It is a well know fact that I like books. It is also a well known fact that I like walking. It is also unsurprising to know that I like Southern Wales (I live and walk here). Therefore when I bought a book by Richard Sale called The Best Walks in Southern Wales, I knew I was on to a winner. In fact, I have around 25 books on walks in Wales/Southern Wales/Brecon Beacons. Some are poor and no more than a glorified tourist pamphlet, some are ok but uninspiring and some are very good indeed. Having reviewed Undiscovered Wales in my last book review, which looked at the whole of Wales, I thought I would review a book that was exclusively written for South Wales.
So, the book is not the best thing since sliced bread but it is a very, very good introduction to some well known and not so well known walks in South Wales. What I like about its style is that there is a section on local history or tradition for each walk, a fairly easy to understand grading for distance and difficulty of walks in the area and an overview of the whole set of walks at the beginning. There is also a section at the back of the book detailing some useful information on some of the walking-related places to visit in Southern Wales (such as the excellent Mountain Centre at Libanus, just outside of Brecon).
The book is obviously written by an enthusiast and keen walker rather than a “tour guide” writer. The book has a “Wainwright” feel to it with line drawn maps but also some really great photos. All in all I think the balance of the book is spot on. I dont personally use “guide books” to follow religiously for the routes I walk, that is what an OS map is for! If you attempt to use a guide book exclusively to follow a route then you will come a cropper at some point, especially when in mountainous areas. I personally tend to use guide books to give me inspiration and ideas for great walks.
All in all a great book for finding out about great walks in and around South Wales and one I do refer to time and time again even though I have been walking in this area for 30 years. If I had to choose, I would say that Kevin Walker’s Undiscovered Wales is a slightly better overall book. Having said that, Richard Sale’s deals exclusively with Southern Welsh (but not necessarily all Brecon Beacons) walks and so gives more variety of places to visit and trails to follow.
All in all, a useful addition to the bookshelf, and if you havent already walked in South Wales, it is in fact an inspiration to do so