Wednesday 16 May 2018

Review: Eagle Country

Eagle Country Eagle Country by Seán Lysaght
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

When you think of eagles, you imagine them perched on an eyrie high in the Scottish mountains on the West coast. They are majestic birds, soaring over the landscape with almost nothing to fear; except us. The sight of the magnificent sea eagles enthralled him when Lysaght first encountered them in Norway almost twenty years ago. They used to inhabit Ireland too, and as he walks the remote coast and hills and pours over the maps he starts to see the place names that they inspired such as Crag of the Eagle and Eagle Ridge. It was time to get outside.

The best way to get a feel for the country though is to walk through it, climb the ridges and wander the rugged coastline. His walks are often undertaken alone, sometimes with Jessica, his wife, and occasionally with others. His keen eyes see the wildlife as he walks, watching the aerobatics of the ravens, tracing the gulls following the boats out to sea, finches as they buzz over the moors. He is searching for sites that could be or may once have been eyries. Every now and again a raptor lifts into the air, often he sees them being mobbed, yet they are always masters of the air.

He passes houses that have carved stone eagles on the gate posts and as he walks in the rugged landscape scoured by Atlantic, it prompts him to look back to the past to the time when eagles were often seen, collecting the stories from locals and writers that last saw eagles in the Nineteenth century. Their absence today is the result of habitat destruction and persecution. Even today raptors are still poisoned and shot and those with vested interests ensure that the people responsible do not get the punishment they deserve.

On one side, the stream ran into the moss and then re-emerged from the tips of the moss as glistening green-tinted teardrops.

Until I picked this book up, it had never crossed my mind that there were or had been eagles in Ireland too. Sadly there are still not many, there have been a few introduced and the odd one or two have drifted across the sea from Scotland. There are just about hanging on in a landscape devoid of their prey and habitat. Lysaght is also a poet and this book reinforces my own hypothesis that poets write fantastic non-fiction (Kathleen Jamie and Paul Farley to name but two) so his mastery of the language and the descriptions of the coast and hills that he walked looking for eyries is quite special. This is the tenth book in the superb Little Toller Monograph series and is another beautifully made book. It has wonderful atmospheric photos that frame the beginning of each month of walks showing the stark beauty of the land and seascape of this coastline. Loved the hand-drawn maps too, they have a certain charm. Can highly recommend this.

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  1. That sounds lovely, and Simon Armitage is another poet who's a great non-fic writer and walker, in fact.

    1. Apologies for the delay in replying. Not internet at all last night. It was Lyzzy, I have read one of Simon Armitage's books and have the other to read at some point...

    2. I've done both his walking ones and have a music on TBR. And no worries, you always reply to comments very quickly!