The author, in the spring of 1991, set out to walk from Malin Head, the northernmost point of Ireland, to Cape Clear Island in Roaringwater Bay, the southernmost - a distance of 700 miles. His journey took him through the desolate Bog of Erris, Connemara to the Ring of Kerry. Ireland's bleak countryside and ruined, deserted villages bear silent testimony to centuries of hardship, oppression, famine, and emigration. Christopher Somerville met many of the inhabitants of this unforgiving country - struggling smallholders and the elderly inheritors of crumbling estates, rural priests and publicans, island-dwellers seeking refuge from the modern world. All were generous with their time, their hospitality and their talk. In pubs and bars the length of the country he heard, and took part in, the traditional music-making that is such a vital element of "the crack" in the west of Ireland. He also witnessed the encroachment of the 20th century. The holy mountain of Croagh Patrick, which bare-footed pilgrims have climbed for hundreds of years, is now threatened by mining interests, and there are plans to build an "activities centre" to exploit the unique and fragile beauty of the Burren.
The author spoke to those who oppose and those who welcome such developments. Towards the end of his journey, he came to Castletownshend, in remote West Cork, where his ancestor Edith Somerville and her companion Violet Martin ("Martin Ross") wrote "The Experiences of an Irish RM", "The Real Charlotte" and other classic novels of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. Other books by Christopher Somerville include "Britain Beside the Sea", "The Other British Isles" and "The Bedside Rambler".show more