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Quotable Bill Bryson riffs on Britain

Posted on 8th October 2015 by Bill Bryson
Bryson shares his views on various corners of Britain - quotes from his new book,The Road To Little Dribbling: More Notes from A Small Island

Twenty years on from Notes From A Small Island, Bill Bryson has toured the British Isles again – taking with him his much-loved insight and wit.

Here are some choice quotations from his new book, The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island. They are arranged by place, so you can see what Bill Bryson thinks of a town near you:


“According to Time Out at any given moment there are 600,000 people on the London underground, making it both a larger and more interesting place than Oslo."

“London is not just vast horizontally but vast across time. History has left it sumptuously jumbled.”  


"People come from all over Britain to experience Lyndhurst's famous traffic jams, often without intending to."   

“It has occurred to me that Lyndhurst may not receive fourteen thousand different vehicles a day, but just a couple of thousand going round and round again." 

The New Forest:

“If you are from another country, you may need to be told that the New Forest isn't in fact new and is not altogether a Forest." 


“Finally there is Cornwall, which isn't a county at all but a duchy – a distinction which the Cornish are very sensitive about. (You could say that it is a touchy duchy)."    

Canford Cliffs: 

“I used to think Canford Cliffs was a perfect place, apart from a curious shortage of pubs."

Noar Hill in Hamphsire:

“Stand on the Eastern slopes of Noar Hill in Hamphsire and you have a view that is pretty well unimprovable.”

St Swithurn's Way:

“For at least a thousand years this route was the M1 of the pedestrian world.”   


“I quite like Torquay and might one day come back, but I can tell you this now: where watch batteries are concerned they can go fuck themselves."   


“Salcombe is smart and prosperous and jaunty. Everyone was dressed like a Kennedy at Hyannisport." 


“The only downside in getting to Tresco is getting to Tresco." 


“It must be splendid to look out of your bedroom window each morning and know what  kind of day it's going to be from the colour of the sea." 


“North Norfolk is popular with second homeowners from London; it is often called Chelsea-on-Sea."    

“The coast here had the best and most intelligent bus service I know."    

“Norfolk specialises in odd pronunciations."    


“The overwhelming theme to Woodstock now is cars."    


“Oxford is the victim of its own attractiveness.”  

“The University Parks…is really just one park but so good that it has evidently awarded itself a plural.”    


“I was particularly interested to note that the people in Grimsby used to bring their own fish and have the shop fry it for a penny."    


“Everything that is manufactured on earth today traces its beginnings back to this tranquil corner or rural Derbyshire.”    

Coton in the Elms [furthest point from the sea]:

“I pulled over by the farm drive and got out and just stood there, proud to be the least salty person in Britain.“    

Tenby, Wales:

“I had heard that it is quite a charming place, but in fact it is exquisite – full of pastel-coloured houses, sweet-looking hotels and guesthouses, characterful pubs and cafes, glorious beaches and gorgeous views. It is everything you could want in a coastal retreat. How had this escaped me for so long?”   


“A little oasis of comeliness: Lytham."

“Lytham is a tidy little town of rosy red brick: prosperous, neat as a pin, comfortably Victorian…"


“You see Blackpool long before you reach it, thanks to the distant eminence of Blackpool tower, Lancashire’s answer to the Eiffel tower."  

“Blackpool tower remains one of the jauntiest structures in Britain."   

The Lake District:

“Part of the reason I like Keswick is that it is full of outdoor shops. This is a place for people who just can’t get enough Gore-text into their lives."  


“I love Yorkshire and Yorkshire people. I admire them for their bluntness “…if you want to know your shortcomings, you won “t find more helpful people anywhere."

“Bolton castle, which stands like a forgotten chess piece on a hillside."   


 “I am biased, but I believe Durham may be the nicest small city on the planet."  

 “One of the weirdest experiences I have ever had occurred on an ancient and noble span called Evet Bridge in Durham."  


“That’s the problem with Scotland, I find. You never know whether the next person you meet is going to offer you his bone marrow or nut you with his forehead."   

Cape Wrath: “This really is the end of Britain."

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island is out now.


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