Review published on February 19, 2017.
In the fallout from Brexit, the only land border between the UK and Europe will be between 300 miles along the porous border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This line, once staffed by soldiers and checkpoints, had started to fade back into obscurity as the tensions and anger from the decades of Troubles eased and dissipated. Garrett Carr decided to walk and canoe along this border, to get a sense of the state of these nations and discover more about the people and places. The areas he walks through are lightly populated with the odd farm and some villages and towns. Some of the people he meets on his journey are friendly and welcoming, others suspicious and reserved, a hangover from times past. It is a beautiful part of the world, full of ancient monuments, crannogs, ruined forts and the relics of recent history, checkpoints and damaged bridges, illegal border crossing points and observation points.
The book is a lovely blend of ancient history, contemporary issues and, of course, travel. Carr touches lightly on the Troubles, reporting incidents and events of atrocities as he passes where they took place; he does not judge either side, leaving us to wonder about the point of some of the most cruel events. Whilst peace has returned to the region, people are still sensitive about the past. Carr is an eloquent and lyrical writer, which makes this book a pleasure to read as he takes us through this liminal borderland. He includes a great selection of photos taken throughout his walk of significant and interesting features. As well as that, the maps are probably the best I have seen in any travel book, ever, but you’d expect that given his background. It is a significant book about this country and I can highly recommend it.
Paul Cheney 4/3
The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border by Garrett Carr
Faber & Faber 9780571313358 pbk Feb 2017
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