Rough Guides

Rough Guides
Parent company Penguin Random House
Founded 1982 (1982)
Founder Mark Ellingham
Country of origin United Kingdom
Headquarters location London
Nonfiction topics Travel guidebooks
Official website

Rough Guides Ltd is a travel guidebook and reference publisher, owned by Penguin Random House. Their travel titles cover more than 200 destinations, and they are distributed worldwide through the Penguin Group. The series began with the 1982 Rough Guide to Greece,[1] a book conceived by Mark Ellingham, who was dissatisfied with the polarisation of existing guidebooks between cost-obsessed student guides and "heavyweight cultural tomes."

Initially, the series was aimed at low-budget backpackers. The Rough Guides books have incorporated more expensive recommendations since the early 1990s, and books have had colour printing since the late 1990s, which are now marketed to travellers on all budgets. Much of the books' travel content is also available online.

Ellingham left Rough Guides in November 2007, after the company had celebrated "25 Rough Years" with a celebratory series of books, to set up a new green and ethical imprint, GreenProfile, at Profile Books.[2][3] Rough Guides was run from 2003 until later in the decade by co-founder Martin Dunford (travel) and Andrew Lockett (reference), under the aegis of Penguin before their merger with Random House. It is based at the Penguin offices at 80 Strand, London, with a satellite office in Delhi.

The slogan of Rough Guides is "Make the Most of Your Time on Earth".


Most of the series' early titles were written or edited by John Fisher, Jack Holland and Martin Dunford, who along with Mark Ellingham were co-founders and owners of Rough Guides. In 1995, they negotiated the sale of the series to Penguin Books, a process which was completed in 2002.

In 1994, the first ever non-travel Rough Guides books were published – The Rough Guide to World Music and The Rough Guide to Classical Music. The success of these titles encouraged Rough Guides’ expansion into other areas of publishing to cover a range of reference subjects, including music - covering genres such as world music, rock, hip-hop, jazz, and individual artists – and topics such as film, literature, popular science, ethical living, true crime, Shakespeare, pregnancy and birth, plus the Internet and related subjects such as e-Bay, blogging and iPods.

Digital publishing

Rough Guides migrated to digital platforms with the launch of Rough Guides city guides for iOS, Android and Windows platforms, interactive e-books and downloadable guide chapters. In January 2013 Rough Guides launched a new website.


In association with UK-based record label World Music Network,[4] Rough Guides has issued over 350[5] recorded anthologies of the music of various nations and regions.[6] In addition to their "Rough Guide" Series, the record label World Music Network has released 130[7] recordings in their other "Introducing", "Riverboat", and "Think Global" Series.

Albums released in the series include The Rough Guide to... Bhangra, Tito Puente, Romanian Gypsies, Hungarian Gypsies and Ali Hassan Kuban.


In the late 1980s, the Rough Guides brand was spun off into a series of travel shows on United Kingdom television channel BBC 2. Initially part of Janet Street Porter's DEF II strand, alongside Rapido and Jovanotti's Gimme 5, the show outlasted the 'yoof-TV' strand and became established in BBC 2's early 1990s evening schedule.

Later editions of the show, usually hosted by Sigue Sigue Sputnik associate Magenta Devine (with various male co-presenters through the show's run), were repeated on the Sky Travel channel until 2005.

A new Rough Guide series of fifteen thirty-minute programmes started production in November 2007 and began airing on Channel 5 (the UK's fifth terrestrial channel), on 7 January 2008. A second 'Rough Guide to…' series was aired starting in November 2008.

Environmental campaigns

In spring 2006, Mark Ellingham said he had grave concerns about the growth of air travel because of its growing contribution to climate change.[8] He launched a joint awareness campaign with Tony Wheeler (Lonely Planet founder), and Rough Guides began including a "health warning" in each of its travel guides, urging readers to "Fly less, stay longer" wherever possible.[9]


  1. "About us Rough Guides". Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  2. "Ellingham quits Rough Guide". The Bookseller. Oct 1, 2007. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  3. "Author : Mark Ellingham". Rough Guides. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  4. The World Music Network homepage
  5. Henkle, Doug. "FolkLib Index - Rough Guide Discography / World Music Network Discography". Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  6. Archived February 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. Henkle, Doug. "FolkLib Index - Rough Guide Discography / World Music Network Discography". Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  8. Hill, Amelia (5 May 2007). "Travel: the new tobacco". The Guardian.
  9. "Eco-Holidays: Fly Less, Stay Longer". The Independent. London. 24 September 2006.
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