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Walking Home: A Poet's Journey

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,941 ratings  ·  320 reviews
In the summer of 2010 Simon Armitage decided to walk the Pennine Way. The challenging 256-mile route is usually approached from south to north, from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm, the other side of the Scottish border. He resolved to tackle it the other way round: through beautiful and bleak terrain, across lonely fells and into the howling wind, he would be w ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 5th 2012 by Faber and Faber (first published 2012)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  1,941 ratings  ·  320 reviews


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Caroline
Jun 21, 2021 rated it really liked it


The Pennine Way....

After flicking through it casually, I got this book from the library, I thought it would be a vaguely 'good enough' bedtime read. People walking or trekking in the UK isn't really my thing. Actually I thought it would be pretty boring.

Well, how wrong was I? It turns out that the book was written by our poet laureate, Simon Armitage, and as one might expect the man can write. This adventure started off with him posting an invitation on his website, saying that he wanted to
...more
Jim
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm thinking that two stars for this book is a bit harsh, but then I did find it somewhat of a slog. Not, however, half the slog that Simon found the Pennine Way and I might reread this if I ever find myself thinking it might be an idea to walk it myself. Like Bill Bryson in "A Walk in the Woods", I had the impression that the author really wished he'd never bothered. I mean, Bryson could write three hundred pages about a sock, but he suffered as much as Armitage does in trying to find something ...more
Paul
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He is slightly nervous of the challenge, and his wife is not sure that he would be able to complete it either. He has split the walk into manageable sections, and he is joined by others on each stage of the walk. Every day he is joined by some combination of family, friends, local guides and frequently complete strangers who have responded to his promotion of the walk. Even though he undertakes the walk in the summer he has a mixed bag of weather too, gentle sun some days to being soaked and bla ...more
Nicky
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, poetry
I like Simon Armitage's work, and I like the north of England -- it's not as good as Wales, but it'll do, and the landscape is very familiar to me. I grew up in West Yorkshire, so the Pennines are very much part of my mental landscape. So this book was interesting to me in a lot of ways: I haven't walked the Pennines, but I'd like to (maybe not the whole Pennine Way); I'm interested in the way Simon Armitage chose to pay his way, as a "modern troubadour"; I'm interested in Simon Armitage himself ...more
Carolyn
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Simon Armitage, an English poet, decides to walk the Pennine Way, a 256 mile trek down the spine of Britain, that starts near his home in Marsden and ends in Kirk Yeltham, just over the Scottish border. However to make it more interesting he decides to walk in the reverse direction, towards home, with the wind and the rain blowing into his face rather then at his back. He also decides to see if he can pay for his way along the trek by giving poetry readings at at each stop along the way at night ...more
Joe
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Pennine Way rambles across northern Great Britain like a wizened snake. It's a 256-mile trek that cuts through bogs, moors, towns, farmland, industrial mining areas and hills high enough to aspire to mountain-hood. The weather on The Way is legendarily fickle, with rain or fog lurking behind every sunny afternoon and distant cloud. But in spite of the daunting trials, the Pennine Way is popular with hikers and presents an ideal challenge for anyone seeking a panoramic adventure or notch on t ...more
Steven Godin
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it

"In my own way I'm making good progress today, despite the fog, or perhaps because of it, with no view or vista to divert and distract, and that alluring, elusive brightness always up ahead, tempting me forward at full speed. One becalmed stretch of heath is populated by nothing other than thistles, some purple-headed, others topped with flaring white plumes, a lot of them a good five foot in height, absolutely perpendicular, symmetrical and still, ghostly in the mist, a further discouragement a
...more
Steven Suttie
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up because it was about the Pennine Way, a walk that I have long had ambitions of walking, one day, if I ever get enough peace and quiet to stop life for three or four weeks and just get stuck in and do it!

