In 1984, Hilary Bradt, co-founder of Bradt Travel Guides, was in a major transition in life. Her marriage had recently ended and she wanted to prove to herself that she could travel on her own again. Combining an ongoing love of adventure with a passion for horses since childhood, she decided to take a journey through rural Ireland on horseback. CONNEMARA MOLLIE (Bradt Travel Guides, 2012, paperback) and DINGLE PEGGY (Bradt Travel Guides, 2013, paperback) recount that trip, which was shattered midway by tragedy, and formed the story of an epic ride of over 1,000 miles.
At once a tender examination of love between human and horse and an intimate look at the people, countryside and history of Ireland, the narratives are also laced with captivating glimpses of a calmer pace of life that no longer exists.
Along the way, Bradt communicates with family and friends by post and operator-assisted phone. One particular call to her parents broke up the weekend malaise of a grateful operator whose “…Sunday was clearly transformed by this break from the routine business of listening in to local calls. At first there was no reply, but he said, “Sure, but I’ll try again to show there’s no hard feelings” When my sleepy-sounding mother finally answered, he let me chat for at least ten minutes—I’d paid for three—so the conversation must have been absorbing. Telecom operators in those days wielded considerable power.”
She also garnered, along the way, several on-the-spot marriage proposals from lonely and isolated Irish farmers. On many of the back roads she traveled, cars were not a menace and even in larger cities and villages, town centers were no problem if you were on a horse and not in a car or truck.
But Bradt’s deep affection for both her charges is at the heart of her account. Two horses meant two distinctive personalities. Mollie is solid and dependable while Peggy proved to be an extrovert and an exceptional communicator, though Bradt wasn’t always sure what she was saying!
Written with a sly wit and plenty of self-deprecation, Bradt’s sojourns with Mollie and Peggy are the sort of delightful yet tremendously moving stories one curls up with and reads cover to cover in one sitting. Traveling vicariously through a surprisingly sunny summer in Ireland with her, readers, like Bradt herself, will be sorry to have the journey end.
Both books are illustrated with color photos taken along the way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hilary Bradt trained as an occupational therapist but co-founded the company in 1974 with her then husband George because they got sick of other travellers asking advice on how to go hiking in the Andes. Their first book was written on a river barge moving slowly down one of the more obscure Bolivian tributaries of the Amazon, typed up in the little town of Trinidad on a borrowed typewriter, and printed in Boston. It retailed for $1.95. Thus, improbably, Bradt Travel Guides was born.
Hilary has written or co-written a total of 13 books. Or, if you count new editions, 30 since Peru and Bolivia is coming up to its 9th edition and Madagascar its 11thth. Her articles on a variety of subjects, have appeared in newspapers and magazines world-wide, and she has lectured on travel and travel-writing in seven different countries, as well as on cruise ships. She also broadcasts regularly for her local radio station and for the BBC.
Despite childhood predictions, she never grew out of her love of horses, and had planned a long-distance ride since the age of about 12, some 30 years before the journey recounted in these books. She also achieved another childhood ambition – to illustrate pony books when she grew up; the drawings in the books are hers.
Hilary was awarded an MBE in 2008 for Services to the Tourist Industry and to Charity, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Guild of Travel Writers in 2009. She now lives in semi retirement in Devon.
ABOUT BRADT TRAVEL GUIDES
When Hilary Bradt and her then husband George set out on their travels in South America in 1973, little could they have known that the journey which they were embarking on would lead to the creation of what has become one of the most esteemed and specialised travel publishing companies in the world.
Hilary and George wrote their first guide, a hand-stapled, self-published endeavor titled, Backpacking along Ancient Ways in Peru and Bolivia in 1974 on a river barge floating down a tributary of the Amazon. Further adventures in South America and Africa ultimately led to additional guides, and to date, Bradt Guides has nearly 200 titles in print. Since then the company has grown slowly but consistently – each book adding something new and worthwhile to the ever-increasing range of guides available. Today, with a list of nearly 200 titles, Bradt has a reputation as a pioneer in tackling unusual destinations, (including North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Haiti, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Somaliland and Zimbabwe) and for championing the causes of sustainable travel and the high quality of its writing. Only authors who have a genuine passion for, and knowledge of, the places which they write about have been invited to contribute to the list which now includes travel narratives as well as wildlife guides.
The company is based in Chalfont St. Peter, 20 miles outside of London and is now run by CEO Donald Greig, although Hilary remains one of the four directors. For more, visit http://www.bradtguides.com/