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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future