The Farthest Shore – Alex Roddie

The Farthest Shore: Seeking solitude and nature on the Cape Wrath Trail in winter, by Alex Roddie

In February 2019, award-winning writer Alex Roddie left his online life behind when he set out to walk 300 miles through the Scottish Highlands, seeking solitude and answers. In leaving the chaos of the internet behind for a month, he hoped to learn how it was truly affecting him – or if he should look elsewhere for the causes of his anxiety.

The Farthest Shore is the story of Alex’s solo trek along the remote Cape Wrath Trail. As he journeyed through a vanishing winter, Alex found answers to his questions, learnt the nature of true silence, and discovered frightening evidence of the threats faced by Scotland’s wild mountain landscape.

I’ve long admired Alex Roddie’s writing in the excellent Sidetracked magazine, and picked up the audiobook of The Farthest Shore as part of my Audible subscription this month.

Alex found himself becoming overwhelmed by his digital life – the constant ping of notifications, of emails piling up, and the general chaos that is life on the internet these days. His reaction was somewhat unusual, deciding to take on the 300-mile Cape Wrath Trail from Fort William up to Cape Wrath in the north of Scotland. A fairly arduous journey at the best of times, taking on the route in winter was something else.

Alex decided to start his route not at Fort William, the usual starting point, but at the lighthouse at Ardneamurchan Point, joining up with the route at Glenfinnan and winding north along what is considered to be an extremely challenging, if magnificent hike.

It’s the story of the hike, certainly. It features a lot of mountains, more than a few bothies, damp tents, howling winds, not as much snow as expected, and some fascinating characters that Alex met along the way.

It’s also a muse on modern life, on our constant interconnectedness via the internet, of the slab of glass and electronics that most of us carry around with us day in, day out. It’s about solitude and loneliness, and the effect that climate change is having on our environment.

If I had one niggle, it’s something Alex mentions in the epilogue about how one particular conversation in a bothy late at night came from a distillation of other conversations. It feels like an odd choice to do this, a single off-key note in an otherwise fantastic book.

I listened to the audiobook version, ably narrated by Alex Wingfield. There are a lot of Scottish place names in there, and I can’t comment on how well they’re pronounced!

The Farthest Shore: Seeking solitude and nature on the Cape Wrath Trail in winter, by Alex Roddie, is published by Vertebrate Publishing and is out now.

You can buy a copy direct from Adventure Books here (currently 20% off)

The audiobook is read by Alex Wingfield

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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