Literary Excursions for the Armchair Traveller
On Foot to Canterbury:
A Son's Pilgrimage
Setting off on foot from Winchester, Ken Haigh hikes across southern England, retracing one of the traditional routes that medieval pilgrims followed to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Walking in honour of his father, a staunch Anglican who passed away before they could begin their trip together, Haigh wonders: Is there a place in the modern secular world for pilgrimage? On his journey, he sorts through his own spiritual aimlessness while crossing paths with writers like Anthony Trollope, John Keats, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, and, of course, Geoffrey Chaucer. On Foot to Canterbury is part travelogue, part memoir, part literary history, and all heart.
Book trailer courtesy of the Writers' Trust of Canada 2021
“On Foot to Canterbury is a beautifully written and eloquent story that skillfully weaves historical anecdotes into a journey through rural England, leaving the reader with practical, sage advice on how to deal with loss and depression, but most of all, on how to live. Haigh’s eye to detail is a delight to read, as are his frequent musings on landscape and history. This subtle, moving story stays with you long after the book is finished.”
— 2021 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction Jury (Kevin Chong, Terese Marie Mailhot, and Adam Shoalts)
Under the Holy Lake:
A Memoir of Eastern Bhutan
A child's face, a forgotten scent, or a distinctive flavour engages memory and inspires longing. Ken Haigh brings us tantalizingly close to his own vision of longing for a place, a people, a time, as he revisits those all-too-fleeting years as a young school teacher in the remote Himalayan village of Khaling, Bhutan. These experiences in an exotic country will leave you yearning for ancient Buddhist temples, winding mountain trails, and a simpler way of life. This memoir will captivate the vicarious traveller in each of us.
Praise for Under the Holy Lake
As a young teacher in the late 1980s, Ontarian Ken Haigh taught for two years in a remote Himalayan village in eastern Bhutan. This is an evocative memoir of that time and that place, redolent of the region’s Buddhist legacy, its mountain trails and its timeless way of life.
The Globe and Mail
Haigh’s sensitive and penetrating account of two years’ teaching in Bhutan shatters many Himalayan Shangri-la myths in projecting the many-faceted and tougher realities. Haigh’s dedicated work there will evoke admiration.
Peter Skinner, Foreword Magazine
In Under the Holy lake: A Memoir of Eastern Bhutan, writer Ken Haigh revisits his time spent as a young school teacher in the remote Himalayan village of Kahling, Bhutan, and draws the reader into a place where the hurried pace of Western life gives way to simpler, gentler modes of living.
This is a beautifully written love letter to a country, simple and untouched, where Haigh spent two formative and hugely informative years.
Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald
[Haigh’s] book is knowledgeable, thoughtful, humane and stylish.
Douglas Fetherling, Diplomat and International Canada
At times, it’s difficult to believe that Haigh’s Bhutan, with its gentle (though often intoxicated) people, lack of ethnic tension, dozens of languages, mountainside villages and monasteries, authoritarian but benevolent king, combination of a devout and traditional Buddhism with a system of government—funded English—speaking boarding schools run by Catholic priests and nuns, actually exists. And it doesn’t anymore. … Haigh was lucky to have been there when the country was open to foreigners yet relatively uninfluenced by them, and his sensitive, elegant reminiscences of mountain hikes and churned—butter tea, of Buddhist festivals and attentive, thoughtful teenage students, will make anyone nostalgic for that brief golden moment.
Alex Rettie, Alberta Views