Dervla Murphy: Reflections on a lifetime of travel

Dervla Murphy (Photo from

Dervla Murphy has been described as a ‘travel legend’ and ‘the first lady of Irish cycling’.

For five decades she’s travelled the world mostly alone, and mostly on foot. 

Her first book, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, was published in 1965 and over 20 other titles followed on places as wide ranging as Peru, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Africa, India, Israel, Palestine, Laos, and Siberia.

Dervla was granted the Edward Stanford Award for Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing in March 2021.

She’s a writer who needs no introduction, but if you’re not familiar with her life and work I recommend that you read this excellent summary of her career, and watch the 2010 Irish documentary Who Is Dervla Murphy?

You’ll enjoy this podcast a lot more with a little context because it really was a ‘corner of the pub’ sort of conversation rather than an interview.

I didn’t think Dervla gave interviews anymore but Steph from Eland Books suggested I speak with her on the occasion of her 90th birthday. Eland has been a great friend to this podcast from the beginning, and I’d like to thank Steph, Rose and Barnaby for their ongoing support and encouragement.

Dervla’s first publisher John Murray famously said that interviewing her is like trying to open an oyster with a damp bus ticket.

She’s an incredibly modest person with an intense curiosity about the world, a keen interest in current events, beer and conservation, and a remarkable ability to turn an interview back on the interviewer.

We spoke about the loss of traditional cultures, travel in the pre-internet age, and the general state of the world.

I hope you enjoy it.

These are the books we mentioned in the podcast:

Read more about Dervla here:

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About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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