The Station: Athos: Treasures and Men, Robert Byron, Eland Books, £14.99

Robert Byron was the Rupert Brooke of travel writing. Part of the Brideshead group that included Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton, he died young in 1941 when the ship taking him to Persia as a war correspondent was torpedoed off the north-east coast of Scotland. Despite his privileged beginnings – educated at Eton and Merton College, Oxford – and years on the country house weekend circuit, he remained a thorn in the side of convention and conservatism. “Isn’t Robert simply killing?” wrote Nancy Mitford after one visit. “He seems to hate everything which ordinary people like!”

That contrary spirit led to The Road to Oxiana (1937), his journal-style account of a journey across Persia and Afghanistan, which is widely regarded as a masterpiece. Bruce Chatwin carried it with him everywhere, considering it “a sacred text, beyond criticism”.

The Station is Byron’s first travel book. It recounts his visit in 1927 to 20 Greek orthodox monasteries on Mount Athos, in the north east of Greece, a place where time seemed to have stopped. Byron travelled with a couple of friends and saddle bags packed with goodies from Fortnum & Mason, including a soda siphon.

A profound encounter with another civilisation, The Station is written with his natural verve, wit and almost cinematic vividness. It represents the opening salvo from an original whose “breathtaking prose”, writes William Dalrymple, “cast its spell on English travel writing ever since.” Those wanting to know more about this extraordinary man should read James Knox’s A Biography of Robert Byron (2003).

Martha GellhornMartha Gellhorn (Image: free)

Glowing Still: A Woman’s Life on the Road, Sara Wheeler, Abacus

Reminscences of her career by the doyenne of British travel writing. Memorable occasions are vividly recalled, such as towing her baby on a sledge with the Sami in Arctic Sweden, or meeting a seal that popped its head through the lavatory in the Antarctic (“hot fishy breath!”). Wheeler’s epigraph, by war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, sums up her intrepid attitude: “I do not wish to be good. I wish to be hell on wheels, or dead.”

The Tourist, Phil Tuffnell, HarperCollins, £10.99

Known, in his prime, as “the wild man of English cricket”, Phil Tuffnell has seen half the world while in his whites. In this light-hearted memoir-cum-travelogue, recounting adventures from when on the circuit, anecdotes abound. “I have seen some pretty remarkable sights,” he writes. “Even more remarkable than Mike Gatting emerging from the shower at Lords.”

Travellers in the Golden Realm, Lubaaba Al-Azami, John Murray, £25

The travellers in this fascinating book are merchants, pilgrims, adventurers and outcasts from 16th and 17th century Britain, who were among the first to experience the marvels and sophistication of the Mughal empire in India. Historian Lubaaba Al -Azami’s closely researched portrayal of these pioneers describes formative early encounters between East and West, and sets the scene for the age of colonialism and globalisation that would follow.

Jen StoutJen Stout (Image: free)

Night train to Odesa, Jen Stout, Birlinn, £17.99

This can’t strictly be classified as travel, since Stout is writing about her time in Ukraine as a war correspondent. Even so, it was a childhood urge to visit Russian that led to her becoming fluent in the language, and ending up in Moscow, just as the war broke out. Weeks later, she crossed into Ukraine to report on the conflict’s deadly advances and retreats. With a talent for getting people to talk to her and share a glimpse of their shattered lives, Stout’s highly personal, informative reportage is haunting and memorable.

Life at Full Tilt, Selected Writings of Dervla Murthy, Ed Ethel Crowley, Eland Books, £25

One of the finest travel writers of recent times, Irish literary star Dervla Murphy covered the globe, from Afghanistan and Africa to Palestine and Israel. With extracts from all 24 of her books, plus her journalism, this is an invaluable compilation showcasing the lifetime’s work of a deeply engaged observer.

Ullapool is a jewel of the north-westUllapool is a jewel of the north-west (Image: free)

North Coast Journey: The Magic of Scotland’s Northern Highlands, Brigid Benson, Birlinn, £20

A timely updated edition of this practical guide to this increasingly popular area. Benson starts her circular route in Inverness, and returns there via Ullapool, Torridon, John O’Groats, Dingwall and many points between. It’s packed with information, from where to swim, shop or watch wildlife to how to deal with single-track roads without ending up in a ditch.

To the City: Life and Death along the Ancient Walls of Istanbul, Alexander Christie-Miller, William Collins, £25

Formerly a Times correspondent in Turkey, Alexander Christie-Miller knows the country inside out. In this cameo of a capital that for millennia has been the hinge between east and west, he explains contemporary Turkey through the experiences of those who live here. In this teeming, historically pivotal city, ancient and modern collide. “Clutches of wooden Ottoman houses marooned amid tower blocks and highways,” he writes, showing how Istanbul’s complicated past infuses the present.

ParisParis (Image: free)

Paris: A Literary Anthology, Zachary Zeager, Macmillan, £9.99

Heading to the Olympics or watching at home? There’s no more enjoyable way to understand Paris than through the eyes of novelists, journalists and poets who have lived there. Including Orwell’s arduous shifts in restaurant kitchens, Balzac on the city’s intellectuals and Edith Wharton on mobilisation for World War I, this pocket size travel guide brings you the stories on which today’s city is built.

Wounded Tigris: A River Journey through the Cradle of Civilisation, by Leon McCarron, Corsair, £12.99

Leon McCarron’s dangerous journey by boat along the length of the endangered Tigris river falls into the category of adventure rather than travel. With a small team, he started at the source of the river, where the ancient Assyrian kings once held sway, and followed to where it reaches the Persian Gulf. Passing through Turkey, Syria and Iraq, he crossed electrifying regions where ISIS still operate. Once the most fertile of areas, now the route of the Tigris is almost uninhabitable, in part because of climate change. In recounting the geography, politics, history and environmental problems of this biblical river, McCarron emphasises the help he received from soldiers, locals and archaeologists. A sobering, compelling glimpse of near ecological and political ruin.