Love of Country

A Hebridean Journey

Madeleine Bunting

Published: 29 June 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 368 pages
ISBN: 9781847085184

Other Editions


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Published: 6 October 2016
Hardback, Royal HB
156x234mm, 368 pages
ISBN: 9781847085177

Ebook Available


The Hebrides hold a remarkable place in the imaginations of Scotland and England. On the outer edge of the British Isles and facing the Atlantic Ocean, these iconic islands form part of Europe's boundary. Because of their unique position, they have been at the centre of a network of ancient shipping routes which has led to a history of cultures colliding and merging. Home to a long and rich Gaelic tradition, they have attracted saints and sinners, and artists and writers, inspiring awe and dread as well as deep attachment.

Over six years, Madeleine Bunting travelled to the Hebrides, exploring their landscapes, histories and magnetic pull. With great sensitivity and perceptiveness, she delves into the meanings of home and belonging, which in these islands have been fraught with tragedy as well as tenacious resistance. She finds that their history of dispossession and migration played a part in the British imperial past. And perhaps more significant still is the extent of the islands' influence on ideas of Britishness. Love of Country shows how the islands' history is a backdrop for contemporary debates about the relationship between our nations, how Britain was created, and what Britain has meant - for good and for ill.

About the author

Image of Madeleine Bunting

Madeleine Bunting was for many years a columnist for the Guardian, which she joined in 1990. Born in North Yorkshire, Bunting read History at Cambridge and Politics at Harvard. She is the author of The Model Occupation: The Channel Islands under German Rule, 1940-45, Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives (both published by HarperCollins) and The Plot: A Biography of an English Acre (published by Granta in 2009) which won the Portico Prize and was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize. She left the Guardian in 2013 to concentrate on her writing. She lives in London with her family. More about the author


‘[An] excellent book... [Bunting's] depth of engagement gives authenticity to the writings and substance to the arguments... Almost the perfect marriage of physical travelogue to the inner landscape of political ideas and cultural reflections that makes this such a super read. I cannot think of a more intellectually challenging or rewarding travel book in recent years... Love of Country is in every way a richer, more mature work than Bunting's award-winning 2009 memoir, The Plot. I expect it to bring her prizes and fame’ Mark Cocker



‘[Bunting's] crisp and luminous prose is the ideal medium to capture the ambiguities and dichotomies of the landscape; between ever-shifting sea and unfathomably old rock... Bunting has a keen eye for a story... [and her] great achievement with this book is to weave these elements together rather than concentrate on particular examples... When writing about the natural world - particularly the ocean - her prose reaches its own kind of lyrical epiphany. It seems to me that if the "new nature writing" [...] is to be something more than Fotherington-Thomas from the Molesworth books swooning over tormentil and machairs, then it requires Bunting's engagement with questions of politics, religion history, culture and our emotional responses... [A] splendid, precise and gracious book’ Stuart Kelly

‘A heroic journey that takes us as far into the regions of the heart as into the islands of the north-west’ Richard Holloway

‘Bunting has expertly combined history, literature and travel in a book that certainly taught me much that I was unaware of about these islands, which lie so close to the Scottish mainland but have a history and identity all of their own’ Russell Leadbetter

‘Madeleine Bunting writes with both heart and brain at full throttle, weaving together history, geography, literature as she travels the islands she has loved all her life. Love of Country is personal, erudite and quirky - through the history of the Hebrides she has hit on an original and timely exploration of what home means, of what Britain was, and what it has become.’ Lucy Kellaway

‘Madeleine Bunting's pilgrimages to the farthest edge of Britain are revelations of place, language and perspective - uncovering a world rich in story; a world where the ambitious have often foundered, but where the quietly observant visitor can discover self-sufficiency, in the people, their unforgiving land - and in themselves Ted Nield

‘Madeleine Bunting's thoughtful, question-asking journey through the Hebrides makes Love of Country an indispensable guide to the past and present of one of the most inspiring landscapes in Europe’ Ian Jack

‘Rich in detail, richer in writing: the elegiac Love of Country is one of the year's best, taking Madeleine Bunting through her old Hebridean haunts’

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