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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

by Robert Macfarlane

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Landscapes (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1754312,348 (4.02)131
"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.… (more)
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» See also 131 mentions

English (42)  Dutch (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Inspiring, especially reading slowly to allow images and ideas to seep into the rest of life. A lot of other writers are mentioned and talked of but it is Edward Thomas that provides some backbone to the book. Highlights in my memory are the time in Palestine and the footprints in the snow in Scotland that nearly enticed them to tragedy, but the book came together for me in the penultimate chapter 'Ghost', an imagining of Edward Thomas' last days in the trenches 1917. And while a lot of the content is very personal, I liked that it was a vehicle for the ideas and not the point. Shall look forward to the next book by Robert Macfarlane to come my way. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
A very interesting and varied look at ancient paths, tracks and 'ways'. Highly recommend. ( )
  heggiep | Dec 10, 2020 |
Note that there are two versions of this in audiobook form. In North America read by Robin Sachs, total 11h23m. Outside North America read by Roy McMillan, total 10h44m.
  rakerman | Sep 30, 2020 |
The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane What was it about this book that bothered me so much?On the surface it reads well, the language at times gets a bit odd, almost like he is trying to be poetic but it reads like poetry from a computer program, all the right words in the right places but somehow lacking warmth.
 
Am I being to hard here?He certainly gets around, walking tracks in several countries and always that weird feeling that something is missing. He walks with other people but the underlying feeling I get is that there is someone else there whose presence is felt strongly but never mentioned. It sounds weird but that's how it got me.I don't want you to think I didn't enjoy it because I did in spite of the feeling of something missing.It is a good read and will open your eyes especially if you know any of these areas that he walks.Read it.Later: I've just seen a short video of Robert MacFarlane talking about wildlife.....there is a quietness in his voice that I never picked up while reading this book. If you are unsure just check him out. Good. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
One of the best books I've ever read. Captures the particular wonder of walking and seeing deeply. Also, for writers, this opens up a rich treasure of words and reminds us that great writing is all about perceiving accurately and with personality. ( )
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
This book is as perfect as his now classic Wild Places. Maybe it is even better than that. Either way, in Macfarlane, British travel writing has a formidable new champion.
 
Macfarlane writes superbly. He sustains admiration from first to last, in spite of doubts about the book's structure and overall purpose.
 
The core of the work consists of half-a-dozen specific walks in different parts of the world, often physically very demanding, remembered in intense detail and often exquisitely described. It is overhung, though, by the intermittent presence of a spectral walker from the past – the poet Edward Thomas, who was killed in the First World War and who was perhaps the inspiration of the most famous of all walk-poems, Robert Frost’s The Road not Taken.
added by geocroc | editThe Telegraph, Jan Morris (Jun 6, 2012)
 
One senses Macfarlane trying to keep all his subjects in balance: he is writing about Thomas, about himself, about himself tracking Thomas, about paths in general and in particular. At times there are too many points of focus. But this is a spacious and inclusive book, which allows for many shifts in emphasis, and which, like the best paths, is always different when you go back to look at it again.
 

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Macfarlaneprimary authorall editionscalculated
McMillan, RoyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Much has been written of travel, far less of the road.
Edward Thomas, The Icknield Way (1913)
My eyes were in my feet...
Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain (1977)
Dedication
For Julia, Lily and Tom,
and those who keep the paths open
First words
Two days short of the winter solstice; the turn of the year's tide.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"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.

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