Beyond Belfast: A 560 Mile Journey Across Northern Ireland on Sore Feet by Will Ferguson

Beyond Belfast: A 560 Mile Journey Across Northern Ireland On Sore FeetBeyond Belfast: A 560 Mile Journey Across Northern Ireland On Sore Feet by Will Ferguson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Originally published December 6th, 2013
I guess I should start this review off with a confession: I know almost nothing about Irish history. Even the recent events. And considering how heavily the conflicts are woven into Beyond Belfast, this lack put me at a disadvantage for following parts of the story. I kept wishing for a map and a history book to add background. The way that Ferguson weaves the bombings, violence, and the ingrained bitterness into his walk through Northern Ireland wasn’t at all what I was expecting when I picked up this book. He originally crosses the pond to shed some light on his grandfather’s past, but that quickly becomes a subplot. It pales in comparison to Northern Ireland’s history, to their troubles. That history haunts nearly every step he takes. I had no idea how pervasive and deadly “the troubles” were. Beyond Belfast really opened my eyes.
Speaking of other eye-openers, Ferguson’s own struggle to walk and complete the Ulster Way was not something I think either of us expected. In spite of being equipped with the latest maps from a couple different sources, Ferguson barely managed to finish the Ulster Way. Sections had overgrown, were criss-crossed by fences and rivers and highways, ran through bogs, or were so poorly marked they were impossible to follow. He goes back eight years later and drives portions of the trail, and mentions the Irish government making plans to improve the Ulster Way, so perhaps it’s better now. But reading Ferguson’s experience definitely didn’t encourage me to rush out and buy a plane ticket and a backpack. This might be one of those adventures that’s best experienced from an armchair. With a big cup of “sun-dappled tea”.

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