Peak Beyond Peak: The Unpublished Scottish Journeys of Isobel Wylie Hutchison


On September 14 2022, the voice of one of Scotland’s most remarkable figures will return to the page in Peak Beyond Peak: The Unpublished Scottish Journeys of Isobel Wylie Hutchison. Born 30 May 1889, Isobel Wylie Hutchison was many things: A botanist, explorer, poet and artist, she travelled solo throughout the arctic collecting plant samples, wrote and published extensive volumes of essays and poetry, and was – in short – one of the most impressive Scottish figures of her time. In an early essay detailing a journey across the Hebrides, Iceland and Greenland, she encompasses this daring spirit:

“Why not indeed? ‘Why not?’ is a motto, by the way, to which I became attached at a very early age. Perhaps I should rather say, that at a very early age it became attached to me.”

However, despite her many achievements, since her death in 1982 she fell out of public awareness and her legacy was largely forgotten compared with that of her male counterparts. So much so that when Hazel Buchan Cameron, working as Writer-In-Residence for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, came upon a box of papers marked ‘Unpublished?’, she did not recognise the author, though the magic of the work was immediately apparent. Encouraged by volunteer and former Head of Geography at Perth Academy Kenneth MacLean, Cameron began the arduous task of transcribing the documents and immersing herself in the extraordinary world of Isobel Wylie Hutchison. Now, after eight years of dutiful work, Isobel can speak for herself again.

Published with an erudite introduction by Kenneth MacLean detailing Hutchison’s life and achievements, Peak Beyond Peak represents a landmark moment in Scottish culture, not only for bringing focus back to one of Scotland’s most astonishing women and her relationship to the country, but for reaffirming the importance of her work and its message of cultural exchange, curiosity and communication at a time of increasing social division and disconnection from the world. Written with her characteristic wit and a keen interest in science, myth and folklore, the essays are as playful and informative today as they were 75 years ago.

On working to produce the book, Hazel Buchan Cameron said: “Kirkliston near Edinburgh in Scotland was the home of Isobel Wylie Hutchison. In order to travel the world and in particular the Arctic, she needed to be rooted in one place and her home at Carlowrie Castle was her ‘taproot’.  I am therefore thrilled that her Scottish essays are being published by Edinburgh publisher Taproot Press. Not only linked by place but by botany. When I saw Patrick’s (Taproot’s Co-Founder) enthusiasm for Isobel, I knew her stories were in the right hands, and so it has proved to be.”

Pre-order a copy of Peak Beyond Peak.

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