I like a good outdoorsman’s travelogue, and this falls into the same category as Nicholas Crane’s “Clear Waters Rising” or “Two degrees West”. An Englishman of a certain age sets himself to do an all-but impossible adventure – what’s not to like? I’m an Englishman of a certain age myself – but Mike is older. I should admit early on in the interests of transparency that Mike is a relative of mine.
All that said, I liked the historical accounts in this work better. There’s only so many pints of lager you vicariously enjoy. Mike paints an interesting story of Eire today and in the past. My wife and I visited Kerry on our honeymoon in 1990, and we were told that almost no-one lives within twenty miles of the west coast of Ireland, except for those whose living depends on tourism. Mike’s account bears that out – there seems to be no-one there. A far cry from queuing up to walk along Crib Goch in Snowdonia, as you’ll have to do on any fine weekend in summer.
I learned much of Irlsh history. You’ll not be learning this kind of thing in English schools, not this last 40-50 years. I’d heard of Michael Collins, of the Easter Rising, and of the Irish Free State, and few would not have heard of Eamon De Valera. What Mike has done has coloured in the gaps a little, brought to life some of that fascinating past, some of the terrible suffering. From the medieval saints, through the Norman overlordship, and onto Cromwell’s atrocities, then the Potato Famine and the emergence of Eire, Mike has provided some insights into Irish history without ever being partisan or taking an obvious side.