To the Desert and Back; or, Travels in Spain, the Barbary States, Italy, etc., in 1875–6


To the Desert and Back is an account by Zouch Horace Turton, a Victorian-era traveler who in 1875–76 embarked on a journey that took him from London to France, Spain, the Barbary States (the coastal regions of present-day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya), Sicily, Italy, France, and back to London. The journey lasted 283 days. Combining sea and rail travel, Turton made brief stops along the coast of northwestern France, before arriving in Valladolid in northern Spain. From there he toured the Spanish interior, visiting Madrid, Toledo, Cordova, and Seville. He crossed the Mediterranean to Tangier on the Moroccan coast. He then toured the Spanish coastal cities of Málaga, Valencia, and Barcelona, and crossed the Mediterranean back to Africa to visit Algeria, at the time a French colony. The desert mentioned in the title is a reference to a journey Turton made to the Algerian oasis town of Biskra. He later made a brief stop in Tunis, before heading back to London via Sicily, Italy, and France. Comprised of 24 brief chapters, the book is reminiscent of a modern-day travel guide, although one that reflects the strong cultural prejudices of the Victorian era. The descriptions of towns and sites are brief, with a particular focus on the architecture of the places visited and reflections on the art and character of earlier civilizations. Details are given about the types of weather encountered and the length of the journeys between the various places. The final chapter includes itemized finances of the trip. Turton also offers advice to travelers on such matters as the weight and content of their luggage and on coping with the challenges of traveling abroad. After his return, Turton entered theological college and was ordained into the Anglican ministry in 1877. He served in parishes in Canada, Honolulu, New Zealand and Japan in the first half of the 1880s; he then returned to Britain and worked in Northamptonshire and Norfolk.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Samuel Tinsley, London


Title in Original Language

To the desert and back, or, Travels in Spain, the Barbary States, Italy, etc., in 1875-6

Type of Item

Physical Description

291 pages ; 21 centimeters

Last updated: October 30, 2017