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

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup