My Life in Travel: Iain Banks, author - 'Venice is an unfailing source of happiness'


First holiday memory?

A camping holiday round Scotland – sorry, sunny Scotland – when I was... well, but a nipper, in the antique Bedford Utilibrake van that passed as a car for us, back then.



Best holiday?

Possibly just a couple of years ago with my smashing girlfriend, by train through France to Spain. We took in Barcelona, Murcia, Cáceres and Madrid before heading round the Med via Marseille for Verona and then Venice, stopping in Paris for a few days on the way back. It took about three weeks and was just splendid. There were many highlights, but finally seeing the Puente Romano at Alcantara, Extremadura, was possibly the greatest.



Favourite place in the British Isles?

Home, here in Fife, I guess. Other than that, it's Glenfinnan in the Highlands, where we have some very good friends with a place looking out on to Loch Shiel and the Highlander monument at the head of the loch, with the famous viaduct just a little further up the glen. It's where we keep a small boat during the summer. The midges can be horrific and I understand it has felt the odd drop of rain, but it's still wonderful. My favourite island is definitely Barra, plus I've become a big fan of certain attractive English towns I might never have visited but for going on book tours – like Beverley, Buxton, Ely and Wells.



What have you learnt from your travels?

Be organised, think things through, always do the passport-tickets-money check even though it feels like a ludicrous cliché, and be friendly but a little wary. Buy wee rather than big souvenirs or be prepared to deploy – or even buy – extra baggage. And, ideally, have your itinerary drawn up by my super-organised, smashing girlfriend.



Ideal travelling companion?

The SG, of course.



Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

None of the above; I might have thought I was a culture vulture, however a traipse round the Accademia in Venice with its smothering surfeit of piety convinced me otherwise. I'm more into just wandering around staring at pretty landscapes, buildings and stuff in general.



Greatest travel luxury?

The Bridge luggage; it looks great and it's tough as old boots. It's a bit heavy, but it has been known to draw compliments from hotel porters, and they've seen a few bits of luggage. I even had one bit customised so it would open up flat for use as a weekend bag.



Holiday reading?

Usually all novels, about 50/50 science fiction and mainstream. I am yet to join the e-book revolution, though I have managed to read full-length Shakespeare plays and quite long bits of books on my iPhone.



Where has seduced you?

La Serenissima. Venice is just uniquely beautiful. Stepping out of Santa Lucia station to discover the Grand Canal beyond the station steps is an unfailing source of happiness. However, had you used the word "gobsmacked" rather than "seduced", I might have said the Grand Canyon, or the Great Barrier Reef.



Better to travel or arrive?

Generally I'd go with the latter because by my age you have a pretty good idea where you want to go in the first place and so you're looking forward to it.



Worst travel experience?

In 1975; standing outside Bologna in the pouring rain for eight hours while – in theory – hitch-hiking but not getting a single lift.



Worst hotel?

There have been a few bad 'uns; one in Lausanne years back that happily has been thoroughly renovated since; one in Brighton where it took three moves before we found a room that wasn't either basically open to the elements or didn't have bits of metalwork poking out of the mattress; and a B&B in Stornoway that required you to choose your breakfast the evening before and then served it between 8.30 and 9am. Hilariously, they tended to lock the front door just as the evening ferry docked, so they could concentrate on serving dinner (or perhaps to stop guests escaping). The electric radiator only held on the wall by a carefully positioned chair didn't fill one with confidence, either.



Best hotel?

I love Gleneagles, The Connaught in London, the Isle of Eriska Hotel, Inverlochy near Fort William and Le Petit Nice Passédat (thought that's really a restaurant with rooms), and the Glenfinann House Hotel is a regular haunt, as is the Balmoral, in Edinburgh. But I guess the Luna Baglioni in Venice comes out in front; the location helps a little.



Favourite drive?

From here in Fife to Glenfinnan, taking the back roads that keep you off the A9 for as long as possible. The section climbing out of Gilmerton into what feels like the true start of the Highlands never fails to fill me with joy.



Best meal abroad?

That would be at the aforementioned Petit Nice Passédat, a couple of years ago, and last year as well.



Dream trip?

That drive to Glenfinnan, on a sunny day. I'm sure there are plenty of fabulous trips I haven't taken. I gave up flying a few years ago, so I suspect most of them will remain un-taken.

Where next?

Paris and Venice, by train.



Surface Detail by Iain M Banks is published by Orbit, £18.99

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor