A plan unfolded with the speed and the completeness of a Japanese paper flower in a tumbler. To change scenery; abandon London and England and set out across Europe like a tramp... All of a sudden, this was not merely the obvious, but the only thing to do.
— Patrick Leigh Fermor, in a letter to Xan Fielding


I've done a couple of interviews about the reasons behind my trip, which you can see here:

The wonderful Slightly Foxed also commissioned some wonderful readings from Dame Sian Philips and Robert Macfarlane to mark the start of my trip. They can be found here.


In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on an extraordinary journey by foot - from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul (or Constantinople, as he insisted on calling it).


A Time of Gifts

A Time of Gifts is the first volume in a trilogy recounting the trip, and takes the reader with him as far as Hungary. It is a book of compelling glimpses - not only of the events which were curdling Europe at that time, but also of its resplendent domes and monasteries, its great rivers, the sun on the Bavarian snow, the storks and frogs, the hospitable burgomasters who welcomed him, and that world's grandeurs and courtesies. His powers of recollection have astonishing sweep and verve, and the scope is majestic.


Between the Woods and the Water

In Between the Woods and the Water, the second volume, Paddy picks up from the very spot on a bridge across the Danube where his readers last saw him. We travel on with him across the great Hungarian Plain on horseback, and over the Romanian border to Transylvania.

The trip was an exploration of a continent which was already showing signs of the holocaust which was to come. Although frequently praised for his lyrical writing, Fermor's account also provides a coherent understanding of the dramatic events then unfolding in Middle Europe. But the delight remains in travelling with him in his picaresque journey past remote castles, mountain villages, monasteries and towering ranges.


Later life

After his walk across Europe, Patrick Leigh Fermor lived and travelled in the Balkans and the Greek Archipelago. In the Second World War he joined the Irish Guards, became a liaison officer in Albania and fought in Greece and Crete - living disguised as a shepherd in the mountains for two years organising resistance activities. He was awarded the DSO and CBE, and a knighthood in the 2004 New Year Honours List. He died in June 2011, at the age of 96.

Paddy in Ithaca in 1946, photographed by Joan Leigh Fermor.

Paddy in Ithaca in 1946, photographed by Joan Leigh Fermor.


If you would like to read more of Paddy's work, or books inspired by it, I recommend the following. All of these are available through the Slightly Foxed online bookshop.

They have also included some recommended reads along the theme, many from brilliant travel publisher Eland, such as Dervla Murphy's Full Tilt and Penelope Chetwode's Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucia.

Stanfords - the travel bookshop - has stocks some of the best travel writing and fiction from inspirational women. From established 20th century adventurers like Amelia Earhart, Martha Gellhorn and Jan Morris to contemporary writers such as Amy Liptrot, Alex Heminsley and my friend Amy Baker, there's something for everyone.

For an introduction to some other extraordinary lady adventurers (of the more old school tradition), I'd also recommend:


If you are interested in finding out more about Paddy Leigh Fermor, then I would also thoroughly recommend the following: