Longlisted for The Highland Book Prize 2020
Fourteen centuries ago, Irish saints brought the Word of God to the Hebrides and Scotland's Atlantic shore. These 'white martyrs' sought solitude, remoteness, even harshness, in places apart from the world where they could fast, pray and move closer to an understanding of God: places where they could see angels. Columba, who founded the famous monastery at Iona, was the most well-known of these courageous men who rowed their curraghs towards danger and uncertainty in a pagan land, but the many others are now largely forgotten by history.
In this book, Alistair Moffat journeys from the island of Eileach an Naoimh at the mouth of the Firth of Lorne to Lismore, Iona and then north to Applecross, searching for traces of these extraordinary men. He finds them not often in any tangible remains, but in the spirit of the islands and remote places where they passed their exemplary lives. Brendan, Moluag, Columba, Maelrubha and others brought the Gaelic language and echoes of how the saints saw their world can still be heard in its cadences. And the tradition of great piety endures.
'[an] exploration of Scotland's past through the eyes of a scholarly hiker. His focus in this magnificent book is the lives of the early Irish saints who came to Scotland to rescue the country from darkness. It was a brave thing to do - Scotland was a wild and frightening place then' * New Statesman, Books of the Year * 'This delightful book is part history, part pilgrimage... Moffat's writing is at its most fascinating when he writes about his experience - and none more than his night in the open on the holy island of Iona' * The Church Times * 'Full of insight and passion, Moffat opens discussion surrounding popular Christian cultural figures and sheds light on the influence of the Irish Saints who have undoubtedly contributed to the culture and language of Scotland in powerful way. This book goes beyond educational - it is both emotional and uplifting as we follow the author on his own journey, providing his reader with the perfect form of escapism' * Dundee Courier, Scottish Book of the Week * 'Part-travelogue, part pilgrimage, In Search of Angels succeeds as a compelling, finely detailed overview of just how many Irish monks settled I the north west of Scotland in the sixth and seventh centuries. The marks of these men are still with us, if you know where to look' -- Michael Russell * West Highland Free Press * 'Moffat is on the track of the Irish monk-missionaries...he wants us to follow him with attention to atmosphere, weather, wonderful scenery and the difficulties of reaching his evocative destinations...The writing is vivid...[His own] search is not unrelated to that of the sixth-century Irish monks' * Times Literary Supplement * 'Alistair Moffat is one of Scotland's finest and most readable writers. His is a magnificent book about Scotland in dark times. It is hauntingly lovely, with a message of light that we sorely need today' -- Alexander McCall Smith * Sunday Post * '[Alistair Moffat] doesn't stick to the libraries for his research. Instead, he travels to the islands and wild
places around the coasts of Scotland ... recreating a vanished world' FIVE STARS * Sorted Magazine *