Rampant Scotland Book Review
Scottish and Manx Lighthouses

Title: Scottish and Manx Lighthouses
Author: Ian Cowe
Publisher: Northern lighthouses Heritage Trust
ISBN: 978-0-9567209-1-7

Anyone with an interest in lighthouses, especially if they enjoy great photography and well written, entertaining and informative prose, will appreciate this book.

My first impression when the parcel arrived was that it was a large book - its format is landscape A4 size (8.27 11.69 inches (or 210 297 millimetres), with over 180 pages on good quality photographic paper. The landscape format works well allowing the magnificent photographs to fill an entire page or have a mixture of smaller graphics with a descriptive text.

Author Ian Cowe clearly has a life-long passion for lighthouses and is a lecturer at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. Many of his photos have appeared in the Northern Lighthouse Board's calendar and have been featured at an exhibition at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. He not only has an excellent eye for a good photograph but is also willing to get up in the early hours of the morning to capture dramatic pictures of lighthouses as the sun comes up. The depth of colour he displays in his graphics is a delight. The photographs in the book were taken over a seven year time-frame and involved travel by all means of transport including boat and helicopter. Ian was helped along the way by the Northern Lighthouse Board and by a number of the former lighthouse keepers.

I was going to list some examples of the pictures that caught my eye and got me saying "Wow" but the list grew so big - and didn't do justice to all the others that I gave up on that. I particularly liked the unusual angles and close ups of many different objects associated with the lighthouses - the spiral staircases in some of the lighthouses are eye-catching and the close ups of many of the objects which might have been overlooked.

But this is not just a book with great graphics, the text is a good read too - with information about the lighthouses themselves and especially about the work of the Stevenson family whose inventive engineering and dedicated work created so many of Scotland's great lighthouses. The narrative includes personal observations and descriptions of the efforts Ian made to get the right lighting for many of the shots. There are also many wild life pictures taken near the lighthouses and every now and then there is a touch of humour - as with the picture of a solitary Shetland pony with the title "Rush hour on Unst".

There is a foreword in the book written by Princess Anne, who is a hard working Patron to the Northern Lighthouse Board. In it she says "In Cowe's journey around our coast, capturing the great lights built by the Stevenson engineers shows a real dedication. The buildings, their remoteness and exceptional natural beauty have been captured and shared throughout this book." I couldn't better the words of Princess Anne!

They say that all reviews should not just lists the good points in a book but be balanced with some critical comments. But I found it hard to think of something negative to say about this book - except that it is hard to put down!

The book is available via Amazon UK or Amazon.com or from Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland, KW6 6EG.

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