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Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  413 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Few landscapes are as iconic as the islands off the north-western Scottish coast. On the outer edge of the British Isles and facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Hebrides form part of Europe's boundary. Because of their unique position in the Atlantic archipelago, they have been at the centre of a network of ancient shipping routes which has led to a remarkable history of cultur ...more
Hardcover, 351 pages
Published October 6th 2016 by Granta Books
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Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: Laura

Jura: Journalist Madeleine Bunting explores the history and landscapes of the Hebrides and demonstrates how this chain of islands in the north west has shaped both Scotland and Britain. Her first journey takes her to Jura, the remote wilderness where George Orwell wrote 1984

Iona: Bunting visits Iona and uncovers the apparently remote island's well-connected past at the intersection of several busy sea routes.

Rum: home to rich man's folly Kinloch Castle, an
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
To describe the Outer Hebrides as remote is somewhat of an understatement. Even today it can take the best part of a day to get to, but once you are there you have reached not only some of the oldest parts of our planet, but also the epicentre of one of our country’s ancient cultures. This edgeland is the very periphery of our landscape and faces the full brunt of everything that the Atlantic can throw at it; even the summer can have five days of gales a month. This tough, uncompromising landsca ...more
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
My knowledge of the Hebrides at the start of this book was "they are somewhere north of Scotland"....turns out even that simple little fact was wrong, They are on the North West. I also knew they were made up of loads of little islands....almost correct, yes there are lots of little islands but Lewis/Harris is the 3rd biggest Island in Great Britain, so it turns out I know nothing.

Madeleine Bunting had been planning this trip for years, she had a map on her wall of the Hebrides as inspiration an
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
In a reprise of childhood holidays that inevitably headed northwest, Bunting takes a series of journeys around the Hebrides and weaves together her contemporary travels with the religion, folklore and history of this Scottish island chain, an often sad litany of the Gaels’ poverty and displacement that culminated with the brutal Clearances. Rather than giving an exhaustive survey, she chooses seven islands to focus on and tells stories of unexpected connections – Orwell’s stay on Jura, Lord Leve ...more
Dec 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Journalist Madeleine Bunting explores the history and landscapes of the Hebrides and demonstrates how this chain of islands in the north west has shaped both Scotland and Britain. Her first journey takes her to Jura, the remote wilderness where George Orwell wrote 1984.

Read by Doon Mackichan
Producer: Eilidh McCreadie.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I was surprised by how little I enjoyed this. The personal narrative seemed thin and the voices of current Hebrideans too quiet in comparison to the historical sources and stories.
Mindy McAdams
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
Before traveling to Scotland's Hebrides islands, I found this book via online searching and took it with me. It was a good choice. The London-based author had heard about these islands all her life and set out to write about them by a combination of historical research and personal visits, several of which were camping trips. Four of her chapters are about Inner Hebrides islands — those close to the coast of "mainland" Scotland — and three chapters are about Outer Hebrides islands — those in the ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
I was homesick enough before I read this, but now I am really looking forward to my trip home in July!! As a Waterstones bookseller who originally comes from the Outer Hebrides I knew I had to read what is to be our Scottish Book of the Month for July. And I am glad I did. Non-fiction is not a genre I would normally read but I really did enjoy reading this perspective of the history and stories of my home islands. Of course it does seem a tad romanticised but it's supposed to and that doesn't de ...more
Michael Cayley
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: misc-nonfiction
This book is superb. In part it is a description of travels in the Hebrides, culminating in remote St Kilda and the Flannan Islands. The writing is brilliant, with some very fine depictions of nature, often at its wildest. In part it is an exploration of the history and culture of a fringe Gaelic community over the last 300 years or so, and the attitude of mainlanders to it. This is a tale of hardship, of frequent misunderstanding, of depopulation, and at times of tragedy.

Anyone interested in fi
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Captivating. Made me long for quiet remote shores.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, travel
This was not a page-turner in the typical sense (as evidenced by the embarrassing 11 times I had to renew it at the library), but it was certainly a haunting, pulling examination of the history, culture, and ecology of various islands in the Hebrides. At times, the history or physical descriptions of the land were dry, but the book was also rife with poetic descriptions that brought the land and sea to life. Descriptions of the Gaels' traditional worldview and way of life, coupled with the sad h ...more
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read - engaging, poetic and SO interesting. Must-read for anyone wanting to know more about the Scottish islands. ...more
Jul 10, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a wonderfully written book, and one I gave to my partner as a gift. Clearly I borrowed it afterwards (what type of a person wouldn't?!), but ai couldn't finish it because despite being lovely, it is not my type of book. Too history heavy, and exactly the reason my partner loved it. ...more
Russel Henderson
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Part travelogue, part polemic. The author waxes between excessively florid, cloying descriptives and more measured language; the latter swaths are quite good while the former are grating. The Hebrides certainly have a checkered history and Bunting documents some actors who can justly be called villains, but her insistence on grafting an antiquated Old Labour approach to economics on her analysis politicizes things that need not be. She sentimentalizes the Gaidhealtachd, implying that communalist ...more
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essential reading for anyone with a love of the Hebrides or those who plan to visit the Hebrides. Beautifully written and fascinating.
Pedro L. Fragoso
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Scotland has, for as long as I can remember, a hold in my imagination, and these islands, which include Jura, where Orwell wrote 1984 before dying, were always a mystery, accentuated by my reading of Ian R. MacLeod's "The Summer Isles". I'm also a fan of Ronald D. Moore's take on Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, whose generic includes a song that mentions Skye.

