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Journey Through Britain

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  136 ratings  ·  31 reviews
An account of an eleven hundred mile walk from Land's End to John O'Groats by one of the world's greatest walkers. ...more
Unknown Binding, 238 pages
Published January 1st 1970 by Paladin Press (first published July 1968)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  136 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My absolute all-time favourite book. An account of a walk along the length of the mainland, told without pretension and with much warmth and humour. Hillaby's walk books are all superb but for me this stands out as the best; find yourself a copy and then lose yourself amongst Hillaby's tales of long trudges, cold nights and warm folk. ...more
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the classic volume on the art of walking (well, not really the art: Hillaby thought it was a natural function). For those who cannot remember the last time they walked to a corner store, the prospect of actually walking the length of Britain (not one of the world's longer islands!) may be somewhat daunting. So sit back and let Hillaby tell you what you are missing.

I suppose if there is one thing to lament about North America, it's the culture of the automobile with its concomitant health
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, british-isles
A first class walk through Britain from Cornwall to Caithness, through wild and tame, friendly and unfriendly, by a good man and a reliable guide. Worth reading for the story, the adventure, the achievement, the revelations, the fact that is preserves the rural side of 1968 Britain in well-chosen words and a whole host of other reasons.

Read it. It's good.
Rebecca Wilson
I decided to read this book because Rebecca Solnit mentions it in Wanderlust. It has turned out to be an excellent book for 2020, gentle and mildly humorous, glancingly educational but not at all self-serious: a man goes on a long walk (this was before through-hiking was a thing). It took me about as long to read this as it took Hillaby to walk the length of Britain because it is the best bedtime book, a perfect cure for quarantine insomnia.
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Nicholas Crane
Here is a traveller, a walker, who can really write. Hillaby revels in the pleasure (fear at times) of journeying at a pace which enables him to observe the landscapes and communities which he travels through. Unmatched by car, bus, train, (or, nowadays, battery powered mobility scooter), walking (or cycling) requires the expenditure of human effort; both in the planning and in event. Walking has always enabled the explorer to reach landscapes and places both rare and ordinary, inaccessible to t ...more
Oct 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
I think this book is unique in that both my father and my father-in-law owned, indeed its one of the few books I can actually remember my father reading. Given that I've just finally read Kerouac I'm tempted to call it 'Off the Road' as the author avoids roads wherever possible. But I wouldn't want to belittle the author's achievement, for this is an uninterrupted walk through some of Britain's more remote places, which treats the Pennine Way as a mere interlude. Its also an portrait in snapshot ...more
Jul 17, 2020 rated it liked it
For me, a book of two halves. Until Yorkshire, I felt the book somewhat flat, dry, quite negative (probably partly due to the inevitable bad weather), and hard to get through. It didn't make me want to visit anywhere he'd been. From Yorkshire north, though, there seemed to me to be more interesting parts; it felt more upbeat in places, and I actually noted some things down for future travel myself. This second half pushed my rating up to three stars. ...more
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Five stars may be a little generous but as this book is from the late 1960's and still reads well and was gripping, at times funny and always interesting maybe not.

Great book.
R. G. Nairam
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: uk
I wish I was smart enough or chill enough to have enjoyed this, but...not really.

I think the main thing is that I'm a pretty visual person and reading descriptions of landscapes is just not going to work very well for me. Especially as I don't know the names of a lot of flowers and underbrush. Sometimes I got a bit of an idea. Some anecdotes were enjoyable and some of the history interesting. It was pretty well-written and quite possibly very informative for someone hoping to walk in Britain (at
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book and achievement. Although he did this journey more than 40 years ago it reads as fresh as if he did it yesterday. I think he must have been quite a character. His descriptions of landscape, geology, botany and history are excellent. Thanks to John Law for recommending this
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
great descriptive tour through England on foot.
Martin Allen
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Could almost say definitive account of a walking travelogue, this is John Hillaby’s walk from Lands End to John O’Groats in the late 1960s. Not pretentious with the oft-overused swirl of descriptors and, for me, the anathema of spirituality you get in some modern travelogue writing; it’s largely perfunctory, describing what happens each day and, what he sees, experiences and who he meets as he makes his way through 15 chapters, but adding just enough colour here and there along the journey to br ...more
Patricia Bracewell
Jul 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Published in 1968, this book documents Hillaby's walk from Land's End in Cornwall to John O'Groats in Scotland. He was 50 years old when he did it, and it took him 55 days. He avoided roads like the plague, sticking as much as he could to footpaths, drove roads and ancient byways. That in itself made the book worth reading, and I'm glad that I did.

