Posted by: marymarthatours | July 18, 2012

Guide Books for England – How do you choose?

If you stop at your local bookstore to pick up a guide book for your trip to England, I can guarantee that you will be confounded by the huge selection.


How do you decide which title or titles to select for researching and taking along on your trip? And, given the ease of finding information on the Internet, do you even need or want a book?

Right off I need to admit that I’m a Bookaholic, so my first choice of reference material will always be a physical volume that I can hold and read — although maybe not in front to back order. I have a huge collection of books on the British Isles that fall into a number of categories:

  • History
  • General travel
  • Specific areas or cities of the country
  • Specific topics of interest (e.g., gardens, stately homes, or churches)
  • Maps


To me the perfect guide book is one that combines all of those components in one easy-to-access volume. And of equal importance, the book has to be light weight and small enough to fit in my purse or backpack. Some newer guide books with their many pages of glossy photos are great for reading in advance, but I think they are too heavy to carry with me. Insight Guides and DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are fabulous resources to use when planning a trip, but I consider them much too bulky to carry along.

For ease of use on a trip, I think the AAA Spiral Guides are the greatest — they are more modestly sized, have great maps, include tons of information, and best of all, with their spiral binding, they open all the way up and can be folded open to any page. Unfortunately, AAA has yet to publish a Spiral Guide for England, although I do own the ones for London and Ireland.

DSCN3165    DSCN3167

Amazingly, the book that I still find indispensible as a tour leader is my 1980 edition of the Blue Guide England — no glossy paper or pictures, just very complete information on places large and small, popular and unknown, all arranged by routes across the country.  

So how do YOU choose a guide book? You could go to your local library to check out the possibilities. But my suggestion would be to go to your local bookstore – preferably one with a coffee shop; pull all the possibilities off the shelf; and settle down at a table with your notebook and a latte.


If you’re like Martha, you will also make good use of the Internet. She says:

I rarely purchase current guide books although I like the series The Rough Guides because they have far more information than others and no pictures at all. I have enough general and historical data in old books, and I use the Internet a lot for up to date information. For information on a specific town or city, the Internet has more information than any book we can purchase in the US.

For staying in one location, like our trip to York, I know I can find good guide materials at the tourist office. I occasionally do purchase books from e-bay or other used book sites. For our England in Miniature Tour, I purchased and will take with me “A Walk Around the Snickelways of York” book, as it is truly a guide you need to read as you walk the route. In Penrith, I plan to get the fabulous series of maps and guided city walks from the local tourist office.

Of course, you might be a traveler like Miriam, who came with us last year on our Gardens of Ireland Tour. When Martha asked her before the tour if she was reading ahead to learn about Ireland, she said, “No, that’s what you and Mary are for.”

(by Mary & Martha)

Want to learn about the York Snickelways? Go here.



  1. I believe in supporting bricks and mortar bookstores! But one can also check out for book reviews — and then head to the local bookstore with a list of the five starred books in hand. When you are as slow as I am, it helps to prescreen titles to limit steps (or someone snagging your bookstore chair!). Ellen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: