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Walking With Plato: A Philosophical Hike Through the British Isles

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“If one keeps on walking, everything will be alright.” So said Danish writer Søren Kierkegaard, and so thought philosophy buff Gary Hayden as he set off on Britain’s most challenging trek: to walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End. But it wasn’t all quaint country lanes, picture-postcard villages and cosy bed and breakfasts. In this humorous, inspiring and delightfully Bri “If one keeps on walking, everything will be alright.” So said Danish writer Søren Kierkegaard, and so thought philosophy buff Gary Hayden as he set off on Britain’s most challenging trek: to walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End. But it wasn’t all quaint country lanes, picture-postcard villages and cosy bed and breakfasts. In this humorous, inspiring and delightfully British tale, Gary finds solitude and weary limbs bring him closer to the wisdom of the world’s greatest thinkers. Recalling Rousseau’s reverie, Bertrand Russell’s misery, Plato’s love of beauty and Epicurus’ joy in simplicity, Walking with Plato offers a breath of fresh, country air and clarity for anyone craving an escape from the humdrum of everyday life.


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“If one keeps on walking, everything will be alright.” So said Danish writer Søren Kierkegaard, and so thought philosophy buff Gary Hayden as he set off on Britain’s most challenging trek: to walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End. But it wasn’t all quaint country lanes, picture-postcard villages and cosy bed and breakfasts. In this humorous, inspiring and delightfully Bri “If one keeps on walking, everything will be alright.” So said Danish writer Søren Kierkegaard, and so thought philosophy buff Gary Hayden as he set off on Britain’s most challenging trek: to walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End. But it wasn’t all quaint country lanes, picture-postcard villages and cosy bed and breakfasts. In this humorous, inspiring and delightfully British tale, Gary finds solitude and weary limbs bring him closer to the wisdom of the world’s greatest thinkers. Recalling Rousseau’s reverie, Bertrand Russell’s misery, Plato’s love of beauty and Epicurus’ joy in simplicity, Walking with Plato offers a breath of fresh, country air and clarity for anyone craving an escape from the humdrum of everyday life.

30 review for Walking With Plato: A Philosophical Hike Through the British Isles

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gary Hayden

    I wrote this book, and so can't really comment on it. I wrote this book, and so can't really comment on it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

    Usually, I run screaming from anything to do with "philosophy" - just ... ugh! But, as the book was small, I decided to look through it at the library, liking the passages I read. There's philosophy, but it's occasional and relatable; whenever Hayden does use a quote, he's applying it to a situation encountered on his travels. Only at one point did I ever feel even slightly bogged down. The book is primarily a travel journal featuring highlights of the couple's journey, though not at all a "Dear Usually, I run screaming from anything to do with "philosophy" - just ... ugh! But, as the book was small, I decided to look through it at the library, liking the passages I read. There's philosophy, but it's occasional and relatable; whenever Hayden does use a quote, he's applying it to a situation encountered on his travels. Only at one point did I ever feel even slightly bogged down. The book is primarily a travel journal featuring highlights of the couple's journey, though not at all a "Dear Diary" (entry-by-entry) approach. I'm giving the book five stars as he's sharing the experience as one might with a friend. The first part was rather grueling for them, so fit in well with Max Frankl's "Always Have a Goal" philosophy discussed later in the book. Another point he raises has to do with just being in the moment, letting the experience happen, rather than trying to concentrate on, and remember, all sorts of details. Rather than my going on more about it, if you think it sounds interesting, you should like it as much as I did ... unless you come away feeling there wasn't enough philosophy. In that case, you're excused. Otherwise, Highly Recommended!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Yasza

