Magazine article Geographical

Between the Sunset and the Sea: A View of 16 British Mountains

Magazine article Geographical

Between the Sunset and the Sea: A View of 16 British Mountains

Article excerpt

BETWEEN THE SUNSET AND THE SEA: A View of 16 British Mountains

by Simon Ingram, William Collins, 18.99 [pounds sterling] (hardback)


Simon Ingram is madly in love with mountains. They can be 'hostile, barren, land] bereft of comfort' but spending time in places where 'life is dangerously simple 'has its perks.

Ingram sometimes veers towards the rhapsodic--he writes of a 'state of primal essentiality' and 'full-on sensory epiphany'--but he only gets carried away because he is so enthusiastic.

He is especially drawn to Britain's mountains. We may not have the 'elegant meringue-and-meadow peaks' of the Alps or the towering monsters of the Himalaya, but the UK has its share of treasures. Ingram has chosen sixteen favourites that encapsulate a series of pleasingly random themes. He climbed said mountains over the course of a year and enjoyed, or sometimes endured, lots of memorable adventures.

He visited Cross Fell, for example, because the weather was likely to be terrible, and we can't hope to understand mountains without appreciating the peril of howling gales. Cadair Idris in Snowdonia was selected because it has long been a wellspring of Welsh mythology and legend. Ingram wanted to discuss endless skies and special mountain light, so he headed far to the north and the landscape of Ben Loyal. Mountains have often inspired artistic endeavour, so a trip to the Lake District, a long-standing magnet for poets and painters, was in order.

You get the idea and, on balance, it isn't a bad one: pick a topic and identify a suitable mountain. Other themes, with appropriate peaks attached, include danger, plunder (quarries, etc.) and terror. For the last category, where better than the Cairngorms and the 'sight-stealing mists' of Ben Macdui?

A number of chapters stand out. The piece on science is tremendous and it is pleasing to be reminded of eighteenth-century boffins clambering up Schiehallion in the southern Scottish Highlands to conduct experiments aimed at calculating the mass of the planet: something to do with the effect of the Earth's gravitation on dangled plumb-line pendulums, apparently. …

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