The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot and over 2 million other books are available for Amazon Kindle . Learn more

Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.
Trade in Yours
For a 3.50 Gift Card
Trade in
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

Start reading The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot [Hardcover]

Robert Macfarlane
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
RRP: 20.00
Price: 15.81 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
You Save: 4.19 (21%)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Temporarily out of stock.
Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item.
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition 4.68  
Hardcover 15.81  
Paperback 6.99  
Audio, CD, Audiobook 18.34  
Unknown Binding --  
Audio Download, Unabridged 13.10 or Free with 30-day free trial
Trade In this Item for up to 3.50
Trade in The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot for an gift card of up to 3.50, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Book Description

7 Jun 2012

The Old Ways is the stunning new book by acclaimed nature writer Robert Macfarlane.

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize 2012

In The Old Ways Robert Macfarlane sets off from his Cambridge home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast network of routes criss-crossing the British landscape and its waters, and connecting them to the continents beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt old paths, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, of pilgrimage and ritual, and of songlines and their singers. Above all this is a book about people and place: about walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move.

Told in Macfarlane's distinctive and celebrated voice, the book folds together natural history, cartography, geology, archaeology and literature. His tracks take him from the chalk downs of England to the bird-islands of the Scottish northwest, and from the disputed territories of Palestine to the sacred landscapes of Spain and the Himalayas. Along the way he walks stride for stride with a 5000-year-old man near Liverpool, follows the 'deadliest path in Britain', sails an open boat out into the Atlantic at night, and crosses paths with walkers of many kinds - wanderers, wayfarers, pilgrims, guides, shamans, poets, trespassers and devouts.

He discovers that paths offer not just means of traversing space, but also of feeling, knowing and thinking. The old ways lead us unexpectedly to the new, and the voyage out is always a voyage inwards.

'Really do love it. He has a rare physical intelligence and affords total immersion in place, elements and the passage of time: wonderful' Antony Gormley

'A marvellous marriage of scholarship, imagination and evocation of place. I always feel exhilarated after reading Macfarlane' Penelope Lively

'Macfarlane immerses himself in regions we may have thought familiar, resurrecting them newly potent and sometimes beautifully strange. In a moving achievement, he returns our heritage to us' Colin Thubron

'Every Robert MacFarlane book offers beautiful writing, bold journeys . . . With its global reach and mysterious Sebaldian structure, this is MacFarlane's most important book yet' David Rothenberg, author of Survival of the Beautiful and Thousand Mile Song

'Luminous, possessing a seemingly paradoxical combination of the dream-like and the hyper-vigilant, The Old Ways is, as with all of Macfarlane's work, a magnificent read.Each sentence can carry astonishing discovery' Rick Bass, US novelist and nature writer

'The Old Ways confirms Robert Macfarlane's reputation as one of the most eloquent and observant of contemporary writers about nature' Scotland on Sunday

'Sublime writing . . . sets the imagination tingling . . . Macfarlane's way of writing [is] free, exploratory, rambling and haphazard but resourceful, individual, following his own whims, and laying an irresistible trail for readers to follow' Sunday Times

'Macfarlane relishes wild, as well as old, places.He writes about both beautifully . . . I love to read Macfarlane' John Sutherland, Financial Times

'Read this and it will be impossible to take an unremarkable walk again' Metro

Robert Macfarlane won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award for his first book, Mountains of the Mind (2003). His second, The Wild Places (2007), was similarly celebrated, winning three prizes and being shortlisted for six more. Both books were adapted for television by the BBC. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Frequently Bought Together

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot + The Wild Places + Mountains of the Mind: a History of a Fascination
Price For All Three: 29.79

Some of these items are dispatched sooner than the others.

Buy the selected items together

Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton; First Edition, First Impression edition (7 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241143810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241143810
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Macfarlane's Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination (2003), won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Robert Macfarlane is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He lives in Cambridge with his family.

Product Description


A wonderful book: Macfarlane has a rare physical intelligence, and his writing affords total immersion in place, elements and the passage of time -- Antony Gormley A naturalist who can unfurl a sentence with the breathless ease of a master angler, a writer whose ideas and reach far transcend the physical region he explores The New York Times Book Review [Mountains of the Mind is] a distinguished book that jolted my heart. Adventurous, passionate, intensely romantic ... fizzes with insights -- Roger Deakin A new naturalist to set beside the classics in our literature Evening Standard

About the Author

Robert Macfarlane won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award for his first book, Mountains of the Mind (2003). His second, The Wild Places (2007), was similarly celebrated, winning three prizes and being shortlisted for six more. Both books were adapted for television by the BBC. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
Search inside this book:

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped? 3 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I picked this up (admittedly as the third item in a 3 for 2 deal at a physical bookshop--somehow this review will appear for the kindle edition, though) on the strength of the four pages of eulogistic review extracts at the front, many from writers I respect and have enjoyed.

And I can understand the appeal. One quoted review (from Metro--what difference does that make?) includes, "Read this and it will be impossible to take an unremarkable walk again". I am a sucker for books which aspire to change one's perspective on something. Macfarlane does so aspire, and he is erudite and generally engaging and refreshing. To begin with.

I found the book easy and relaxing to read, notwithstanding the occasionally esoteric vocabulary (there is an interesting glossary, though). But about half-way through, I realised why. It made no demands whatever. There is no argument to follow, there is no narrative to remember, apart perhaps from a few characters who pop up for a chapter early on and then get referred to by name only with no clue as to their role. It is a series of essays--no harm in that--and great to read for an hour, but easy to put down.

