The Project

In July two years ago, I set off to kayak the Atlantic coastlines from Shetland to Cornwall over the course of a year. The idea was to travel slowly and close to the water: in touch with both the natural world and the histories of the coastal communities. I spent as much time in coastal archives as in the boat, gathering stories and learning what Britain and Ireland look like with oceanic geographies at the centre. The result is a book published by Harper Collins in July 2019.

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order linkThis website contains resources to complement the text. The book has 40 photographs and 12 maps, but many more records of the journey were created while undertaking it. Here there are galleries of photos taken in each region of the journey (matching up to the chapters of the book and including some of the detailed maps from the book itself), while there are also links to media coverage, such as an appearance on BBC Breakfast TV before the journey started, and articles in e.g. The Scotsman & The Big Issue.

I kept a blog – at mountaincoastriver – while travelling, and links to those posts can be found in each photo gallery (none of the material in the blogs, except a few photos, is reproduced in the book).

The other tabs above will take you to resources ranging from an extensive bibliography of coastlines, to information about how to get into sea kayaking, or tips on how to start learning the languages of the Atlantic edge. For completely up-to-date material, see the twitter feed @david_gange.

These resources are intended to help readers of the book sustain their immersion in the Atlantic waters of Britain and Ireland, getting as immediate a sense as possible of what it’s like to do several things:

kayak through rough weather…

Uist (26)

…spend night after night in the elements on beaches or coastal mountains…

Morvern (35)

…and wake up to find yourself embedded in the sea’s rich life…

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The first comments on The Frayed Atlantic Edge:

‘Gange is such an attentive, generous writer. From his close and vivid observations of the natural world, to his championing of artists, writers and activists, this book feels like a timely reappraisal of how we think about the Atlantic coast, its communities and their languages, its history and its future. It is a perspective-shifting work.’ James Macdonald Lockhart, author of Raptor: A Journey through Birds (2016)

‘The book that has been wanting to be written for decades: the ragged fringe of Britain as a laboratory for the human spirit, challenging, beautiful, a place where sea and land are deeply interpenetrated: and here is the man to do it – physically resourceful, articulate, clear-eyed, informed, attentive to the realities, and crucially at home in all the elements.  A book reliant in the end on one key fact: edges are revelatory.’ Adam Nicolson, author of The Seabird’s Cry winner of the Wainwright Prize 2018

‘Some books are about the sea.  David Gange’s book is in the sea.  He climbs through it, navigating fascinating stories that pop up like distant islands coming suddenly into view.  Whales become living history, otters ribbons of water, geology and literature and especially poetry are drawn together by the intimate witness Gange bears to the ocean’s edge.  This beautifully written and grippingly researched book shows us that our shores are the beginning, not the ending, of things.’ Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan: or, the Whale, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, 2009

‘Energetic, entertaining and erudite…sometimes boisterous, sometimes lyrical but always engaging.’ Donald Murray, author of The Dark Stuff: Stories from the Peatlands (2018)

‘David Gange’s book is an argument for a different kind of history…The strength of Gange’s account is his generosity. His own wry persona never overshadows the voices of past and present inhabitants…It helps that Gange’s prose is itself poetic and precise. The hills and lochs of Assynt, for instance, tessellate in shapes “like Euclidian art”. He conveys the experience of kayaking through mountainous “scarps of sea”; his enthusiasm for snoozing in soggy sleeping bags is infectious. By the end, his book makes a persuasive case for chronicling the history of regions through the experiences and voices of the people who call them home. A dunking in the freezing sea, off the coast of County Mayo, leaves the author shivering but “ignited, elated”. Surfacing from his book, the reader is invigorated, too’. The Economist

‘If you only read one book exploring the wilds of the British Isles this year, then this is it!’ Pilgrim Magazine

‘He resorts courageously to a kayak, entrusting this cockleshell to the rigours of the Atlantic…Orcadian navigators, Irish saints and Welsh pilgrims paddle out from his pages, taking us to reaches that were roads when London was but a rumour…This is an intensely political book, ruing the urban, inland ascendancy that has made the far West culturally, as well a geographically, marginal in the interests of commerce and the name of modernity. But there is also uncomplicated beauty, as well as wonderful descriptions of elemental moments when survival depends on skill and the boat becomes the author’s homeland. His sea is stormy, but it is also ‘a great heart’, its islands wombs as much as tombs. Strewing poems and ideas in his wake, the author finds keening sadness and causes for righteous anger as he struggles to keep afloat, but also optimism for new ways of inhabiting and shaping the future of our battered western fringes’. Country Life Magazine