I hadn't realised that the book was written by Simon Armitage, the celebrated northern poet, until I'd started, and I must say that the author's wonderful use of the English language is a wonder to behold as he describes his enormous walk home with such colour, grain and HD
...more
Sarah
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, journey
This book won it's 4 stars on the second half of the book. The finish might even have tipped 4 and a half so if you are not enjoying the beginning as much as you expected, keep reading. The journey itself was obviously not as satisfying as the author had hoped. I have never walked the Pennine Way but I have done quite a lot of long distance walking. My memories of my own walks hold a freshness and immediacy that seem lacking from this walk - maybe not lacking, but few and far between. I wonder i ...more
Anna
3.5 Reading this felt a little like walking the Penine Way. Let me explain: I started optimistically, engaged by the jovial tone, eagerly reading the opening chapters entertained by the carefully considered prose, and looking up maps to chart the route. I paced myself, anticipating the each chapter of an evening thus matching the pace of the walk. Then from about half way a sense of despondence settled, rather like a fine mist and I rather suspected I would quietly sneak off before the fog final ...more
CuteBadger
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an engaging book about poet Simon Armitage walking the Pennine Way in the "wrong direction" in the summer of 2010. He planned his route in advance by asking for volunteers to put him up and for venues in which to give poetry readings each evening. He took no money with him, but relied on what his audiences contributed after his readings.

I found the book a really easy read and one which had me saying "just one more page" till it was way past my bedtime. The writing style is very accessibl
...more
Liz
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I laughed out loud reading this book. SA has such a self-effacing honesty which at times make you want to wince as he describes some of the experiences as he challenges himself on this long distance walk. As he says a walk from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular, but a challenge to himself. In what is often a bleak landscape he manages to make even the mundane parts interesting by being detailed and amusingly observed. From the planning stage,with his Dad`s input about using a bin ba ...more
Diane
Jul 11, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'll return to this when I'm in a more charitable mood. I've read too many long-distance hiking memoirs -- trails that cover more than 2,000 miles -- so I had trouble being impressed by Armitage when he bragged about walking 260 miles. I found his tone to be a bit pompous and condescending, and I was disappointed because I had been looking forward to reading a travelogue of England. I'll try again later and see if his voice is more tolerable. ...more
Juliet Wilson
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, nature
Subtitled 'Travels with a Troubadour on the Pennine Way' this book follows Armitage as he walks the Pennine Way from north to south, giving poetry readings every night in whichever local settlement has agreed to host him. At the end of every reading he hands round a sock which invariably fills up with cash and odd little gifts . Given that on most occasions there's a fair amount of cash in the sock, the readings effectively pay for the walk, specially considering that he has found people to host ...more
Martin Kohout
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Like Rachel Hewitt's Map of a Nation, this book probably has more meaning for me than for a general audience, since my friend Bruce and I walked a portion of the Pennine Way in the course of one of our 200-mile backpacking trips across northern England, but I loved it.

Simon Armitage is an English poet who decides to hike the entire length of the Pennine Way, the oldest National Trail in Britain, which runs about 260 miles from Edale, in Derbyshire, to Kirk Yelton, in Scotland - except, perverse
...more
Ade Couper
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love this book.

Simon Armitage is one of the greatest poets of the English Language, & has also written some very good prose works too. This is a chronicle of his attempt to walk the Pennine Way from north-South , paying for food, board & lodging by reading his poetry at arranged readings on route.

Armitage's love of language really shines through as you read this : his phrasing is economical but very descriptive, & he makes the walk come alive through his descriptions both of the landscape & h
...more
T P Kennedy
I'm not certain what the point of this book was. He's a gifted poet and the few verses included are very welcome. However, the rest of the book is a bad tempered, insular and questioning piece of writing. If he's not sure whether his walk is a good idea, why should we be interested. In an edited version, this might have made a diverting magazine article. For me, there's not enough of interest here to make a book. ...more
Jeff
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Fascinating premise, but disappointing in execution. Simon's fixation on collecting money in exchange for poetry readings becomes the main story, the walk simply a backdrop. His disastrous last day and ultimate failure were disappointing, but not unexpected. I was looking for triumph over adversity and Instead I got whiny poet complains about everything. ...more
Louisa
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Pleasantly bland, rambling anecdotes told with endearing honesty. Armitage takes the reader on a theoretically dull amble down the Pennine Way, recounting tales of the rather forgettable people he meets along the way. Travel writing for those who like their adventures vanilla-flavoured.
Emmkay
Armitage, an esteemed English poet, decides to walk the Pennine Way, in what is apparently a contrary direction, from the northernmost point in Scotland to its distal end in the town of his birth. Along the way, he stays with various people who have kindly offered to host him on his well-advertised way, and he does poetry readings that have been scheduled in towns en route, at which he passes the hat (actually a woolly sock). It’s an enjoyable enough read, though a repetitive and slightly sloggy ...more
Linda Hill
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Setting out to walk the Pennine Way ‘the wrong way’ as a modern day troubadour, Simon Armitage occasionally finds he has bitten off more than he can chew!

