MA | PHD | FRGS | FSA (SCOT)
geographical areas covered
My intention as a travel writer and photographer is not to try to visit every country in the world, or even half of them. To do that will probably only make me an expert in how to travel. Instead, I prefer to focus on a limited number of countries, in which I can gain more knowledge and expertise.
I have travelled extensively throughout England, and written
books and features about all the countries notably walking guides to the Lake
District, the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors, Oxfordshire, the Chilterns,
Peak District and the Pennines.
Beyond my home county of Lancashire, my specialist area is
the Lake District about which I have written ‘The Lake Mountains’ (2 volumes),
the ‘Official Guide to the Lake District National Park’, the ‘Towns and
Villages of Cumbria’, and various smaller walking guides. For
some years I was also a voluntary warden with the Lake District National Park.
Although I have walked and travelled extensively around
Scotland my specialist areas are Southern Scotland and the islands. In
particular, as a guidebook writer I focus on the islands of Skye and Mull, and
have produced (with photographer Jon Sparks) ‘The Magic of the Scottish
Islands’. In the 1990s, I produced a walker's guide to the Isle of Skye (now in
its 4th edition), and this was followed up in 2011, with a similar guide to the
Isle of Mull
I have been fortunate to visit most of the inhabited
islands, along with the remote St Kilda, and have a great fondness for Skye and
the Western Isles, which I have been visiting for over forty years.
My first two books were about Wales: ‘The Summits of
Snowdonia’ and ‘The Mountains of Wales’; these two books were revived, in a
sense, with the publication of ‘Great Mountain Days in Snowdonia’ (2010).
For a time I lived and worked in North Wales, where I was
Deputy Town Clerk with Bangor Borough Council, and during this time and for
some years afterwards I was a Voluntary Warden with Snowdonia National Park. My
son and grandson still live on Anglesey, which I visit frequently, naturally.
Isle of Man
I have been visiting the Isle of Man since 1947, when as a
family we spent our holidays there, travelling out on the passenger ships
Later I returned as a journalist, and visited regularly
over the years culminating in a walker’s guide to the island, and a position as
the Director of the Isle of Man Walking Festival, which I pioneered.
The beauty of Ireland came to my attention when first I
attempted to climb the mountains of County Kerry in 1979, and it was
mountaineering and the exquisite landscape and its people that always took me
back, until I got the chance to write a family guide to Ireland. And then I was
all over the place ... enjoying every moment.
I first visited France in 1974, when I went, optimistically,
to climb Mont Blanc (but failed), and I’ve been returning to France ever since,
and now reckon I know most of the country.
I gained an A level in French, and speak passable French (if
you pass quickly). I wrote for Living France magazine on a fairly regular
basis for several years, and found excuses to visit the country repeatedly. My particular fondness
is for Languedoc Roussillon, the Pyrenees and the Loire valley, but I’m happy
to visit any part of France.
For many years I edited the Michelin Green Guides to France (English
language versions), notably the Auvergne, the French Alps, the Chateaux of the
Loire, Paris and Northern France, Provence, Alsace-Lorraine, the Dordogne and
Languedoc Roussillon...and others.
Madeira and the
Madeira and Porto Santo
It was 2003 when I first had a chance to visit Madeira,
doing research for a radio programme with regional BBC. So, when the chance
came to write a narrative guidebook to the islands – including Porto Santo – I
jumped at it.
When my contract with the Isle of Man Walking Festival came
to an end, I was looking for somewhere else to stage a festival. Why not
Madeira? And so, 2008 saw the first Madeira Islands Walking Festival, of which
I was the Director and Project Manager. I subsequently went on to write a narrative travel guide to Madeira.
With the guide to Madeira completed, I was invited to write
a new guide to the Azores, another part of the Portuguese empire, but one that
is less well known, and deserving of greater attention. Many weeks spent flying
around the nine islands were hugely enjoyable and informative. Nine islands;
nine passions; nine ways of life.
My 1967 plans to emigrate to Australia were frustrated, and
it was many years (1998), before I had the chance to visit the country. Love at
first sight is an understatement, and I have returned as often as work would
allow ever since.
I have visited all states, but have a particular fondness
for Western Australia and Tasmania. Perth is my favourite city, closely
followed by Adelaide, and I do think there is something quaintly idiosyncratic
about Canberra, but I can’t find anyone else who shares that view.
Rightly or wrongly, I have climbed Ayers Rock three times,
and have an odd-ball love affair with wacky Alice Springs ... that and
travelling on The Ghan and the Indian-Pacific railways ... not to mention the
wines of McLaren Vale, and the rock lobster at Kalbarri.