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Beyond Belfast: A 560 Mile Journey Across Northern Ireland On Sore Feet
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Beyond Belfast: A 560 Mile Journey Across Northern Ireland On Sore Feet

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  515 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Offbeat, charming, and filled with humour and insight, Beyond Belfast is the story of one man’s misguided attempt at walking the Ulster Way, “the longest waymarked trail in the British Isles.” It’s a journey that takes Will Ferguson through the small towns and half-forgotten villages of Northern Ireland, along rugged coastlines and across barren moorland heights, past crum ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Viking
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Nov 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have read more than a few travel books and I have loved several. They must all now move down a notch. Beyond Belfast is the best, and very easy to rate five-star.
It is funny, original, and I loved every page. I started marking off interesting or amusing phrases but gave up as there were just too many. Many times I stopped reading, smiled, shook my head and asked “how did he come up with that description?” I am sure I could open it up at any page and find something that would please me to read
Feb 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
As far as travel biographies go, this one is better than most I have read. Likely because Ferguson uses humour and many Canadian references to keep the writing fresh. The country in question also kept me interested as I absolutely adore Ireland and could identify with pretty much every situation he experienced while on the Emerald Isle. Ferguson has a vast knowledge of Irish history which he is quick to show with his description of every town he visits. Reading this book took me right back to Ir ...more
I guess I should start this review off with a confession: I know almost nothing about Irish history. Even the recent events. And considering how heavily the conflicts are woven into Beyond Belfast, this lack put me at a disadvantage for following parts of the story. I kept wishing for a map and a history book to add background. The way that Ferguson weaves the bombings, violence, and the ingrained bitterness into his walk through Northern Ireland wasn't at all what I was expecting when I picked ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, ireland
This was just what I was looking to read in anticipation of a trip to Northern Ireland, though I have no intention whatsoever of walking more than a few miles on the Ulster Way. Canadian humorist Will Ferguson undertook to walk the whole thing in . . . now I can't find a reference to the year, but I get the sense it was the fall of around 2005 or 2006, not so many years after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement established a peace that was still rather fraught. He works a pretty good political and cu ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
In August we went to Florence and did the Uffizi and Galleria dell'Accademia in one day. At the beginning of the day, there was a lot of awe and joy, so much beautiful art to look at. By the end of the day, it was impossible to avoid thinking "ahhhhh not another beautiful painting! Too much!" Beyond Belfast is that feeling in book form.

I loved Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw and Will Ferguson is no doubt a talented humorist. He has won and/or been shortlisted for pretty much every Leacock award avail
Jun 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I love Will Ferguson’s travel memoir writing style, but walking the Ulster Way in Northern Ireland mostly involved slogging through rain from one grungy bar to the next. No amount of wit could make it feel interesting after 300 pages.
Eric B. Kennedy
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ireland
In "Beyond Belfast," Will Ferguson recounts his trip around the Ulster Way, a long-distance hiking trail that roughly follows the perimeter of Northern Ireland. It turns out that "trail" is a bit of a misnomer, as the actual path cuts across plenty of private land, through various impassable bogs, and empties into the middle of highways without much direction. Such is the life, I suppose?

The journey, of course, is actually one of the The Troubles. It's an exploration by foot of significant sites
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I met Will Ferguson a couple of weeks ago at an Author's event. He is a funny and talented writer. I've read a number of his books and thoroughly enjoyed each one. They are all so different from each other. This is travel book in which he takes the reader along with him as he walks The Ulster Way in Northern Ireland.

Even though a visit to Ireland is on my bucket list, the constant rain and soggy conditions certainly put a damper on my excitement to make that visit.

This is a travel book much like
Aug 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Gypsysmom lent me this book from her permanent collection and it sounded so good I started reading it almost right away, appropriately on St. Patrick’s Day. How could I resist a book by an author described as a Canadian Bill Bryson?! This was supposed to be funny and I was in need of a few laughs. And I did laugh – out loud on several occasions. (Having spent quite a bit of time in the UK, I am always highly amused by cold toast jokes). As well as making me laugh, the book also made me shake my ...more
Jul 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-writing, own
I wanted to love this book, but it's the first Will Ferguson book that I've read and have not loved. I think that its major weakness was the length and structure. The material was interesting and the stories were interesting on their own, but I would have preferred fewer anecdotes told in greater depth. I didn't need to hear about every single day of his hike, every single village he passed through. I really liked the ending, when he took time to explore his own family and his history, and I wis ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars

Will Ferguson set out to walk along the Ulster Way in Northern Ireland, starting and ending in Belfast. The trail was meant to follow all around N. Ireland, but as Will found out, there were plenty of places where the trail seemed nonexistent. Ferguson’s grandfather originally came from Belfast, but Will was trying to dig deeper into his mysterious history. While he was in Ireland, he thought he’d also do some investigating into his orphaned grandfather’s past.

