In The Old Ways, Robert Macfarlane sets 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 crisscrossing the British landscape and its waters, and 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 song lines and their singers. Above all this is a book about people and place: about walking as a reconnoiter inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move.
Told in Macfarlane’s distinctive and celebrated voice, the book folds together natural history, cartography, geology, archaeology, and literature. His tracks 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. Along the way he walks stride for stride with a 5000-year-old man near Liverpool, follows the ‘deadliest path in Britain’, sails an open boat out into the Atlantic at night and crosses paths with walkers of many kinds - wanderers, wayfarers, pilgrims, guides, shamans, poets, trespassers, and devouts.
He discovers that paths offer not just means of traversing space, but also of feeling, knowing, and thinking. The old ways lead us unexpectedly to the new, and the voyage out is always a voyage inwards.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Amazon Customer on 04-04-13
Not easy but worth the effort.
It took me a little while to get used to the 'voice' of this book. Very descriptive, reflective, introspective, I'm not sure how best to describe it. It conjured some rich word pictures but at times it seemed to require too much concentration and I'm sure I missed some of the detail. I don't want to be over negative; It did keep my interest and I really enjoyed the journey.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
By M on 23-02-13
Thoughtful and insightful
Could have done without the literature review at the beginning (first hour or so) but once this is dispensed with the author explores the concept of "old ways" in a fascinating and literary manner. Part adventure, part travelogue, part natural science. Hard to define, very enjoyable.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Reader on 09-05-17
A unique book and views
Would you listen to The Old Ways again? Why?
Yes! The meditative rhythm and atmospheric reading are entrancing, while the descriptions are rich.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Old Ways?
Any of the beautiful descriptions of old traditions.
Have you listened to any of Roy McMillan’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
No, but I look forward to.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
Walking the paths and past