    What a precious little book. While walking miles and miles across Britain together with his wife, Gary Hayden reflects on his life and life in general basing on words of different philosophers. Issues he talks about are 100% obvious, but nonetheless important. Too often we forget to think about the simplest pleasures of life, forget to be happy while pursuing happiness. There are so many wonderful things and places around us which we fail to notice due to the modern way of living. People have cea What a precious little book. While walking miles and miles across Britain together with his wife, Gary Hayden reflects on his life and life in general basing on words of different philosophers. Issues he talks about are 100% obvious, but nonetheless important. Too often we forget to think about the simplest pleasures of life, forget to be happy while pursuing happiness. There are so many wonderful things and places around us which we fail to notice due to the modern way of living. People have ceased to enjoy, as Hayden says, “simply being”, and I absolutely agree with him. Tons of information and too many of other people’s opinions stop us from being ourselves and living in harmony. I found it a very heart warming, calming and inspiring read. Enjoyed it immensely but wished it was 5 times longer. Highly recommended, especially if you feel down and need some encouragement to carry on.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Egbert

    If I were a wee bit younger and healthier, I could see myself yearning to make the trek that this author and his wife made, the End to End walk from tip to tip of Britain. I am not able to do any such thing but I did appreciate reliving the journey through this delightful read. It is quintessentially British in its understated approach and I loved every minute of the book. The philosophy that he threads through the entire journey is the icing on the cake. Again, there are far too many quotes for If I were a wee bit younger and healthier, I could see myself yearning to make the trek that this author and his wife made, the End to End walk from tip to tip of Britain. I am not able to do any such thing but I did appreciate reliving the journey through this delightful read. It is quintessentially British in its understated approach and I loved every minute of the book. The philosophy that he threads through the entire journey is the icing on the cake. Again, there are far too many quotes for me to list all that I appreciated, so I will just leave you with one concerning Plato that I Just loved. "Plato believed that we humans have a dual nature, that we are bodies and minds. And he believed that we can only reach our potential - we can only become the best of ourselves - when our two natures are, as it were, pulling together."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shivam Chaturvedi

    Doesnt happen often that one comes across a book that somehow perfectly captures the essence of what is going on in your life at that point of time. It happened to me last year in October, reading Ivan Turgenev's First Love and it has happened once again reading this book. Funnily, I came across this book randomly browsing through the bookshelves of Columbia University's bookstore, and the title and book cover just caught my attention, nestled amongst the great works of Kierkegaard, Sartre, A Doesnt happen often that one comes across a book that somehow perfectly captures the essence of what is going on in your life at that point of time. It happened to me last year in October, reading Ivan Turgenev's First Love and it has happened once again reading this book. Funnily, I came across this book randomly browsing through the bookshelves of Columbia University's bookstore, and the title and book cover just caught my attention, nestled amongst the great works of Kierkegaard, Sartre, Aristotle and Cicero. It was similar with First Love too, just that I had been randomly browsing the bookshelves of Project Gutenberg that day. In essence, Walking with Plato is not a great work of literature or philosophy, as much as a breezy stroll through a riverside park is nothing like a marathon. But it is a delightful reminder of simpler things in life, and why we should all take it easy sometimes - both with our thoughts and the books we read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elif