The majority of the book
Alyssa Faubert
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes of enjoying this book, so I ended up disappointed - I could give it three stars, but the overall tone of the book often felt negative and sad, as the author often focused on the division of Protestant/Catholic communities, and the violence between them. To be fair, it was likely how his experience felt while hiking - and it is an important part of the history- but it just brought a negative vibe to the story. I enjoyed the ending, and the authors personal link with finding some ...more
Melanie Baker
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Normally I quite enjoy Ferguson's work, and his other travel books provided at least a few LOLs. But this I just found... boring. Ireland is stunning, but that can only be communicated so well in text. Same with the more slapstick aspects of his trip. Kinda have to be seen, rather than read, I think. Plus, as I've experienced myself in assorted countries, a lot of it is very much the same. Hard to distinguish and even harder to spin into interesting stories. The family history was interesting, b ...more
Tracie Taylor
Mar 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
I loved this book and can't wait to visit Ulster in about 18 months from now!

It's a really well-written book about Ferguson's many adventures in Ulster - as you read it, it is easy to imagine that you are right there with him as he gets caught on a fence, almost falls into the ocean or has to deal with a couple of annoying fellow travellers...even better than inspiring me to go, it's a book that I know I'll read again and again...right now, I'm passing it along to my mom!
Enjoying the banter and craic of Canadian Will Ferguson's humourous memoir of his hike across N Ireland.. contains much historical info enroute including political background. I've gained a much broader understanding of the world of Ireland, thanks to Will.

Looked forward to his return to familial Irish roots in 2nd part of book..
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found this book in a lovely used book store in Sydney, BC. My hope was I’d get lost in it during summer vacation - it did not disappoint! Funny, emotional, real and insightful. Great way to experience Northern Ireland from the ground, and a breathe of fresh air from the depictions found in movies about the people of Ulster. Great read!
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read while visiting relatives in Northern Ireland. Insightful observations on the political situation in Ireland and the inhabitants thereof. Good read for a NI holiday.
Jenna (Falling Letters)
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, 2011
Originally posted 7 January 2011 on Falling Letters.


Will Ferguson is a Canadian author known for his books about his travels and about Canadians. The aspect of Ferguson's books I love most is the way he can blend humour and serious reflection (that's the best way I can think of to describe it...). There were plenty of sentences that made me grin while I was reading and there were plenty of sentences that made me feel distraught and melancholic. One reviewer had it right: 'Like Bryson, Ferguso
Apr 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
Admitedly, I'm a real sucker for travel writing and when I heard Will Ferguson on CBC talking about walking the Ulster Way in Northern Ireland I knew I'd this book would jump the bedside table queue. That interview impressed me with a single message: No one should walk the Ulster Way, ever.

I'm loving this read. It's so nice to pick up at the end of the day and travel along with him. Will really captures the people of Ulster fantastically (my favourite bit? No Ulsterman can resist a cranky Americ
Tony Maxwell
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ulster in the Rain! Beyond Belfast by Will Ferguson

I had never heard of Will Ferguson until he won the Giller Prize! Imagine my surprise (and delight) to discover he actually attended the same high school here in little old Red Deer as my son Brad. Though a few years earlier I might add.

