True North

‘The stark, vast beauty of the remote Arctic Europe landscape has been the focus of human exploration for thousands of years. In this striking blend of travel writing, history and mythology, Gavin Francis offers a unique portrait of the northern fringes of Europe. His journey begins in the Shetland Isles, takes him to the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and on to Lapland.

Following in the footsteps of the region’s early pioneers, Francis observes how the region has adapted to the 21st century, giving an observed insight into the lives of people he encounters along the way. As with all the best travel writing, True North is an engaging, compassionate tale of self-discovery, whilst blending historical and contemporary narratives in the tradition of Bruce Chatwin and Robert Macfarlane.’


“True North is a wonder-voyage - an immrama - out into the landscape of the northern regions, but also down into the mindscape of those many travellers who have been drawn irresistibly northwards over the millennia - Gavin Francis among them. Fluent, subtle, tough, and often beautiful, True North stands alongside Peter Davidson's The Idea of North, and Joanna Kavenna's The Ice Museum, as a significant recent addition to the Arctic canon.”

Robert Macfarlane

“Francis provides the most engaging encounters... to be commended for its crisp, easily digestible prose, its clarity, and for its avoidance of sentimentality.”

Robin McKie, The Observer

“A deep empathy with the land and its history runs like a golden thread through every chapter of True North,”

Sara Wheeler, The Spectator

“Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Lapland are all described in a writing style that reminded me of the great travel writer Bruce Chatwin.”

Roddy Woomble, The Great Outdoors

“Excellent... what a terrific book it is - I don’t know what to single out for most immediate praise. Throughout it was the immediacy of the writing which struck me, the author showing a real turn and skill for bringing a place into the imagination. And then there is the specific praise for writing coherently about remote, incoherent places.”

Peter Davidson, author of The Idea of North, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Aberdeen University

“Francis is good company, and a good writer... It is worth going with this twenty-first century travel writer, this child of the environmentalist age, who skips joyfully between the present and the past with the alacrity of any of his celebrated seniors, but who frets about his carbon footprint in a way that would never have occurred to Richard Burton, Evelyn Waugh, or Patrick Leigh Fermor.”

Roger Hutchinson, Scottish Review of Books.

“Gavin Francis is an accomplished teller of traveller’s tales. His nuanced, often witty, observations of the people and places he encounters mean "True North" really gets under the skin of Europe’s magical north,”

Allan Burnett, Sunday Herald

“Returning from a frostbitten world, Gavin Francis describes landscapes few of us have seen and narrates stories almost none of us have heard. He is a true traveller.”

Daniel Kalder, author of Lost Cosmonaut and Strange Telescopes

“Thank goodness for people like Gavin Francis who are prepared not only to visit our northerly neighbours, but write about them in a way that shows how much of their history is our history too”

Roger Cox, The Scotsman

a narrative that cleverly seesaws between the past and the present ... if you care to journey to lands where, he says, the light is so pure and white, the sea a laminated blue and the sun bleeds crimson and lilac into the sky and the sea, well, read the book….

Aparna Karnikeythan - The Hindu