    What a delightful book! I don’t even remember when or why I bought it but I’m so glad I did. Enjoyed every page. English: https://elifthereader.com/books/walki... Türkçe: https://kitaplikkedisi.com/kitaplar/w... What a delightful book! I don’t even remember when or why I bought it but I’m so glad I did. Enjoyed every page. English: https://elifthereader.com/books/walki... Türkçe: https://kitaplikkedisi.com/kitaplar/w...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Walking with Plato by Gary Hayden is a highly recommended walking tour of Great Britain, with philosophical pondering shared along the way. Hayden and Wendy, his wife, decided to do a three month "End-to-End" walking tour from the northeastern tip of Scotland to the southwestern tip of England. They started in John o'Groats and made their way to Land's End (JoGLE), a 1,200-mile trek, enduring blisters, sore backs and feet, and weather along the way. The eight chapters list the towns they went thr Walking with Plato by Gary Hayden is a highly recommended walking tour of Great Britain, with philosophical pondering shared along the way. Hayden and Wendy, his wife, decided to do a three month "End-to-End" walking tour from the northeastern tip of Scotland to the southwestern tip of England. They started in John o'Groats and made their way to Land's End (JoGLE), a 1,200-mile trek, enduring blisters, sore backs and feet, and weather along the way. The eight chapters list the towns they went through during that part of their travels. Rather than an account detailing exactly what they did from a detailed journal kept along the journey, Hayden, who was 49 when they undertook the journey, shares what he remembers as he recalls their travels. He had no plans to write a book about their experiences, and is glad he didn't keep a journal because it would have ruined the experience, reducing it to something that needed to be recorded and sold rather than lived. There are stories and thoughts shared about the areas they traversed and some of the sights they encountered along the way. You can appreciate Walking with Plato without any geographical knowledge, but it might help American readers to have a clear knowledge of the names and places, including walking trails in Great Britain, or at least a map handy to follow Hayden and Wendy's path. Along the recounted journey, Hayden contemplates some thoughts from other thinkers. Bertrand Russell said "The secret of happiness is to understand that the world is horrible, horrible, horrible." Hayden thought that it makes sense because, if you go through life thinking the world owes you anything, you will be disappointed. However, if you accept that the world cares nothing for you or your plans and that bad things happen to everyone, you can stoically wait/hope for something better to happen. He also ponders the writing of Epicurus, and concluded that the more you have, the less you appreciate it. The key is to subtract from your desires to appreciate the simple, wholesome things in life. If you are walking 1200 miles and usually cooking outside and sleeping in a tent, the simple pleasure of a coffee and a biscuit along the way takes on a new satisfaction. Hayden felt that the walk was benefiting his mental health along the way. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who believed that "the striving for meaning is the most powerful and motivating force in human life, and that a sense of purpose is essential to mental wellbeing." Frankl's thoughts summed up Hayden's feelings about the goal to walk JoGLE, "Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on what one has already achieved and what one still has to accomplish." Walking with Plato is a worthwhile travel memoir, and every reader can appreciate Hayden's thoughts along the route. It might be more appreciated a bit more by those who know the geography compared to those of us not living in Great Britain who had to stop and look at a map. (No judging please, I could follow walking travels across the USA quite easily.) Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher via Library Thing for review purposes.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gilion Dumas

    Walking with Plato is a book of philosophical and other musings inspired by the author's thousand-mile walk from John o’Groats, the northern tip of Scotland, to Land’s End, the southernmost tip of England. Hayden recounts the scenery, midges, books, ups, downs, and adventures he and his wife have along their journey. The book is pure charm and any Anglophile who's enjoyed a country ramble or a poke through old villages would love it. Walking with Plato is a book of philosophical and other musings inspired by the author's thousand-mile walk from John o’Groats, the northern tip of Scotland, to Land’s End, the southernmost tip of England. Hayden recounts the scenery, midges, books, ups, downs, and adventures he and his wife have along their journey. The book is pure charm and any Anglophile who's enjoyed a country ramble or a poke through old villages would love it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This was quite different from most of the road trip books I've read. Often I come away thinking I'm glad they did the trip, I wouldn't want to. This book left me wanting to follow in their footsteps. It felt more like an Impressionists story of the trek. I did very much wish for maps to accompany the text. I do also wish that a couple of the photos that were described were included to be able to see a part of the hike. I appreciated the author's growth as he moved from viewing the journey as a c This was quite different from most of the road trip books I've read. Often I come away thinking I'm glad they did the trip, I wouldn't want to. This book left me wanting to follow in their footsteps. It felt more like an Impressionists story of the trek. I did very much wish for maps to accompany the text. I do also wish that a couple of the photos that were described were included to be able to see a part of the hike. I appreciated the author's growth as he moved from viewing the journey as a challenge and a trudge to an exhilarating and enjoyable end in itself. I noticed that he grew out of depression into comfortable happiness. Exercise will do that for you. It made for an uplifting and inspiring read. Thank you to LibraryThing from whom I won an advanced readers copy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Florent Chua

