Forces' Review Of The Forest Guide To Smoking In London

I n t e r n a t i o n a l


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Author James Leavey may well be responsible for a new genre of travel writing appropriate to our tight-lipped, millenially anxious times: travel guides for those who insist on traditional habits and pleasures, in the face of the abolitionists who stalk them.

The FOREST Smoker's Guide to Scotland -- a follow-up to Leavey's successful London guide - -is a well-researched and thorough compendium of sights to see and things to do, presented in a manner that will delight defiant smokers. Photos are by Jan Olofsson, whose playful and ironic eye provides a perfect accompaniment to the text.

If you are one of the world's ardent, poker-faced anti-whatever crusaders, pass this volume by. It is sure to set your teeth on edge, especially when Leavey pulls out all the stops to ridicule intolerance, as in hismischievious list of Scottish inventions: eg. "anaesthesia (something to give to anti-smokers)".

Convivial people of both smoking and non-smoking persuasions will find this an indispensible companion for their Scottish travels, however. There are tips on how to get around Scotland by rail, coach, or ferry, and even a list of airports (complete with notes on smoking policy, of course). Recent information is provided on hotels and "self-catering accomodation" in various locations across the country, and helpful phone numbers are included for those who want to plan their own tour. The address of the complaints department of the Scottish Tourist Board is also given -- smokers who encounter a hostile or rude reception have no excuse for failing to make their voices heard!

Fans of the Scottish bard and smoker Robert Burns get a complete list of Burns museums and historical sites, and there's a whole chapter on whiskey distilleries large and small that offer tours and tastings to the public. Some of the other topics that rate their own chapters: restaurants and cafes, the top ten free tourist attractions, the top ten that charge admission, naturism, the Scottish smokers' social calendar, festivals, sports attractions, museums, gay and lesbian Scotland, shopping, and pubs and wine bars.

As in the London guide, there is plenty of smokers' lore, including notes on famous Scottish smokers, and the role that tobacco once played in building the economy of some regions.

While it's clear that Scotland has at least partially succumbed to the growing wave of smoking intolerance, this book demonstrates that there are still many places to light up. It's also apparent that for many in the tourist industry, the question of smoking policy is a vexed one. Leavey notes that in a number of cases, it was difficult to get clear statements of policy from establishments surveyed. Presumably they fear losing prospective clients from either or both sides of the smoking controversy.

Where proprietors and tourism authorities were expecially helpful, Leavey gives full credit. And where he and his researchers were received with particular warmth and hospitality, he recounts the details with enthusiasm:

"Smokers welcome," he reports of one cafe in Aberdeen. "We got dragged off the street by the friendly manager, Steve Bothwell, who suggested we had a drink and a smoke in his former motorbike shop while we made up our minds. The excellent cakes are all made by his Mum, Dorothy. Loud, lively and very popular with all ages, his cafe is certainly not boring. 'I don't give a damn if you set your head on fire,' said Steve, who loves the smell of fine cigars. 'It's a free place.'" And that's a place that will definitely be on my list of places to visit in Scotland!


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