overdoing it just a little bit.

This is a fairly substantial (just over 400 page) paperback on glossy paper, which looks nice but does add extra weight if you're carrying it around in a backpack. Sadly this size is deceptive, as only just over half the book is actually the main guide. The back half is taken up with an enormous advertisement section for accommodation, food and drink and places of interest. These are laid out in a consistent format, rather than being designed by the establishments themselves, and that's welcome - but being advertisements they're (again) relentlessly positive, and short of telling you that you may need to book in advance, there's barely a sniff of negativity to be seen. It gets a bit trying after a while.

All in all, I would have a hard time recommending this book as your only guide to Wales; my preference would go to the Rough Guide book. The Hidden Places book could be handy to keep around as a secondary reference, since it does cover a lot of country pubs in particular, but the (deliberate, as I mentioned above) lack of anything remotely judgemental in their descriptions counts heavily against it for anything more. One unusual feature is nice, though: many of the photographs used in this book are from the Geograph project, and thus Creative Commons licensed; to their credit, Travel Publishing Ltd do properly credit the authors in a section at the back. At £7.18 (inc p&p) from Amazon this is worth a look, but I can't recommend it any more highly than that.
Pictures of Hidden Places of Wales - David Gerrard
Hidden Places of Wales - David Gerrard Hidden Places of Wales - David Gerrard - photo
A rather less hidden place in Wales, just off the Severn Bridge.
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Comments about this review »

MrBrightside1987 20.09.2010 02:50

Very well reviewed

1st2thebar 18.09.2010 12:08

I was in Llundudno two weeks ago - :)

paulpry118 18.09.2010 11:02

I'm hoping to pay a visit to Llundudno in the next couple of weeks to visit my Great Aunt

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The Hidden Places of Wales (Travel Publishing) - David Gerrard

The Hidden Places of Wales (Travel Publishing) - David Gerrard

Pages: 464, Edition: 4Rev Ed, Paperback, Travel Publishing Ltd

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Product details

EAN 9781904434702
Type Non-Fiction
Genre Travel
Subgenre Country Travel Guide
Title Hidden Places of Wales
Author David Gerrard
Publisher Travel Publishing
All Authors David Gerrard
Country Wales
Continent Europe

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Review Ratings »

This review of Hidden Places of Wales - David Gerrard has been rated:

"exceptional" by (6%):

  1. kevin121
  2. Silverback

"very helpful" by (94%):

  1. KathEv
  2. rojm
  3. D_i_a_n_e

and 30 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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