Edward Thomas pops up and recedes. (I was interested to learn about his relationship with Robert Frost, and possibly being the seed of "The Road less Traveled", and the impact of that on him in turn pp. 343-4) Interesting, but his role as a kind of "spirit guide" doesn't come off--Macfarlane is too opportunistic in his use of Thomas. He uses him to bolster points, but not to test them.

It washes over one, a warm bath of smug celebration of superior sensitivity.

(I overstate of course. It's just that all these sweet reviews need a little balancing sour!)
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
142 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great work of nature writing (and more) 29 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book completes Robert Macfarlane's trilogy of exploratory works of nature writing. If you are familiar with his previous work, it's worth my saying that in tone and content this is somewhere between The Wild Places and Mountains of the Mind. It is a personal exploration, but also contains a great deal of history and research.

In The Old Ways Macfarlane examines the routes that mark - and in many cases lie submerged within or beneath - the British landscape. And not just the British landscape, but Spain and Palestine too. He draws out the connections between pathways and stories, reflecting on the different kinds of thinking and writing there have been inspired by travelling on foot.

Macfarlane is a lyrical, eloquent writer, whose portfolio of interests encompasses art, geology, map-making, poetry, environmentalism and adventure. As he goes about this he is guided by the spirits of many who have gone before him; perhaps the most significant of these is the poet Edward Thomas, with the artist Eric Ravilious another.

This is both a book about journeys and a journey in its own right - into the past, but also into the self. It is scholarly, informative, moving and thought-provoking. Highly recommended to existing fans, and it will probably create a new fanbase, especially among those who admire really finely crafted writing.
Was this review helpful to you?
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It worked for me .... in the end 15 Jun 2012
To begin with I found this a disapointing read. I expected to be impressed and enthralled - I love mountains, I love walking, and I like erudite writing, but I found this a little difficult to get into. The writing flows, but the contents don't always work. I think this is because Macfarlane quotes from too many different sources, and it seems as if he is wanting to show you all the clever stuff he has read without saying anything himself. If you find this I say persevere, because it settles down and one or two pieces are excellent and moving (especially the penultimate chapter). This is not quite the materpiece it could have been, and whilst a good writer with some excellent passages which just float over you, MacFarlane is occasionally heavy handed. Sometimes he takes you with him, but on other occasions you are a more distant observer. Also, whilst there is a general topic of walking it does not quite hang together as a coherent whole. It is shame in a way, because had more of it been like the end of the book and less like the start and this could have been a masterpiece. However, it is still worth four stars and my criticism is less that it is not good, but not as good as it could have been. I would still recommend it as a pleasing, intellectual and yet generally easy read.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and evocative, but dense reading 29 April 2013
By Mara Greenwood VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book has taken me a good long while to read my way through, mainly because it is so beautifully written but can be quite hard going at times as well! Part travelogue, part history book, part anecdotes, all fascinating, this is a really great book to add to the shelf of anyone with a love for travel and local history, especially where the travelling is done on foot!

Beginning and ending in the UK, the book covers the author's travels through places as diverse as the Icknield Way, the Broomway and Scottish and Hebridean sea travels, all the way over to Israel, Spain and the mountains of Sichuan to name but a few, and is full of musings on the nature of man and mankind and where we intersect with the land, and what walking on the land means to us. A wonderful, moving and lyrical book that really changes your perspective on the world and where you fit into it, and makes you itch to put on your walking boots and reconnect with the land around you.

Highly recommended, but not easy reading - I read a chapter, then mulled it over for a few days, then read another chapter and so on and so forth. Keep a dictionary to hand when you read, and a notebook, because you will almost certainly find references to other authors, historians and poets that you will want to go away and read after this book!
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know
Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful book
A book that will on the shelf, I know I will reread it when I find myself travelling a different path or when I need to get inspiration for a journey.
Published 5 days ago by Melody
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking
Aware inspiring and amazingly well written. So much so that I have no tracked down and purchased his other books.
Published 9 days ago by Granny to Beeeeeeeee
5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a life time! Truly inspiring!!
I am currently studying this book for A level English Literature. It is truly a remarkable book full of wonders! Read more
Published 19 days ago by Bethany Titterington
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much mucking around.
Parts of this book are good, well written and interesting. Then I found myself getting lost and a little bored. Read more
Published 25 days ago by N. A. Osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars engaging
This book is beautifully written, very informative and observant. A lovely book to treasure, read or even just to dip into.
Published 1 month ago by James
4.0 out of 5 stars what a lovely read!
A real joy to read and beautifully written, a real adventure of a book. The author has some really interesting friends!!
Published 1 month ago by Audio303
1.0 out of 5 stars Rambling alright...
Rambling, boring, pretentious drivel. Maybe I missed the point entirely? I must be thick. How anyone could finish this book is beyond me - I'd rather read the yellow pages.
Published 1 month ago by Alan
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep it in your heart forever
After you've read this book, or any book of MacFarlane's for that matter, it will stay in your mind, alter your way of thinking about the world we live in and give you so much to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Christine Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
If you love the outdoors you will love anything by Macfarlane. Beautifully observed and written. His 'Mountains of my Mind' is an absolute classic.
Published 2 months ago by Mr. J. D. Fox
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the book for me
I was bored with this book there was not enough information about the journey and to many historical facts that were of no interest to me. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Moss Cook
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
Why is the Kindle edition more than the paperback? 1 26 Nov 2012
See all discussions...  
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Search Customer Discussions

Look for similar items by category