Poacher turned preacher

Poacher’s Pilgrimage: An Island Journey
by Alastair McIntosh
(Birlinn, £20)

poacherspilgrimage“Well! Better be getting walking after all this talking,” Alastair McIntosh declares 40 pages into this book. Its frame is a journey in the Outer Hebrides, from the most southerly tip of Harris to the northern Butt of Lewis — a mere 60 miles as the crow flies, but he allows himself 12 days. In truth, there’s more talking than walking to be done.

McIntosh, whose portfolio career includes lecturing to military colleges on non-violence, walks by way of pagan sites and pre-Reformation chapels, immersing himself in “God, war and the faeries”, and musing (pre Chilcot) on how the idea of “‘the just war’ locks religion into an endless identification with violence”.

It’s a stimulating journey but an infuriating one too, partly because of stylistic tics (every “joke” ends in an exclamation mark) and partly because, in a fat and leisurely book, there’s a leaner, livelier one trying to fight its way out.

This review also appeared on Telegraph Travel

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