5 Books Set in Cold Places to Curl Up With This Winter

IMG_3884Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.  And what makes a cold winter evening even better is a good book to curl up with (and perhaps also a glass or two of amaretto and ice). When the wind is howling and sleet lashing the window, snuggle into your favourite tartan jammies, and read all about the ice and snow from the warmth and comfort of your armchair.  With the radio playing softly in the background, lights sparkling on the Christmas tree, and someone bringing warm mince pies occasionally, I can’t think of a more perfect way to enjoy the books below.


The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

In the introduction to this book, Cherry-Garrard notes: Polar Exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time that has been devised. As the youngest member of the team accompanying Robert Falcon Scott on his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole, Cherry-Garrard was one of only three survivors, and part of the rescue mission that discovered the frozen bodies of his colleagues. His account pieces together diary extracts from other team members, adding details of scientific endeavours and anecdotes of resilience and endurance in the frozen south.

Buy it here.

This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland by Gretel Ehrlich

Long fascinated by the icy landscapes and exotic culture, Ehrlich travels extensively in Greenland, meeting people walking the line between a traditional way of life and modern development. She draws heavily on the journals of Danish-Greenlandic explorer Knud Rasmussen from the 1920s and 30s, retracing expeditions by kayak and dogsled. The book combines travel diary with biography, ethnographic study and geography. 

Buy it here.


A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

Finnish author Jansson is best known for the Moomin stories, and although this collection of short pieces is for adults, it captures the same feeling of childlike wonder her famous creations have for nature, landscape and life. The beautifully observed stories have a lightness of touch and at the same time a deep truth, making them a joy to read. For a bonus recommendation, seek out her short novel The True Deceiver as a follow up. 

Buy it here.

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

This book is difficult to summarise in just a short paragraph. It details Lopez’s travels in the High Arctic, meditating on the landscapes and wildlife, how we explain and interact with them, drawing on historical, cultural, philosophical and scientific significances. This is not an easy book to digest, but the sparklingly beautiful prose and interesting, informative subjects make you want to take your time, and enjoy the brilliance. Best dipped into over a series of winter afternoons. 

Buy it here.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver 

A bone-chilling ghost story set in an abandoned whaling camp in the Spitzbergen archipelago, high in the Arctic, in the late 1930s. With thoughts of impending war not far from the collective consciousness, a British scientific expedition establish themselves in a remote corner, against the advice of the Norwegian administration. As the dazzling brightness of 24-hour daylight gives way to the creeping polar night, a growing unease builds in the team, but is the horror a presence in the darkness or the madness of isolation in a challenging environment?  Buy it here.


Have you got any icy and snowy suggestions for a wintry reading list?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you follow them to buy a book I recommend, I get a small payment from the company, at no charge to you whatsoever. It helps keep my book habit going.


Weekly Photo Challenge: One

In April 2010 there was only one place that people in Northern Europe were talking about.  Or attempting to talk about, as the Icelandic pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull proved too difficult for all but the most practiced of linguists.  Ash from the eruption rose into the atmosphere and entered the jet stream, leading to the cancellation of air traffic across a large part of Europe.  Ash falls were recorded in parts of Scotland, Ireland, Norway and the Faeroe Islands.

A view of Eyjafjallajökull from Route 1

When I visited in spring 2012, there wasn’t any sign of the eruption remaining around the farms of Eyjafjöll, at the foot of the mountains.  However, inland from the Hringvegur (Ring Road) on the Fimmvörðuháls mountain pass two new volcanic fissures opened up, each about 0.5km long.  The craters were named Magni and Móði, after the sons of Thor, the Norse god of thunder, who gives his name to the mountain ridge of Thórsmörk to the north.

The Weekly Photo challenge can be found here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

As a visitor to Iceland, it almost seems like there’s a waterfall around every bend. Dramatic cascading falls, beautiful ribbon-like streams, rainbow trimmed sheets of water, and thundering cataracts.  But the grandest of all Icelandic waterfalls is Dettifoss, where the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river drops 45m into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.  Fed by the Vatnajökull glacier, and frequent rain and snow, the falls are the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

Dettifoss, Iceland

Here’s the link to the weekly photo challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

The theme for this week’s Photo Challenge is layers, which made me think of the shore at Hellnar, near the tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula in Iceland.  The black basalt rocks are washed by the surf rolling in from the North Atlantic, exposing the layers created by many subsequent flows of lava from the Snaefell volcano.  Constant pounding by the sea smooths the sharp edges, leaving ribbony waves of rock.

Layers of basalt on Valasnös natural arch, Hellnar

The cliffs and natural arch of Valasnös, at the eastern end of the bay, look particularly gnarled and twisted, with sharp shards and layers that catch the light and reflections from the water.  Higher up, mosses and sea pinks take hold in tiny nooks and kittiwakes nest on narrow ledges.  Out in the green water of the bay, sleek seals watch you watching them with their deep dark eyes.

The Weekly Photo Challenge can be found here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

The theme of this week’s challenge was “The Hue of You“, which I think has been the most demanding challenge I’ve participated in to date.  The aim is to share a photograph in which the predominant colour or colours reveals something about yourself, which prompted me to research a little about the perceptions associated with my favourite colour: blue. Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Infinite

The theme of the weekly photo challenge is Infinite.

The Standing Stones o’ Stenness in the gloaming.

At the heart of Orkney’s mainland, the Stones o’ Stenness are one of the oldest stone circles in Britain, dating from at least 3100BCE.  The stones, some almost 5 metres in height, dominate the flat, treeless landscape of mainland, bearing witness to infinite sunsets.

The Midnight Sun at the Top of the World

The Globe Monument, Nordkapp

The rugged cliffs of Nordkapp, at 71°10’21” North, with the Globe Monument perched above, is an iconic travel destination receiving in the region of 200,000 visitors a year, and providing the start and finish point for a number of epic journeys across the continent.

However, its also known as one of the biggest tourist traps in Europe, an ultra-expensive day out in an already expensive country. It isn’t even the true northernmost point of Norway, which is either somewhere in the Svalbard archipealgo, Kinnarodden, north of Mehamn on the Nordkyn peninsula, or nearby Knivskjelodden, depending on the definition used.

So, is it really worth visiting?

Continue reading