Book review: Eric Newby – Round Ireland in low gear

This book was recommended to me as a detailed cycle touring book, with the added bonus of being about Ireland, somewhere I know little about, but would love to go cycle touring. Eric Newby was a journalist who published several travel guides, and apparently was asked to write the book. It was first published in 1985, so I expected it to be a bit dated, but was happy to live with that.

I was quite happy when my copy arrived – as I often do when buying books, I bought it second-hand, from World Of Books, a company that is ethical, and does a lot of good.

At this point, I need to divert a bit. Imagine for a moment that, like most people, you’ve never done any cycle touring at all. Would you choose summer, or winter to go touring? I consider myself to be someone with lots of camping experience, who loves cycle touring, but only recently have I started at looking into cycle touring in winter.

The author, however, somehow thought it wise to go cycle touring in Ireland, during winter, with predictable results, ranging from poor weather, to many seasonal businesses being closed.

To be fair to Newby, he and his partner didn’t do a camping tour, but stayed in a mix of B&B’s, rental cottages, and more, but my point stands: unless you have a compelling reason to do so, it really isn’t a good idea to go cycle touring in mid-winter.

As you can tell, I was frustrated by the poor choices Newby had made at the start of their tour. Neither he, nor his partner were experienced cyclists, and he had some, erm, novel ways to prepare – these include beating their Brooks leather saddles with a piece of wood.

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If reading about the build-up to their tour was frustrating, the tour itself was something else altogether. Now, I do like learning about new places, and of course I’d expect a tour guide to tell me about lesser-known points of interest. This book, however, descended into a recount of every church ruin in Ireland, it seems, and I found it mind-numbingly boring.

So much so that I cannot tell you about the ending, as I only managed to force myself to read it halfway before I could take it no more, and put it down. Permanently.

I never thought I’d say these words about any cycle touring book, but my genuine advice is that you avoid reading it. That’s simply an opinion, and we’re all different, with different tastes, so perhaps you’ll enjoy this book, but I’ve never before had a cycle touring book I found so boring, I simply couldn’t finish reading it.

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