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The Natural Navigator By Tristan Gooley Virgin, £14.99

The Natural NavigatorBy Tristan Gooley
Virgin, £14.99

GPS might be a godsend for the weary motorist, and Google Maps and iPhones might have removed much of the hassle from citybreaks, but when you find yourself out of charge and out of mobile coverage, the wind is blowing a gale and the water is starting to seep into your shoes, coat or boat, you’ll be cursing your dependency on technology.

This is where Tristan Gooley comes in. This book does away with technology, and even folds up any reliance on maps, and explains how to find your way around the world by relying on your senses of sight and smell (and, in one sea captain’s experience, taste) and on the indicators all around us, both natural and man-made.

This is a wide-ranging blend of history, myth, folklore and fact, and Gooley manages to disabuse a few notions along the route. If you’re allowing moss to always guide your woodland hikes northwards, for example, you might be heading in the wrong direction.


Gooley is a fine writer with a philosophical passion for the subject, and he occasionally veers into areas that are perhaps not strictly within the remit of the book, but these are effortlessly pleasant diversions that add to the whole.

His timing is strong, with anecdotes dropped in at just the right intervals to keep you turning the pages. His advice is at times glorious in its simplicity and fascinating in its execution: a puddle, for example, can make a reliable compass in the country, and in cities the traditional alignment of churches can usually help you find your bearings.

Gooley believes navigation is as much an art as a technical skill, and given the evidence here we certainly won’t disagree. But his advice is so well structured that even enthusiastic amateurs will find plenty to get to grips with.

  • lmackin@irishtimes.com