6 of the best travel books about walking

6 of the best travel books about walking

Travelling on foot is an acknowledged way of seeing a country slowly and intimately, and has inspired a whole tradition of great writing. Countries all over the world are crisscrossed by paths and byways. These trails are marked by the passing of feet and capture the history of a place. Walking the storied trails and exploring the landscapes they traverse lets you immerse yourself in a place. And if you can’t make the journey, what better way to discover a destination than by reading about others who have traipsed places near and far? Here are 6 of the best and some of our favourites, just right to read now.

1. A SHORT WALK IN THE HINDU KUSH BY ERIC NEWBY
Hindu Kush

It was 1956, and Eric Newby was earning an improbable living as a fashion buyer in London. Pining for adventure, he sent his friend Hugh Carless the now-famous cable – “CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE?” - setting in motion a legendary journey that would span halfway around the world. Inexperienced and ill-prepared (their preparations involved nothing more than some tips from a Welsh waitress), the amateurish rogues embarked on a month of adventure and hardship in one of the most beautiful wildernesses on earth. The superbly crafted, eccentric and evocative story of the ensuing travels - a journey that adventurers with more experience and sense may never have undertaken – still serves as a clarion call for adventure.

2. AS I WALKED OUT ONE MIDSUMMER MORNING BY LAURIE LEE
Hindu Kush

The author of 'Cider with Rosie' penned a lyrical autobiographical tale about a trip during the 1930s that took him away from home to new unfamiliar places. Abandoning the Cotswolds village that he was raised in, the young Laurie Lee walked to London. There he made a living labouring and playing the violin. But, deciding to travel further afield and knowing only the Spanish phrase for "Will you please give me a glass of water?", he headed for Spain. With just a blanket to sleep under and his trusty violin, he spent a year crossing the country, from Vigo in the north to the southern coast. Only the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War put an end to his extraordinary peregrinations. Exhilarating, whimsical and poetic, it captures a moment in time.

3. THE OLD WAYS BY ROBERT MACFARLANE
Hindu Kush

Robert Macfarlane set off from his Cambridge home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove - roads and sea paths that form part of a vast network of routes criss-crossing the British landscape and its waters, connecting them to the continents 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, of pilgrimage and ritual, and of songlines and their singers. The book 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, and from the disputed territories of Palestine to the sacred landscapes of Spain and the Himalayas, striding alongside a 5000-year-old man near Liverpool, following the 'deadliest path in Britain', sailing an open boat out into the Atlantic at night, and crossing paths with wanderers, wayfarers, pilgrims, guides, shamans, poets, trespassers and devouts.

4. TIME OF GIFTS BY PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR
Hindu Kush

In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on an extraordinary journey by foot – tramping from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. A Time of Gifts is the first volume in a trilogy recounting the trip and describes the journey as far as Hungary. It is a book of compelling glimpses - not only of the events that were curdling Europe at that time, but also of its resplendent domes and monasteries, its great rivers, the sun on the Bavarian snow, the storks and frogs, the hospitable burgomasters who welcomed him, and that world's grandeurs and courtesies. His powers of recollection have astonishing sweep and verve, and the scope is majestic.

5. CLEAR WATERS RISING BY NICHOLAS CRANE
Hindu Kush

Clear Waters Rising documents Nicholas Crane’s mountain walk across Europe. Though he was just married, Crane took seventeen months to hike across Europe, alone and on foot, along the chain of mountains from Cape Finisterre to Istanbul - across the Pyrenees, the Cévennes, the Alps, the Carpathians and the Balkans. Hi aim was to explore Europe’s last mountain wilderness. Along the way he met shepherds, cheesemakers, gunslingers and a bad-tempered bear who wouldn’t take no for an answer…

6. TRAVELS WITH A DONKEY IN THE CEVENNES BY ROBERT LOUIS STEPHENSON
Hindu Kush

Robert Louis Stevenson was not only a gifted writer, he was also an indefatigable traveller. His thirst for adventure was formed by his boyhood visits to remote Scottish lighthouses, and he spent much of his life fleeing the rigours of cold climates and social orthodoxy. The walking trip described in Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes was taken when the budding author was still in his twenties and pining for a lost love. Accompanied by Modestine, the eponymous donkey he hired to carry his camping gear, the journey proved both challenging and charming. The book is infused with all of the qualities that make Stevenson the most popular of writers: humour and humanity, poetry and perceptiveness, cheerfulness and intelligence.