Travel books can be a fantastic inspiration for your next holiday destination | Matias North
Looking for inspiration for new trails to walk on your time off? Reading a novel that is set in a destination can really help create an image of the region and bring it to life. Whether it is about a famous or iconic person from the area, a route or pilgrimage that is being followed or highlights a specific town, travel novels can be great holiday inspiration.
To help you find your way around in the large offer available, we have listed below a small selection of travel novels that relate to destinations in Scotland, England, France, Cyprus and Austria.
1. The John Muir Way
There are plenty of books about John Muir and to get a glimpse of the man himself, we suggest the publications ‘Wilderness Essays’ (John Muir, 2015), or ‘Journeys in the Wilderness’ (2009). If you like reading, a terrific book that you can still find second-hand is ‘John Muir Eight Wilderness Discovery Books’ (1992).
For those that like graphic novels, there is a superb one available free to download as a PDF called ‘John Muir, Earth, Planet, Universe’ by Julie Bartagna and William Goldsmith.
Discover John Muir’s native Scotland on the 12-day John Muir Way.
Although strictly set in the northern and now Turkish part of Cyprus, we did want to include Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons of Cyprus in this list of travel books. The work was awarded the Duff Cooper Prize in 1957 and probably belongs to the most famous write ups on Cyprus. If you like to get an idea of what the island was like in the 1950s, how Durrell loved living there and how it changed in the few decades during the Enosis movement for independence of Britain, add the autobiography to your reading list.
Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, Lawrence Durrell (Faber and Faber Ltd)
Retrace the steps of author Lawrence Durrell on the 8-day Winter Walking in Cyprus holiday.
3. The Way of St James
The origins of the Camino de Santiago trail rest with the supposed remains of St. James who is enshrined at the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. There were four major routes to Santiago, of which the first recorded was the route commencing in Le Puy, France. This route is today known as the Way of St James. In his book Clear Waters Rising, Nicholas Crane summarises the history of St James and how Santiago developed into a famous pilgrimage site.
Clear Waters Rising, Nicholas Crane (Penguin)
Walk the Way of St James in France from Le Puy to Conques.
4. Cornish Coastal Path
When picking up one of the novels in the Poldark series by Winston Graham, you’ll travel in a time machine to step out into 18th century Cornwall. Author Graham spent more than three decades of his life in Cornwall where he spoke with local fishermen, farmers and miners, walked the coasts and explored the towns. His first-hand knowledge of Cornwall really gives an accurate and lively image of the region and can be a real motivation to go hiking in Cornwall. The first book, Ross Poldark, was published in 1945 and is still a novel that inspires to travel to this southern England county. In 2016, a BBC One series was produced based on the books.
Ross Poldark, Winston Graham (Pan Macmillan)
A more recent release is "The Salt Path" written by Raynor Winn, published in 2019. This biography walks you through all 630 miles of the South West Coast Path. Raynor and her husband through unfortunate circumstances impulsively decide to walk the path. We follow their journey as they navigate through with little money and carrying their essentials as they live wild in the weathered landscapes of this beautiful part of the UK.
The Salt Path, Raynor WInn (Penguin Books)
Experience for yourself on one of the 6 walking & cycling holidays in Cornwall.
5. Austria & the Dachstein Alps
We all have heard of the story of Maria von Trapp who left Austria during the First World War with her husband and family. What you may not be aware of is that the world-famous musical The Sound of Music is based on the memoirs that Maria von Trapp wrote after some gentle but necessary pressure of a friend. Initially she didn’t feel a need nor confident for the story to be told, but she appeared to have a natural talent to write and produced the best-seller The Story of the Trapp Family Singers in 1949. Today a version of the book is available with pictures of the original version.
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, Maria A. von Trapp (Doubleday)
Has this novel inspired you to go hiking region Austria? You may be interested in the 8-day Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps walking holiday.
In the autumn of 1878, the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (famous for his travel novels ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Kidnapped’), found himself spending a few weeks in Le Monastier, in France’s Auvergne. It is from here that he set off to walk a trail south across the Cevennes accompanied by ‘a small grey donkey called Modestine, the colour of a mouse with a kindly eye’. It took this pleasing pair eleven days to complete the trip, and the book that Stevenson wrote about their journey, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes has since become a travel classic.
Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, Robert L. Stevenson (Penguin)
Follow in the footsteps of R.L. Stevenson and choose from an 8 or 10-day walking holiday on the Stevenson’s Trail: The Cevennes.
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