Nice primer on the islands, their history and their peoples, full of heartbreaking tragedy. Britain may well be defined by England's relation
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: mountains
Beautifully written and yet it's a book about Hebrides written by a Londoner to fellow Londoners. ...more
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Perched on the edge of Europe, the Hebrides have long been wrapped up in an aura of mystery, romance, exoticism, distance, contempt and the obsessions of Empire. The geological product of a cluster of millennia old volcanoes making up what is now the north-east Atlantic (with a trace remaining in geothermal Iceland) these are held to be the rugged, wild homes of rugged, wild peoples, stuck in the old ways of farming and fishing, believing and making sense of their world. From afar we look in won ...more
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a thing about islands, and have an ambition to visit all the islands around and in Great Britain. It's a kind of lifetime goal, and certainly nothing to rush through, as places are to be enjoyed and appreciated slowly.

I was lent this book as I have a particular thing for Scotland. Most of the islands she visits I have not yet made it to, but the book has made for fascinating and inspiring reading. I am all the more revved up for travelling. Yes, this is a book written by someone who lives
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Many people travel in search of the exotic and the unfamiliar. I was travelling in search of home, in the hope of knowing and understanding where I could call home. Some look for novelty in their travels but I was looking for intimacy. Some look for distance and space of other continents but I suspected there was plenty of complexity and astonishment under my feet in the damp Atlantic archipelago of the British Isles. This is my home country and it seemed to offer worlds far bigger than one lif ...more

I approached this book already sold by the subject matter: the inner and outer Hebrides in the northwest of Scotland, and the collection of furthermost islands 45 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean--St. Kilda's. I was disappointed for the most part in that it felt the author had entered these wild spaces and not been touched by them. I found a book of personal biography and memory, history of the islands, politics of the islands, a little on the geography and a few entries on the British aristocr
Karen Floyd
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The farthest northwest one can go in Great Britain is the Hebrides. Madeleine Bunting's family holidays to the northwest, particularly the northwest of Scotland, and her father's obsession with going northwest, lie behind her series journeys to the Hebrides. In this book she focuses on just a few of these islands (there are over 100), not only describing their geography, and often stark scenery, and the lives of the people who live there, but also telling us about the islands' geology, history a ...more
Paul Tubb
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Was sceptical about this one when I started reading it. Was Madeleine Bunting going to be the female equivalent of the earnest young writer alighting from the London sleeper and so despised by Kathleen Jamie? The author takes a while to get into her stride with the early chapters on Jura and Iona having little new to say. However from Rum onwards the book hits its stride and pursues an insightful, intelligent, articulate and deftly-handled multi-stranded narrative which combines into a densely w ...more
Pete daPixie
It was in 1976 as a ship's radio officer after sailing for over a month in the White Sea. A period of perpetual night, freezing temperatures, icebergs and mountainous seas. It was during the homeward voyage that disaster struck. Our ship ran out of tea! We made a radio telephone call to our agents on the Hebridean island of Lewis for a resupply of the sacred brew. Approaching Stornoway on a crystal clear flat sea morning, clearing the headland, a small boat with an outboard approached, drew alon ...more
Jayne  Gray
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Bunting manages to capture the history, politics and beauty of the Hebrides exquisitely. I have been to many of the places mentioned, and relived them in her descriptions and learned more about them in her discussions.
You'll be taken on a whistle stop tour of the history of the islands, and also the politics of the Gàidhealtachd and land clearances, the odious land laws that led to them and the mass emigration, and a good stab at discussing the cultural imperialism of the Brit
Joshua Green
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable and languidly paced series of her journeys through the Hebrides. At each island the author stops at, she outlines interesting bits of the place's history, politics, and culture. She makes interesting connections and comparisons across time and place to weave a rich description of the context of these islands.

Bunting's unique approach to travel literature pays tribute to the landscapes, people, and their histories without condecension or romanticisation. In fact, she puts in consider
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never been to the Hebrides, nor even really thought of going. This has changed, thanks to this book. Bunting makes a journey through the wild and remote islands of the Hebrides, focusing on seven in particular. This book recounts her explorations. Everything is potential material. The wild and severe beauty of the place touches her soul,. and she writes poetically and personally about this. She explores geology, natural history, bird life, literature, and above all the sad and often wretche ...more
I had total mixed feelings about this book, parts of it were fascinating and parts too dense for me. It is part travel part history and I guess I was looking more for the former, so nearly gave up part way through but I'm glad I didn't as the chapters on Rum and also St Kilda are so interesting. I came away feeling most enlightened about these islands that I've never been to (and maybe never will), and more of an appreciation of their history, the nature and the sea, but particularly the inhabit ...more
Sonia Jackett
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This started as a 3 and went up to a 4* by the last few chapters. I did have some issues with this book: the over use of the word qiuoxic being one of them.

It's also not maybe the best for someone who already knows alot about the Hebrides and it certainly covers alot of already well known links and events i.e. Jura, Orwell, St Kilda story and so forth. Slightly reductionist and a wee bit romantic about some of the history in parts too.

Overall though I really enjoyed it, Bunting's own experience
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I started this book right before my trip to Lewis and finished it on the plane back. It was the perfect companion to my hikes and explorations of Lewis and Harris, helping me make sense of the landscapes unrolling in front of my eyes. Reading this made all the difference for my trip and maybe because I grew so fond of the islands, I grew very fond of this book as well, the two inextricably linked in my memory. For me this book was the ideal mix of facts and descriptions, an erudite unpicking of ...more
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Madeleine was born in North Yorkshire, one of five children of artist parents. She studied history at Corpus Christi, Cambridge and Harvard, US. She held a number positions at the Guardian including reporter, leader writer, religious affairs editor, and for twelve years, she was a columnist. She wrote about a wide range of subjects including Islam, faith, global development, politics and social ch ...more

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