Poacher's Pilgrimage

An Island Journey

By Alastair McIntosh

Foreword by Brian D. McLaren

Poacher's Pilgrimage


  • ISBN: 9781532634451
  • Pages: 470
  • Publication Date: 3/9/2018
  • Retail Price: $39.00
Web Price: $31.20
Web Price: $31.20

Poacher's Pilgrimage

An Island Journey

By Alastair McIntosh

Foreword by Brian D. McLaren



  • ISBN: 9781532634451
  • Pages: 470
  • Publication Date: 3/9/2018
  • Retail Price: $39.00
Web Price: $31.20


The islands of the Outer Hebrides are home to some of the most remote and spectacular scenery in the world. They host an astonishing range of mysterious structures - stone circles, beehive dwellings, holy wells and 'temples' from the Celtic era. Over a twelve-day pilgrimage, often in appalling conditions, Alastair McIntosh returns to the islands of his childhood and explores the meaning of these places. Traversing moors and mountains, struggling through torrential rivers, he walks from the most southerly tip of Harris to the northerly Butt of Lewis. The book is a walk through space and time, across a physical landscape and into a spiritual one. As he battled with his own ability to endure some of the toughest terrain in Britain, he met with the healing power of the land and its communities. This is a moving book, a powerful reflection not simply of this extraordinary place and its people met along the way, but of imaginative hope for humankind.

Endorsements & Reviews-

“What I wouldn’t give to join Alastair McIntosh on a journey. Poacher’s Pilgrimage doesn’t simply take us on a trip. By taking us into the remote region of the Scottish Hebrides, it also takes us deep into ourselves so that we might learn to love and protect a world made to be savored and cherished.”

—Norman Wirzba, Professor, Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University, Divinity School

“If pilgrimage is a path to enchantment, there is no better guide than Alastair McIntosh. In Poacher’s Pilgrimage we follow his pilgrimage through the Outer Hebrides, where he regales us with stories of enclosure, subjugation, exclusion, sacred stones and waters, ghost wolves and fairies; ruminates on the traumas that follow cultural disruption, and wrestles with theological debates about violence, sacrifice, and belonging, whilst describing fascinating encounters with lairds, crofters, soldiers, salmon, saints, Calvinists, atheists, Druids, and pagans. McIntosh is a good companion for anyone wandering a worldly way to awe and wonder.”

—Bron Taylor, author of Dark Green Religion: Nature Spiritualty and the Planetary Future

Praise for Poacher’s Pilgrimage

“A book that operates on many levels . . . a metaphor for all of us who seek renewal from the land that Alastair McIntosh explores so superbly well.”

—Roger Smith, The Great Outdoors

“Poacher’s Pilgrimage is a book of beautifully compacted writing—clear, strong and constantly surprising – a fortnight’s walk that contains a universe.”

—Nick Hunt, Dark Mountain

“The Poacher of the title is the boy who grew up with his landless peers. He goes poaching as an act of solidarity. It could sound jokey, but it isn’t.”

—Sue Weaver, Voice for Arran

“This is as much a journey into an unusual mind as it is about the Island.”

—Madeleine Bunting, Resurgence

“Hard to categorise: travelogue, biography, spiritual quest. Easy to rate: very, very good.”

—Professor James Hunter (by Twitter), WHFP Best Books of the Year

“A journey of people, history, geography and the deeper understanding of the connection between religion and nature”

—Lynne McNeil, Life and Work

“Much more than a nature book, he considers how religion, faeries and geology have shaped our history, politics, science, spirituality and imagination.”

—Toby Clark, John Muir Trust Journal

“What engages him is a deep search - not unlike the vision quest of native Americans - that a whole culture has lost and needs to rediscover.”

—Jim Griffin, Beshara Magazine

“The language is almost poetic, reflecting the writer’s artistic gifts and his understanding of Celtic and pre-Celtic culture.”

—David Thomson, Press & Journal

“Poacher’s Pilgrimage is a book full of generosity, spry in its thinking and detailed in its observations. It will beguilingly give each reader a lot to think about, a lot to wish to see, and a lot think about again.”

—Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

“Alastair McIntosh is already established as one of Scotland’s greatest living authors... I read this book in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote and the Chilcot report into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war. Writing prior to these events, his reflections on a leader’s ‘political paranoia’, living out the myth of redemptive violence, seem prophetic. McIntosh, while immersed in the folk traditions and religious gravity of the Western Isles, simultaneously speaks to us about the most contemporary and pressing of issues.”

—John Sturrock QC, Progressive Voices

“McIntosh uses a twelve day walk across the length of Harris and Lewis, where he grew up, as the basis for an extended reflection on three things: violence, the theology which is complicit with it, and the way to deal with it; the ecology of the imagination; and the spirituality of place. All three are interconnected, and all bear on a world torn apart by rage… What the book challenges us to do is to find the locus of the holy inscribed in the places in which we live. This is a poetically imagined, politically engaged, narrative theology which illuminatingly tackles some of the deepest problems of our world.”

—Professor Timothy Gorringe, Theology

“And here we come to what I mean about a good travel writer needing to have a mind worth following as well as an itinerary. McIntosh is good at this. For the last 19 years he’s been a Quaker devil’s advocate at the British Army’s officer training college. Although we aren’t given the names of the top brass, he is allowed to write about their discussions and does so in his book. They’re fascinating.”

—David Robinson, Books from Scotland

“This is a lovely book, a book to savour, a book to give - remarkable and unusual in its deep knowledge and its spiritual versatility.”

—Bishop David Chillingworth, Church Times

“A quite wonderful book –a theology of justice and peace and love re-presented through human ecology. It’s also wonderfully funny. I have friends and family who are keen walkers and pilgrims. Their journeys, by and large, are well-equipped, challenging and often very long. Mostly they don’t get lost. I mean no disrespect to Alastair in saying that his is not one of these kind of walks. He takes twelve days to walk about sixty miles. He loses his way frequently. He fails to achieve one of his main stated objectives of poaching a fish from one of the island lochs. And he fights an epic battle with a Bog Monster.”

—Rev. Kathy Galloway, Iona Community Coracle

“At times I found it a very frustrating work. He comes so close - and yet stays so far away - from the truth of the Bible. Nonetheless, this is a superb book from a fine and sensitive man.” —Rev. David Robertson, Free Church Record

“If this sounds more serious than a Presbyterian church service, there is great fun to be found in Poacher’s Pilgrimage. McIntosh is an entertaining subversive.”

—Nick Major, The National

“I am fascinated, if perhaps a little overwhelmed, by the depth of his philosophy. His honesty is humbling, punctuated with humour, laughter and a twinkle. He never skirts a question, is on a mission, and seems at times prophetic.”

—Polly Pullar, Scottish Field

“I read many of the chapters by the fire in the evening, occasionally with a glass of good whisky to hand.”

—Dr David Lorimer, Journal of the Scientific & Medical Network


Alastair McIntosh
Brian D. McLaren


Alastair McIntosh (b. 1955) is a Scottish writer, broadcaster and activist on social, environmental and spiritual issues, raised on the Isle of Lewis. A Fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, a former Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde, and an Honorary Fellow in the School of Divinity (New College) at Edinburgh University, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the College of Social Sciences at Glasgow University, he holds a BSc from the University of Aberdeen, an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in liberation theology and land reform from the University of Ulster.

His books include Hell & High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition on the cultural and spiritual dimensions of climate change, Rekindling Community on the spiritual basis of inter-relationship, and Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power on land reform and environmental protection—the latter described as “world changing” by George Monbiot, “life changing” by the Bishop of Liverpool and “truly mental” by Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

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