Leon McCarron is an award-winning writer, broadcaster and explorer from Northern Ireland. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the Geographical Society of Philadelphia's Explorer of the Year, and is known for long-distance expeditions and immersive multimedia storytelling. In the past decade he has travelled over 50,000km by human power, and is currently based in Iraq.
Leon is the author of two books: 'The Road Headed West: A Cycling Adventure Through North America' (Summersdale, 2014) and The Land Beyond: A Thousand Miles on Foot Through the Middle East' (Bloomsbury, 2017). His third book, 'Wounded Tigris: A River Journey through the Cradle of Civilisation,' will be published by Corsair in spring 2023. He has bylines for National Geographic, Noema, New Scientist, Smithsonian, BBC, The Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Telegraph. His books have been Top Ten Bestsellers on Amazon, and shortlisted for both the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award and the Adventure Travel prize at the Banff Mountain Book competition. His feature story 'The Night Train' was selected for inclusion in the 'Best British Travel Writing of the 21st Century,' (Summersdale, 2022) and an essay was also included in the 'Out Of Isolation' anthology (Unicorn, 2022.) In 2022 the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation selected Leon's story 'The Last of the Marsh Arabs' as the winner in the Environment category. He also took runner-up in Foreign Travel with 'The Marsh Guide and the English Explorer.' Leon was the recipient of the 2017 Neville Shulman award, and is a Fellow of the Abraham Path Initiative.
Leon has presented two films for BBC Northern Ireland, sailing to the Arctic to tell the story of the Victorian adventurer Lord Dufferin, and researching a personal history that collided with the life of politician Andrew Bonar Law. He has also reported for BBC Radio 4's 'From Our Own Correspondent' in Iraq, the West Bank, and on the Yemeni island of Socotra.
As well as his journey by bike from New York to Hong Kong, and on foot through the Holy Lands, Leon has walked 3000 miles across China for a 4-part National Geographic Asia series. He has walked 1000 miles through the largest sand desert on earth, the Empty Quarter, with adventurer Alastair Humphreys. The film they self-shot received critical acclaim, reaching almost a million viewers on a global tour with the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Leon has travelled along the longest river in Iran by inflatable boat with Tom Allen, and produced the award-winning 'Karun' from that journey. Also with Tom Allen, he rode across Argentine Patagonia on horseback to film the Santa Cruz river for the last time before a dam project destroyed the pristine valley forever. Their film, Nowhere is a Place, is an ode to what was lost.
Leon lived with the Israelite Samaritans in the West Bank, and presented a film on the unique position of community in the region for Real Stories. He has travelled all over the world on foot and by bike, and also works as a consultant for the development of hiking trails. In this role he has worked in the Middle East, Central Asia and China, and is currently designing the first long-distance walking trail in Iraq. The New York Times Magazine profiled Leon as the co-founder of the Zagros Mountain Trail in April 2022.
Leon regularly gives lectures and has spoken at the Royal Geographical Society, the Explorers Club and at hundreds of schools, businesses and societies. In his work as a brand ambassador he has in the past collaborated with, among others, The North Face, Osprey, Alpkit, Berghaus, Arc'teryx, Vogue, GQ, Ford and Red Bull.