    I cannot help chuckling at the humorous anecdotes. I never know Hayden can be so funny at times. Perhaps this book is a reminder that our lives are transient before nature, making it all the more important for us to reflect upon the meaning of life itself. Some call it Zen, or Tao, but ultimately the answer has to come from within yourself. In a way, the philosophical aspect appeals to me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Joyful, thought-provoking and provided a beautiful calm at the end of each day when I cozied up to read. I loved the combination of Andy's reflections on his experiences and the links with philosophers throughout the ages. Joyful, thought-provoking and provided a beautiful calm at the end of each day when I cozied up to read. I loved the combination of Andy's reflections on his experiences and the links with philosophers throughout the ages.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Warren Gossett

    This book demanded to be read in one day. With a little sadness that the last page came so quickly. Just as the author had a bit of sadness that he and his wife's walk from John o'Groats to Land's End, after weeks of struggling to adapt and joyous surprises, also finished. This book demanded to be read in one day. With a little sadness that the last page came so quickly. Just as the author had a bit of sadness that he and his wife's walk from John o'Groats to Land's End, after weeks of struggling to adapt and joyous surprises, also finished.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Piisa

    "The point in life is to know what's enough." Gensei. "The point in life is to know what's enough." Gensei.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Waller

    A brilliantly realistic explanation of what it's like to walk just for the enjoyment of being outside. A brilliantly realistic explanation of what it's like to walk just for the enjoyment of being outside.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adeptus Fringilla

    Quite a short book for such a long walk, but its a good and interesting story, especially I enjoyed the philosophical musings. They make this book worthwhile.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ian Hodkinson

    I did enjoy this, a thoughtful review of life in general with numerous philosophical insights set against a trudge across the UK from JOG to LE.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tineke Dijkstra

    I really enjoyed Hayden's account of his hike from John o'Groats to Land's End with his partner Wendy. It was an easy read, often plain. Hayden also reflects on this during his writing, stating that he has written as he had walked: not noticing every single flower of leaf, but considering himself a "nature-lover" in Emerson's terms. He also mentions that he had no intention of writing the book while he was walking, therefore not having made any real notes during the hike - something he's happy a I really enjoyed Hayden's account of his hike from John o'Groats to Land's End with his partner Wendy. It was an easy read, often plain. Hayden also reflects on this during his writing, stating that he has written as he had walked: not noticing every single flower of leaf, but considering himself a "nature-lover" in Emerson's terms. He also mentions that he had no intention of writing the book while he was walking, therefore not having made any real notes during the hike - something he's happy about, because it would have greatly influenced his experience. The book is real and honest, which is what I enjoyed about it most. I am an ethusiastic walker of pilgrimages and would love to walk more hikes, thereby recognizing a lot of what Hayden wrote. The addition of the philosophical concepts and linking them to his experience of hiking, was a lovely extra. I also enjoyed Hayden drawing a link to Thoreau's "Walden", which has been on my TBR for some time and which I have been planning on taking up sometime soon. I made notes, saved quotes. This is something to return to. 4/5 stars Not 5 stars because at some points it did feel a bit like a guide book ("this day we walked from ... to ..., ... miles over this and that type of road"). I do understand where that comes from, also taking in mind the fact that there is of yet no such guide book, but it did not always spark my enthusiasm.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    After spending 5 years in Viet Nam, Gary and his partner Wendy walk from the northern tip of Scotland at John o Groats to the southern tip of England at Land’s End – about 1000 miles. The author tells you that he is not really an outdoor person (Wendy is) and that he does not notice things when he is walking. He basically gives detailed information on the route, the weather, and the accommodations, be it their tent, a B&B or a hostel. He also reflects on various philosophies (for me ad nauseum, After spending 5 years in Viet Nam, Gary and his partner Wendy walk from the northern tip of Scotland at John o Groats to the southern tip of England at Land’s End – about 1000 miles. The author tells you that he is not really an outdoor person (Wendy is) and that he does not notice things when he is walking. He basically gives detailed information on the route, the weather, and the accommodations, be it their tent, a B&B or a hostel. He also reflects on various philosophies (for me ad nauseum, but I guess some people like that). I did find his realization late in the trip that when he is walking day after day he thinks about things less and less and is often simply in the moment. That was a nice relief from his philosophical meanderings and it jives perfectly with my experiences while hiking, although I also notice plants and trees and rocks and birds and animals. I was also interested in how different hiking is in Britain from my hiking experiences in the Pacific Northwest and in all the various hiking paths. I found it surprising that he basically never mentions Wendy or their relationship on this long hike – it was almost as if she did not exist. I read this on my Kindle while on vacation. I believe it was sent to me as a freebie.

