Guidebooks to Arthurian Britain


Guidebooks to Arthurian Britain

by: Alan Lupack (Author)
from: The Camelot Project  2002

King Arthur's Country by F. J. Snell (London: Dent, 1926) is the first comprehensive treatment of the Arthurian sites. The book combines folklore, historical research and literary legend and does a fine job of showing the difference between the legendary grandeur and the actual places. This book is for the reader who likes to get a feel for the history and legend surrounding a place.

The Realms of Arthur by Helen Hill Miller (New York: Scribner, 1969) contains a good deal of background material as well as photographs depicting the sites, medieval artifacts and manuscript illustrations--all of which combine to give a feel for the period and the place. This is a good book for the reader who likes to have a sense of the period in which the historical Artorius may have lived and the period in which the legends about him were created.

The King Arthur Illustrated Guide by R. J. Hutchings (Redruth: Truran Publications, 1983), in addition to describing the sites, outlines the development of Arthurian literature and quotes accounts of visits to the land of Arthur by writers like Dickens, Tennyson and Swinburne. This is a good book for someone interested in the literature in which the Arthurian sites are discussed.

A Guidebook to Arthurian Britain by Geoffrey Ashe (London: Longman, 1980) is the most comprehensive of the guides. It mentions many more places than most travelers will want to visit, but it has the advantage of telling which highways will get one to the sites. The book also provides a "key by characters and themes" so that one could, for example, find a listing of all the sites associated with Merlin or with Arthur's military operations. This is a good practical guide.

A Traveller's Guide to the Kingdoms of Arthur by Neil Fairbairn (Harrisburg: Historical Times,1983) complements Ashe's book nicely. It contains small (and not very detailed) maps indicating the location of many of the sites as well as a summary of the sites located in the various regions (Wales, the South-West, etc.). This list is helpful even if one prefers Ashe's more comprehensive guidebook, since Ashe lists all the places alphabetically and not by region.

The Landscape of King Arthur by Geoffrey Ashe with photographs by Simon McBride (Exeter: Webb & Bower, 1987) is the most spectacular of the books on Arthur's Britain. It is less comprehensive and less practical than Ashe's Guidebook. But it is a book that one would want to look at even if--especially if--he/she is not able to visit the actual sites. The commentary is informative and written in a style that avoids stuffiness; but much of the information can be found elsewhere. The real reason for obtaining this book is for the photographs which capture the beauty and the mystery of Arthur's realm. The photos of Merlin's cave and of the sunset on Glastonbury Tor (the former in black and white, the latter in color) would by themselves make the book worth exploring.