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Book review: On Sacred Ground by Andrew Terrill

Chris Townsend gives high praise to On Sacred Ground, Andrew Terrill's second book recounting an epic 7000-mile walk from the toe of Italy to the northern tip of Norway.

Chris Townsend
Overlooking the fingerbreen - an outlet arm of the svartisen ice cap Credit Andrew Terrill

On Sacred Ground is the second part of Andrew Terrill’s story of his epic 7000 mile walk from the toe of Italy to the northern tip of Norway. The first book, The Earth Beneath My Feet, told the story of the walk up Italy and through the Alps. On Sacred Ground takes up the story in deep winter in the Austrian Alps and follows the author through Germany to Denmark and then up the length of Norway to the Arctic, the sacred ground of the title.

Main image: Overlooking the Fingerbreen – an outlet arm of the Svartisen ice cap | Credit: Andrew Terrill

The story of this astonishing walk is enthralling and gripping as the author describes the difficulties and dangers, the high points and low points. Physically and mentally this was a challenging walk. Terrill is walking to experience wild nature and his route stays away from towns and roads as far as possible and he camps at night. Indeed, the camps are important and he names each one.

On Sacred Ground

Much of the walk takes place in winter and the extreme cold, deep snow, and often stormy weather are a huge challenge, requiring skill and fortitude. Terrill has the ability to draw the reader into the story, so much so that at times I almost forgot he did survive some of the incidents. I shivered at points reading the book!

Norway is the climax to the walk and the book. As he heads north through the spring – almost as difficult as the winter with the remaining deep snow and a big thaw – so his mood expands until the Arctic is reached and the intensity of the author’s feelings carry the reader on through the glorious Norwegian north to an ecstatic finish at the North Cape.

Taking a break beneath the Okstindbreen ice cap Credit Andrew Terrill.jpg

Taking a break beneath the Okstindbreen ice cap. Credit: Andrew Terrill

On Sacred Ground, along with The Earth Beneath My Feet, is one of the best books on a long-distance walk I’ve read, up there with the works of Colin Fletcher and Hamish Brown. I can give it no higher praise.

On Sacred Ground is published in paperback by Enchanted Rock Press (£14.95) and is available at

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Profile image of Chris Townsend Chris Townsend


Chris Townsend is known globally as a writer on hiking and backpacking skills and equipment, the author of 25 books – many of them award-winning – and as a record-setting long-distance hiker. He was the first person to complete a continuous round of all the Scottish Munros and Tops and the first person to complete a continuous walk the length of the Canadian Rockies. He has also walked the Scottish Watershed and walked coast-to-coast across Scotland 18 times. In the USA he has walked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail and Arizona Trail plus several self-devised long walks. Other walks include south-to-north through the mountains of Norway and Sweden and 1000 miles through the Yukon Territory. He has also worked as a Nordic ski tour leader in Scandinavia and other places and as a trek leader in the Himalayas.


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