  19. 5 out of 5

    John Benson

    Though I read some reviews that suggested that this wasn't a very good travel book and even the author about 3/4 of the way through the book questioned how good he was at writing this type of book, but I ended up really liking it. I really enjoy travel books, too. Gary Hayden and his wife, after spending 5 years in Vietnam, decide to walk from John O'Groats on the northern tip of Scotland to Land's End in the southwest tip of England. Mainly, he details the scenery along the way, where they stop Though I read some reviews that suggested that this wasn't a very good travel book and even the author about 3/4 of the way through the book questioned how good he was at writing this type of book, but I ended up really liking it. I really enjoy travel books, too. Gary Hayden and his wife, after spending 5 years in Vietnam, decide to walk from John O'Groats on the northern tip of Scotland to Land's End in the southwest tip of England. Mainly, he details the scenery along the way, where they stopped each night and what the weather was like. I enjoyed following along with a Michelin Road Atlas of Britain. Mainly, though, as a philosopher, he writes about what he was thinking about as he walked, much of it as he thought through some philosophical ideas that the walking allowed him to ponder a lot. I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on various topics. As he and his wife got farther along and he felt much more fit and healthy, he became much more optimistic in his thinking. The other aspect of the book that impressed me was all the wonderful walking trails they were able to walk on for long distances. It was an enjoyable read and it looks like there are some walks worth trying sometime.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mubeen Irfan

    Comfort is relative. Simplicity is the essence of life. Nature is all and everything around us and not just field, trees, plants & hills. When you finally reach your goals, things start to appear meaningless. Life needs motivation to work towards be it financial, personal or communal. Uncertainty is the beauty of life. Beauty is appreciated by soul and no true definition can comprehend it. And above all, walking frees your mind to wander, think, appreciate and bear with yourself. These are a few import Comfort is relative. Simplicity is the essence of life. Nature is all and everything around us and not just field, trees, plants & hills. When you finally reach your goals, things start to appear meaningless. Life needs motivation to work towards be it financial, personal or communal. Uncertainty is the beauty of life. Beauty is appreciated by soul and no true definition can comprehend it. And above all, walking frees your mind to wander, think, appreciate and bear with yourself. These are a few important lessons from different philosophers quoted by the writer while describing his otherwise boring walk from Britain's end to end. As the name suggests, he keeps going back to Plato more than other thinkers hence the title. I was looking more of something like Wild when I picked it up but it is a travelogue about someone who is a philosophy buff and thinks & relates whatever he felt in this walk with what the philosophers say about life, its pleasures and of course walking. It is not a book I would have read if I had known about it earlier. Give it a miss.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bethan