He is a good writer, but I wished for more drama as I was reading. I think he experienced drama, for sure, but he did not convey the emotional turmoil
Norman Hartley
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A travel book I read and re-read. I bought my first serious pair of walking shoes after reading it when it was first published. It opened my eyes to just how much you can see and appreciate on a simple walk. There is no need to be a thirty mile a day athlete to enjoy it. Hillaby shows how you can get pleasure from a simple ramble as well as a long distance hike. Beautifully written, it blends natural observation, history, folklore, personal anecdote and illuminating portraits of ordinary people.
Anthony Peter
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I've recently decided that travel and biography are the books that I prefer as bedtime reading. This was one of them, John Hillaby's narrative of his walk from Land's End to John O'Groats in 1967(?).

I found it a bit dispiriting as he encounters so much rain and takes routes which lead him through pathless or badly signposted ways, and he frequently experiences low spirits. (He's also wearing footwear that seems ridiculously inappropriate.) The only occasion I remember when he gets seriously chee
Jul 26, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This review is posted more than 40 years after reading it, but I still remember it fondly. It inspired me to walk, on my own, long distances. Others have commented on Hillaby's lack of organization and what today would be no doubt called "logistical backup", and I remember being a little suprised at his lack of planning myself at the time, particularly as at about the same age I read Sir Francis Chichester's round-the-world trip in Gypsy Moth IV, Robin Knox-Johnson's then Chay Blyth's 1971 trip ...more
Mark Probert
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My favourite book ever. I have read it several times, and it always brings a contented smile to my face. His powers of description make you feel you're there, and he supplements his personal experience with interesting facts about the geology, archaeology and social history of the places through which he travels. You get the impression that it was hard going at times, especially over Dartmoor and through parts of the Highlands (well, it would be, wouldn't it?!) but his adventure is told with sub ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book by the naturalist and walker John Hillaby, first published in 1968, recounts the important highlights and observations he made during 55 hard days walking from Lands End to John O'Groats. Hillaby has presented us with a social and natural history of the Britain he passed through. The joy and hardship of long distance walking, the many characters met, and those stories that must be told, leap from the pages. The late John Hillaby is a legendary figure among walkers, but this book will d ...more
Reread at the end of the year of no travel when armchair travel esp engaging. Read over several months (picked up and put down), a nice way to experience it. The Scotland section read after had embarked on virtual tour of the Shetland Islands, which made the Highlands section more meaningful.

He had a very difficult and strenuous time, but communicates something lovely about the experience of the Quest!

Kenneth Wright
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the days of future passed with your toe nails dropping off!
Jan 21, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Very nice indeed.
Chiefdonkey Bradey
Mar 09, 2022 rated it it was amazing
The orchard in Melrose - the rain falling on Llanthony Priory - the dark sky above Glencoe - they came back to me in memory - I must reach for my maps - northern skies still call me
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book as much as most of the other reviewers, but I found the author elusive. Considering the amount of time he spent walking alone, he doesn't share as much about himself as I'd expect. He also spent a fair amount of time at pubs to refuel when he could, where he must have talked to people, yet most of them remain hidden or briefly noted. Other reviewers have commented that he doesn't go into detail about how difficult this walk must have been. He mentions broken toenails, ...more
P.J. Sullivan
John Hillaby walked from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland, averaging twenty miles per day. This book tells of his encounters with people along the way, with policemen and hostile dogs, with flora and fauna, with good and bad weather. It is about blisters and lost toenails. It is about suspicious locals and “heart-warming hospitality.” It is about deserted villages and getting lost in the “sterilized grandeur” of “the dead vast.” Rich with social commentary, subtle humor, and interest ...more
Grim-Anal King
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hillaby's planning seems shambolic compared with contemporary long distance walkers but of course at this point it has all been done before: we can read numerous books of this ilk and learn from the authors' mistakes. This does serve as an interesting guide to Britain in the sixties, presumably more accurate than the usual swinging Londoncentric cliche. It's a good tale although one wonders how much exaggeration is employed. Did he really storm along at 4mph with tent and all? ...more
Jill Hill
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is my favourite book. It is the book I read in times of trouble, when I need inspiring, when I want to rediscover joy. It's a deceptively simple narrative about a long distance walk from Land's End to John o Groats. John Hillaby was a naturalist, a wonderfully knowledgeable observer with a wry sense of humour and an enthusiasm for life. And he writes well. ...more
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hiking, 2013
John Hillaby is one of my favourite travel writers, his prose is excellent and descriptions lean and entertaining. This book is an account of his walk from Land's End to John O'Groats in the early 70s.

As a writer I really can't recommend him highly enough.
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wonderfully descriptive tale of a walk across the UK.
Cary O'Donnell
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Inspirational. Although it took a few years after reading this book to find the time, I did it myself.
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4 followers written by Douglas Matthews:

Pedestrian was the last word to apply to John Hillaby, though he has been called the most celebrated pedestrian in England. Yet like his contemporaries, Clive Wainwright and Wilfred Thesiger, he was admired as much by armchair idlers as by the serious walking fraternity. Whether pacing rapidly through the streets of London or acr

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