I loved Walking Home. It completely took me by surprise and enchanted me. I haven’t been walking in the UK for a few years and I immediately want to dig out my walking boots and head to the hills. I don’t know if my enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that I have walked in many of the same places in similar weathers but I felt as if I were trave
...more
Daven
Jun 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Well, if there was ever an opportunity to insert a spoiler alert in a brief book review, it would be here. I'll resist - there's no need. But who would've thought there would be a surprising ending to such a humble non-fiction tale? Just goes to prove why I often love non-fiction more than fiction; you can't make this stuff up. In non-fiction, incredulity is more likely well-earned and genuine.

One might think, based on the title or premise of Walking Home, that this book would be stuffy. A well-
...more
Harsha Gurnani
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you want to listen to something on your way to work (sure you can read it too), something besides 80s rock, something that brings a spring to your step, then this is for you.

If you are the sort of person who enjoys long distance walks, (in the poet's words) "a pointless exercise, leading from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular, via no particular route and for no particular reason" and often not for (conventionally) "pleasant weather", then this book is for you.

If you want to imagi
...more
J.
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
I absolutely love the premise of this book, in summary; walk a route whilst paying your way through reading poetry. Art paving the way for inspiration and begetting more art. The poet Simon Armitage sets out to take on the Pennine way a 250 odd mile route largely over hills, moorlands and bogs starting at Kinder Scout Bleaklow and Black hill stretching past Hadrian’s Wall, traversing the Cheviot ridge before finishing in Scotland at Kirk Yetholm on the border. He elects to go in the opposite dir ...more
Emily Crow
I've read quite a bit about famous hikes such as the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, and now I have a new jaunt to add to my imaginary bucket list: the 260 mile Pennine Way that runs through the north of England to the Scottish border. Why is this an imaginary bucket list for me? Well, the author--poet Simon Armitage--answers that question more than adequately in his book about traveling it: rain, fog, wind, more rain, getting lost, still more rain.... I'm definitely a fair weathe ...more
Paula Connelly
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have always been attracted to the idea of walking the Pennine Way but have never seriously considered doing it myself. So for this reason, and the fact that the trail incorporates some of my very favourite places, this book appealed to me greatly.

Overall I enjoyed the book and thought it was a light and easy read, taking me just a few hours to complete. In many ways the writing seemed to mirror the walk itself in that there were high points and low, passages I found to be a bit of a tedious sl
...more
Steve
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, travel
Armitage has long been a favorite poet of mine, since years ago picking his joint travelogue of a trip to Iceland with Glynn Maxwell. I reread (or listen to) his Sir Gawain and The Green Knight each New Year's Day, and its the earthiness of his own poems as much as that translation I enjoy — his ruminations and flights of imaginations always seem grounded not in the sense of held down but rather that they seem rooted somewhere, coming from somewhere. And that earthiness is apparent in Walking Ho ...more
Mike Eccles
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
This was an unexpected Christmas present from my brother Simon who took a risk. I attempted to walk the Pennine Way as a teenager (that's a long time ago now), but damage to feet caused me to have to give up half way. So this was a possible return to memories from long ago.

The truth is that I can remember very little of the walk and Simon Armitage walked in the unconventional North to South direction, so there is little to align my youthful experiences with his recent ones!

Nevertheless this is a
...more
Jon
Jul 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never quite managed to get into Armitage's poetry, but I enjoyed this. Possibly because it was about places I know, but mostly because the Bard of Marsden is an engaging companion on the walk, and has a very nice line in description, and a wry humour I found very much to my taste. ...more
Evan Hays
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have come to realize that my favorite books involve people walking.

There is something profound about physical movement and a story. They work together hand in hand. This works for all sorts of books. My favorite fantasies, like Lord of the Rings or Narnia, involve characters on literal journeys. Not in the same league, but I loved the Redwall books growing up, and characters always have a quest in those books. This goes back, of course, as Armitage is so right to point out, to Homer and the O
...more
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Simon Armitage, whose The Shout was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, has published ten volumes of poetry and has received numerous honors for his work. He was appointed UK Poet Laureate in 2019

Armitage's poetry collections include Book of Matches (1993) and The Dead Sea Poems (1995). He has written two novels, Little Green Man (2001) and The White Stuff (2004), as well as All
...more

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