    My main issue with this book was that consistently the author bemoans any expenditure on accommodation yet has the luxury of being able to take 3 months off work (to which we later find out that he is still writing a paid column for a newspaper whilst doing JoGLE) and prior to moving back to England, paints living a life of luxury in Vietnam. To me it came across as someone who is comfortable trying to pretend that money is an issue and that pissed me off for the entire book, so much so that when My main issue with this book was that consistently the author bemoans any expenditure on accommodation yet has the luxury of being able to take 3 months off work (to which we later find out that he is still writing a paid column for a newspaper whilst doing JoGLE) and prior to moving back to England, paints living a life of luxury in Vietnam. To me it came across as someone who is comfortable trying to pretend that money is an issue and that pissed me off for the entire book, so much so that when I reached the point where he sends 15lbs of camping gear home in the post(!) and states that they will be staying in accommodation for the rest of the walk “and budget be damned!” I wanted to throw the book across the room.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    It's not so much about where he walked. In fact, Hayden makes the point that his version of nature-loving (backed up by C. S. Lewis) is not about the details but the experience as a whole. I'm more in the details camp as nature lovers go, and the surroundings felt out of focus. But that's not an entirely fair evaluation of a book that was largely an interesting interior journey. Hayden's point of arrival is a thought-provoking and peaceable appreciation of the state of just being. It's not so much about where he walked. In fact, Hayden makes the point that his version of nature-loving (backed up by C. S. Lewis) is not about the details but the experience as a whole. I'm more in the details camp as nature lovers go, and the surroundings felt out of focus. But that's not an entirely fair evaluation of a book that was largely an interesting interior journey. Hayden's point of arrival is a thought-provoking and peaceable appreciation of the state of just being.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    While I wasn't crazy about the philosophical musings on walking, I did learn one thing - even w/ my hiking obsession, i will NOT attempt the British "End to End." Too many highways. And "midges!" (Which I believe are a certain tiny/nasty mosquito). Nevertheless this author's 1200 mile trek was impressive. (And if I'm lucky I will walk "The Heart of England Way," and possibly "The Cotswold Way.") While I wasn't crazy about the philosophical musings on walking, I did learn one thing - even w/ my hiking obsession, i will NOT attempt the British "End to End." Too many highways. And "midges!" (Which I believe are a certain tiny/nasty mosquito). Nevertheless this author's 1200 mile trek was impressive. (And if I'm lucky I will walk "The Heart of England Way," and possibly "The Cotswold Way.")

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tracink

    I wanted to love this book. But it's a lot of "I walked in some places I don't really remember. And at the end of the day we pitched a tent. Or splurged on a BnB. Or stayed at a youth hostile. Sometimes I thought about things, but not for very long. There was a nice view now and again." If you are looking for the magic captured by other writers like Robert McFarlane, this isn't it. I wanted to love this book. But it's a lot of "I walked in some places I don't really remember. And at the end of the day we pitched a tent. Or splurged on a BnB. Or stayed at a youth hostile. Sometimes I thought about things, but not for very long. There was a nice view now and again." If you are looking for the magic captured by other writers like Robert McFarlane, this isn't it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    A Hudak

    This is not a typical hiking memoir, but rather a philosophical musing prompted by the author's experiences as he walks from John O'Groats to Lands End. I have done a little hiking in England and more in the United States so I appreciated his descriptions and feelings about the effect walking in nature can have. This is not a typical hiking memoir, but rather a philosophical musing prompted by the author's experiences as he walks from John O'Groats to Lands End. I have done a little hiking in England and more in the United States so I appreciated his descriptions and feelings about the effect walking in nature can have.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    A bit disappointing- author drops in some interesting thoughts but never really follows them through. He admits that he never intended to write a book about his journey, so has forgotten lots of details. Impressive achievement, though, to walk the whole length of the country!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Pullman

    I enjoyed this well written travalogue about hiking from John o'Groats to Land's End on the End to End trail between the bottom of England to the northern part of Scotland. Humourous at times and always interesting. I enjoyed this well written travalogue about hiking from John o'Groats to Land's End on the End to End trail between the bottom of England to the northern part of Scotland. Humourous at times and always interesting.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    A little gem of a book and I now want to embark on a mammoth walk. A short but rewarding little book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Clark

    Very enjoyable and easy to read book. Somehow says not a lot but also some quite poignant and meaningful things. Overall definitely worth a read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rosie

    This is lovely. It’s like somebody’s dad telling you about his holiday.

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