An English journalist’s account of his three-month summer walking tour of Great Britain.
For Hayden (You Kant Make It Up!: Strange Ideas from History's Great Philosophers, 2011), walking had always been “a rather dull affair.” But when his wife, Wendy, proposed that they do the “End-to-End,” a walkabout that extended from the northeastern tip of Scotland to the southwestern tip of England, he could not resist the physical challenge. The two set off from John o’Groats, which had won an award in 2010 as “Scotland’s most dismal town.” The journey got off to a difficult start, with Hayden and Wendy forced to use the tarmacked roads they had wanted to avoid. Suffering from frequent foot and body soreness, the author soon found his thoughts turning to philosophy. During the boring, rainy days on the trek to Inverness, for example, a brooding Hayden recalled Bertrand Russell’s observations that “external interests are key to happiness.” As the footpaths of the beautiful Scottish Highlands opened to them, the mood lightened. Hayden’s thoughts turned to Epicurus, who believed that the simple things—such as biscuits and coffee after a hard day’s walk—often brought the most intense pleasures. The “pitfalls and privations” of the magnificent Pennine Way followed, which led Hayden to contemplate Viktor Frankl’s idea that it was struggle for a worthy cause that made life meaningful. Through wind and fog, sun and rain, the pair traveled such celebrated routes as the Heart of England and Cotswold Ways, where they encountered “woodland and pasture…ploughed fields…and ancient town[s] with enchanting Tudor cottages.” Unfortunately, the author’s descriptions of these and other treasures he encountered on the way are pedestrian and perfunctory. Observing Hayden relearning how to delight in “simply being” may offer satisfaction for some readers, but the overall narrative comes across as trite and unoriginal.
Enthusiastic but lackluster travel writing.