The Old Ways

A Journey on Foot

Macfarlane, Robert

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Old Ways
"In this exquisitely written book, Robert Macfarlane sets off from his Cambridge, England, home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove roads, and sea paths that crisscross both the British landscape and its waters and territories beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt old paths, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, and of pilgrimage and ritual. Told in Macfarlane's distinctive voice, 'The Old Ways' folds together natural history, cartography, geology, archaeology and literature. His walks take him from the chalk downs of England to the bird islands of the Scottish northwest, from Palestine to the sacred landscapes of Spain and the Himalayas. Along the way he crosses paths with walkers of many kinds--wanderers, pilgrims, guides, and artists. Above all this is a book about walking as a journey inward and the subtle ways we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move. Macfarlane discovers that paths offer not just a means of traversing space, but of feeling, knowing, and thinking."--Publisher description.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Viking, 2012.
ISBN: 0670025119
Characteristics: xi, 432 pages :,illustrations ;,24 cm


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Apr 08, 2013

"In this "masterful, poetic travel narrative" (Kirkus Reviews), acclaimed British author Robert Macfarlane recounts his walking explorations via the "old ways," examining ancient footpaths, roads, and sea paths. He draws on a wide variety of intriguing subjects, including literature, natural history, and cartography, to illuminate various landscapes in Great Britain (the chalk downs of south England, the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, etc.) and in other countries (occupied territory in Palestine, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and sacred regions of the Himalayas). Using rich but readable prose, Macfarlane meditates on people - (he meets a lot of them) and the paths they tread in this 3rd in a loose trilogy (after Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places), which is a perfect read for wondering wanderers." April 2013 Armchair Travel newsletter

Jan 27, 2013
  • downsman rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Excellent addition to the growing library of "the new nature writing" (as Granta titled an issue a few years ago). Macfarlane is an admirer of many other landscape writers, particularly Edward Thomas; like Thomas, his is particularly poetic style of writing, but not so much that the flavour of the narrated experience is diluted. Highly recommended.


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Sep 08, 2013
  • quagga rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

My legs preserved the ghost sense of stride, the muscle memory of repeated action, and twitched forwards even as I rested. My feet felt oddly dented in their soles, as if the terrain over which I had passed had imprinted its own profile into my foot like a mark knuckled into soft clay. How had Flann O'Brien put it in The Third Policeman? 'When you walk, the continual crackling of your feet on the road makes a certain quantity of road come up into you.'


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