Book review: Britain in a Box

Off-Road Cyclist's: Britain in a Box

Various contributors 

We've seen myriad 'route card' cycling guides over the years, some in ring binders, others in various online formats, but this set from Duncan Petersen Publishing comes in a neat little box.

There's 50 cards in total, each A6 size, with some featuring one or two routes per double-sided card and the rest (mostly longer routes) given a fold-out treatment. The geographical spread is good, from Cornwall and Devon, through the southern counties and Wales to the north of England and Scottish Highlands, though there's a significant gap between Buckinghamshire and the Peak District. The off-road riding in this region may not be as challenging or as well-known as other featured areas, but it does exist.

There's a cluster of rides in, or within easy access of, London. One of these rides is 'Regent Canal', which is clearly 'off-road' as such but in our opinion doesn't really warrant a place here, echoed by the route description itself: once you've joined at Islington "continue along the towpath until you reach Limehouse". A second local ride, 'South London Green Spaces', we also found to be pretty sparse on detail. 

Luckily most of the routes are fairly simple from a navigational perspective or, in the case of those in national parks, very well trodden. Each card includes extracts of Ordnance Survey mapping, though these vary in size (some very small) and shouldn't be relied on for on-the-ground direction finding. Certainly in the case of some of the routes, we found the pack's USP also reveals its biggest design flaw — by presenting everything in such a compact format, the details you often need (directions, maps) are compromised. Many route guide products we see have similar failings. 

However, if you regard these cards as a concise overview, as places to stay and points of interest are noted — or even as source of inspiration for future trip ideas — then you won't go too far wrong. But realistically you'll need a full map if undertaking some of the more serious routes (from a safety point of view and to help locate 'escape routes' should you get caught out by the weather or suffer a mechanical). We're pleased to see some of our favourite rides included though — the South Downs Way, Elan Valley, Corrieyairack Pass and Applecross Round among others. 

Review: John Kitchiner