Some books take time to make their mark
on the reading public. Often they take even
longer to make their mark on me. Thirty-eight
years after the first publication of Nan Shepherd’s
The Living Mountain, the title hovers on the outer
edges of the list of Scottish bestsellers. The book
is more than merely a prose poem in homage to Scotland’s Cairngorm mountains. It is intensely
beautiful and is one of the most striking pieces of
mountain literature I know.
“The finest book ever written on nature and
landscape in Britain,” suggested the Guardian
four years ago, when Edinburgh-based publisher
Canongate released a handsome new paperback
edition of The Living Mountain.
This is a slim volume — Nan Shepherd’s text
in the 2011 Canongate edition runs to just over 100
pages, beautifully typeset in the classic Goudy
Old Style font. Working with a small publisher
myself, a decent font still counts for something in
my world. It was 100 years ago in 1915 that Frederic
Goudy unveiled the now-famous serif font which
exudes quiet authority and recalls, in elements
of its style, William Morris’ Arts and Crafts
Nan Shepherd would surely have liked Goudy
Old Style which is as gentle and
flowing as Nan’s prose. But she’d
be mightily surprised to discover
that her words have caught the
attention of a travel writer from
Berlin. For Nan Shepherd was a
quiet and unassuming woman
— so retiring that, when she first
wrote The Living Mountain in the
1940s, she did not approach the
matter of publication with any
great urgency. The book was only
published in 1977. Nan herself died in 1981, just a
fortnight after her ninety-third birthday.
Nicky Gardner is editor of hidden europe and also the principal author of the magazine. Where a text is not specifically attributed to an author, it is the work of Nicky. Below, you’ll find a small selection of her articles in hidden europe magazine. Nicky also writes regularly for other media. She is co-author (with Susanne Kries) of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide, the 16th edition of which was published in late 2019.
Nicky Gardner was liberated from a life enslaved to performance indicators and business plans to become a travel writer. In fairness, travel has always been a major element of her career. Having experienced Germany as a Gastarbeiterin (guest worker) after leaving school, Nicky subsequently studied geography in Wales, and went to work in oddball corners of the globe: in the Canadian Rockies, on the fringes of the Sahara in North Africa and in a community on the edge of things in Ireland. These adventures, and a spell of consultancy in eastern Europe, paved the way for the journey that is hidden europe.
Nicky reads geography books, railway timetables and maps entirely for pleasure - and lots of real books too! She claims to have visited every inhabited island in the Hebrides, and loves nothing more than a slow meander by public transport around some unsung part of Europe. Nicky is particularly interested in issues of identity and culture in eastern Europe and the Balkans, in linguistic minorities and in island communities. Her pet loves are public libraries, Armenian food and anything coloured purple. Nicky cannot abide suburban sprawl, supermarkets and fast trains. Nicky has since 2007 been a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. Her favourite contemporary travel writers are Jan Morris, Dervla Murphy and Philip Marsden. Nicky is especially keen on historical travel writing: Edith Durham, Gertrude Bell and Isabelle Eberhardt are among her favourites. Nicky can be contacted at editors [at] hiddeneurope.co.uk.