‘Jeddah from the sea’— sketch by Thomas Machell in one of his journals

A Victorian sailor is the new love of my life

27 June 2015 9:00 am

Jenny Balfour Paul is an indigo dye expert. She has written two books on the subject, and lectures around the…

Bridge on the 3,798-metre-high Baroghil Pass, leading from Badakhshan in Afghanistan to northern Pakistan

The powerful steppe empires of Central Asia were bound together by silken thread

13 December 2014 9:00 am

It is difficult to fault this remarkable volume. The publishers have created a book of quality with stunning illustrations and…

Michael Palin performs on the closing night of 'Monty Python Live (Mostly)'

The hell of being Michael Palin

4 October 2014 9:00 am

In these diaries, which I found excellent in a very specific way, Michael Palin tells us about his life between…

St Enodoc Church overlooking St Enodoc golf course and the sea beyond, Rock, Cornwall. John Betjeman lies buried in the graveyard

The ultimate guide to Cornwall

19 July 2014 9:00 am

Before writing this review I spent an hour looking for my original Pevsner paperback on Cornwall, published in 1951 (the…

Lake Lucerne Photo: Davide Seddo/Getty

The nervous passenger who became one of our great travel writers

12 July 2014 9:00 am

Sybille Bedford all her life was a keen and courageous traveller. Restless, curious, intellectually alert, she was always ready to…

Colonel James Tod, travelling by elephant through Rajasthan with his cavalry and sepoys (Indian school, 18th century)

From Scylax to the Beatles: the West's lust for India

7 June 2014 9:00 am

Peter Parker on the age-old allure of the Indian subcontinent

John Burnside Photo: Getty

My desert island poet

31 May 2014 9:00 am

If I had to be marooned on a desert island with a stranger, that stranger would be John Burnside. Not…

The Edith Maersk in the Suez Canal, October 2012

What seamen fear more than Somali pirates

1 February 2014 9:00 am

If a time traveller were to arrive in our world from, say, 1514 — a neat half-millennium away — what…

American beat poet Allen Ginsberg Photo: Getty

American Smoke, by Iain Sinclair - review

23 November 2013 9:00 am

If you have read Iain Sinclair’s books you will know that he is a stylist with a love of language.…

W H Auden (Photo: H V Drees/Getty Images)

What would Auden have deemed evil in our time? European jingoism

9 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Goodbye to the Mezzogiorno’ was the first Auden poem that Alexander McCall Smith read in his youth. He discovered it…

Wall-painting in San Isidoro of a shepherd

Christopher Howse takes the slow train in Spain — and writes a classic

2 November 2013 9:00 am

This is probably not a book for those whose interest in Spain gravitates towards such contemporary phenomena as the films…

Ullswater towards Helvellyn, where Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud

England’s 100 best Views, by Simon Jenkins - review

5 October 2013 9:00 am

Sam Leith is transported by the finest scenery in England

Ruin near Kelso, Mojave Desert, California

Walking in Ruins, by Geoff Nicholson - review

5 October 2013 9:00 am

Geoff Nicholson is the Maharajah of Melancholy. The quality was there in his novels, it was there in his non-fiction…

Move Along, Please, by Mark Mason - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

Mrs Thatcher was widely believed to have said that ‘any man over the age of 26 who finds himself on…

Island, by J. Edward Chamberlin - review

10 August 2013 9:00 am

‘Tom Island’ — that was the name I was given once by a girl I met on an island in…

The Last Train to Zona Verde, by Paul Theroux - review

1 June 2013 9:00 am

Paul Theroux has produced some of the best travel books of the past 50 years, and some of the lamest.…

Road to ruins

21 April 2012 11:00 am

This is a delightful book, nostalgic, slyly witty, perceptive and at times flirting — deliberately — with old fogeyism. Tom…


Inflated dreams

17 March 2012 10:00 am

When almost every tale about the Arctic has been told, when the major explorers have been assessed and re-assessed, when…

Africa’s excesses

17 March 2012 9:00 am

There are an awful lot of prostitutes in Africa and most of them seem to pass through the pages of…


A paralysed landscape

10 March 2012 11:00 am

‘Very, very, very sexy’, a field-researcher scratches in his Antarctic notebook. He is describing a meteorite the size of a…

Still roughing it

7 January 2012 10:00 am

We are all tourists now, and there is no escape. The first thing we see as we jet round the…

Not for sissies

3 December 2011 11:00 am

Nigeria is not exactly a tourist destination. A colleague chortles over the memory of trying to wangle his way in…

Rumbled in the jungle

26 November 2011 11:00 am

This book is a mess. Simon Mann may have been brought up on John Buchan, educated at Eton and Sandhurst,…

The call of the wild

27 August 2011 10:00 am

Christopher Ondaatje is best known as a member of the great and the good and a generous patron of the arts, notably the National Portrait Gallery. The pieces collected in this book give glimpses of another, quite different life as a traveller and writer.

A well-told lie

13 August 2011 12:00 am

Michael Ondaatje takes a journey into childhood