Guide finds Scotland not so bonny

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The Independent Online
SCOTTISH TOURIST attractions are criticised in a leading travel guide published yesterday.

Edinburgh has a "thriving drug scene and a depressing Aids problem", according to the Lonely Planet Guide to Scotland. It describes John o' Groats as "a ramshackle tourist trap", while "appalling kitsch reigns through the summer" at Aviemore in the Cairngorms. The guide sees "little reason" to visit the elopers' town of Gretna Green, while Dundee, although a friendly city, has "ugly flats and unsightly concrete walkways". Glasgow's standard of living "remains low for the UK and life is tough for those affected by the relatively high unemployment, inadequate housing and generally poor diet", it says.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane, chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board said: "Overall, the guide is extremely complimentary and the criticism is well balanced. Some of the criticism is fully justified. We are tearing down Aviemore and rebuilding it, while Dundee has suffered from some of the poor planning introduced in the 1960s."

The guide says:

Aviemore: "More like a downmarket resort in the Rockies that can't quite invent itself in the swank image to which it aspires."

Dundee: "Poor Dundee. This grey city is an unfortunate example of the worst of the 1960s and 1970s town planning - ugly blocks of flats and office buildings joined by unsightly concrete walkways."

Edinburgh: Calton Hill, a gay cruising area where a Japanese tourist was badly injured in 1997, "is probably best avoided at night", while Edinburgh Castle is so "crawling with tourists" that it might be "more impressive from the outside looking in". But the guide also described Edinburgh as "one of the world's great cities with ... extraordinary architectural heritage". Glasgow was "large, lively and interesting", while Aberdeen was "an extraordinary symphony in grey" and Dundee had some of the "friendliest, most welcoming and most entertaining people you'll meet anywhere in the country".

The guide also said Scotland was a birdwatchers' paradise and had some truly magnificent coastlines and marvellous sandy beaches.

Douglas Ritchie, director of marketing at Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board said: "I don't think Aids and drugs are something we get feedback on from tourists, we have never had any complaints as far as I'm concerned." He said Edinburgh Castle was a "must-see" destination and was "so popular it's got a large number of tourists, but numbers are at tolerable levels". He added: "We've never had any complaints about Calton Hill and my understanding is it's predominately a safe area."

A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council said Edinburgh's problems with heroin and Aids were mostly in the past.

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