A 65 year old atheist widower, Jack, walks The Pilgrims’ Way along the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales and stays for a week on the island of Bardsey at the end of the walk. There he will decide whether it time to end his life.
During his walk, he reminisces about the three generations of his family who have (holiday) links with the area. He reflects on his marriage and divorce, the death of his mother – all causing regret and guilt. He recounts a relationship with Branwen: their brief affair 30 years ago, their re-union when all the old passion was mutually rekindled, the decision of Branwen to remain loyal to her husband and family and security.
They meet, much to his surprise, for the final time on Bardsey. He realises that the same experience can bring enrichment, nourishment and hope to one person (himself) but shamefulness, a poisoning and regret to another (Branwen).
He decides in the end he has not been a bad man, just inadequate and can just about justify continuing to live.
An epilogue describes his diagnosis with an inoperable blood clot, his farewell to his family and his suicide in Lofoten watching the Northern Lights.