Planning to read his award winning novel, 419, I checked out his Amazon page and came across one of his earlier works, "Beyond Belfast." Being a fan of any walking tour that includes humourous asides, a la Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson, I o
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Some authors write history books, some write travel narratives, others write books of humor, but author Will Ferguson, combines them all into his travel books. As good as Hitching Rides with Buddha was telling the story of the authors hitch hiking odyssey from the south of Japan, all the way to the very north end, Beyond Belfast is even better! A 560 mile walk around Northern Ireland, encompassing as much of the geography, the people, the history and the culture as is possible. The author does h ...more
Jan 16, 2011 rated it liked it
For those who enjoy hiking, this is quite an interesting trek. Will Ferguson is a good writer. He circled Northern Ireland by foot, giving us a lesson on history, conflicts, politics and the essential back-in-time sequence searching for his roots. The pubs entered along the trail are described with the approach of a visitor meeting the locals with suspecting looks until the pressure evaporates when they found out that he's a peaceful Canadian desperately in need of a refreshing beer. There is mo ...more
Lindsay Nichols
Normally, I like Will Ferguson. I like his writing. Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw is a good book, full of neat little tidbits and tales. Happiness(tm) is one of my favourite books - funny, poignant and just plain good.

Beyond Belfast is not one of his better outings.

The premise is a good one - walk the Ulster Way, the longest waymarked trail in the world. Trek around Northern Ireland, learn about the people, the Troubles, and about family. Seems like a good idea. And it worked quite well for Hitchin
Nov 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I think this book is really a 2.5 star (I am feeling generous- hence the 3), as I only really half like it. I thought I would love this book- as I have done a bit of walking on the Emerald Isle myself. However- I just found it too long and detailed. I wish Ferguson would have wrote about the highlights of his Ulster walk, several pages on every single village, farm, pub, and bull he came across. It became quite repetitive. It also bothered me (though I'm not sure why) that he walked this walk ne ...more
Scott Harris
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a fun read that provides an honest account of Ferguson's trek across the counties that form Ulster. A wonderful mix of travel writing, genealogical reflection, and cultural observation. For a hiking book, Ferguson leaves little doubt about the painfulness of that process but was able nevertheless to make me wonder where I needed to go for my "big hike". From a family history angle, it has the common bitter sweet aspects of adventurous mystery culminating in incomplete connections and a b ...more
Jun 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel-adventure
There were parts of this book I really liked and parts I couldn't stand. It's not the writing. I think Ferguson is an excellent writer; many phrases made me stop in appreciation. It was the sheer pointless boredom of reading about him slogging through yet another mud pile or cow pat or hearing about another ascent of a slippery wet mountain. It may have impressed him as an accomplishment but it bored me silly and made me wonder why he had to do it and why I had to read about it. Interspersed wit ...more
Jane McGaughey
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Simply put, I think this is the best book I have read about Ireland in a long time... perhaps ever. I lost track of how many times I laughed out loud or nodded in total agreement (especially whenever Ferguson mentioned anything about the weather). I'm a walker -- hiking involves more cliffs and/or vertical aspects than I usually encounter -- and so I was intrigued about the Ulster Way when I read the dust jacket. I very quickly changed my mind on that one -- probably by about page 15 -- but fo
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it
"It's been said we don't remember days, we remember moments" (p.349). This book is a collection of Will Ferguson's moments as he walked the Ulster Trail, a 560-mile journey across the many counties and divides of Northern Ireland.

At times upon reading I was reminded of my own experiences when traveling in Northern Ireland. But more often than not, the book reminded me that moments, whether our own or those borrowed from others, inspire us and help us remember. My moments, upon crossing the same
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this story of Will Ferguson's trek through Northern Ireland. Infused with dry humour and stories of interesting people, the book is also full of insights and explanations of the Troubles of Northern Ireland. I have never understood the roots of the unrest there, and why it has dragged on for centuries. The author was also puzzled by some of the things he experienced and saw, so I know I'm not alone in my confusion. This book really helped me understand the complicated history a ...more
Mar 07, 2010 rated it liked it
As a traveller, Ferguson was strangely ineffective: he saw next to no one on the path, constantly got lost and was continually complaining, and met nearly no one even in the villages he stayed. His self-deprecating remarks seemed to have a point: yes, Will, you do seem a bit of a loser on this trip. However, the book was oddly compelling. I read the whole thing even as I was thinking this trip is a disaster -- not a capital D disaster like "Into Thin Air", but more like the megatrip you've saved ...more
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Will Ferguson is an award-winning travel writer and novelist. His last work of fiction, 419, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He has won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour a record-tying three times and has been nominated for both the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. His new novel, The Shoe on the Roof, will be released October 17, 2017. Visit him at ...more

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