Poacher's Pilgrimage - an Island Journey

Poacher's Pimgrimage

16 December 2016

Price: £20

Author: Alastair McIntosh

Publisher: Birlinn

ISBN number: 978 1780273617

In 2009, Alastair McIntosh walked for 12 days from the south of Harris to the butt of Lewis, those beautiful, conjoined islands of the Outer Hebrides.  He mostly camped wild, but this book is far from the traditional long distance walker’s tale of a route travelled, with hardships and high points described with a wry smile. 

The pilgrimage starts from the 15th century St Clement’s Church in south Harris, and passes the renowned Callanish standing stones, bronze age beehive shelters and sites of holy wells known for their healing waters, one of which McIntosh reopens with the blessing of the island’s residents. 

While there are moments of humour as McIntosh struggles with his heavy backpack, Osprey, or sloshes through peat bogs in pouring rain and mist, this is more the description of a journey made from within.  Published seven years after the event, the landscape McIntosh passes through is a framework on which to hang a wide range of inner musings, on history and culture, on war and non-violence, and also on the nature of religion, faith and spirituality and how these are embedded in the traditions of these islands. 

Living as we are in tumultuous times, this book serves as a reminder of our connection with the land and the way it shapes our lives and beliefs, giving solace and comfort.  This connection is often well hidden but perhaps needed now more than ever as we struggle to make sense of the world and the choices we make as a society. Helen Todd