According to Newby, the villages in Ireland are deserted, the pubs empty, the few Irish who remain surly, the weather bloody awful, and the food inedible. Travel books are best when they inspire confidence in the guide, and Newby's superior British attitude puts a Yank on the alert. Can it really be as bad as all that, or does an Englishman--even with the best of intentions--inevitably arrive in Ireland with three strikes against him? Newby is an experienced, able, and witty writer--he has over a dozen previous travel books to his credit, including Slowly Down the Ganges, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, and The Last Grain Race. Here, he has used his abilities to spin a 300-page book out of what would have made an amusing series of letters home. When he isn't citing other writers (there are 60 books in the bibliography, and he seems to quote from them all, often) or tracing the history of places he's convinced us we wouldn't be interested in seeing, he is recounting the miseries of trying to get around on mountain bikes. He and his long-suffering and charming Slovenian wife, Wanda, are good sports, but you never quite get over the feeling they have put themselves through all of this so that Newby can write another book, and have done it on bikes to make it more interesting. Newby tells us they undertook the trip simply to enjoy themselves. But they didn't, and his good writing doesn't disguise that--or his underlying disapproval of the people and culture he encounters.