Dalrymple was born William Hamilton-Dalrymple, a son of Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, 10th baronet, who was a cousin of Virginia Woolf. He was educated at Ampleforth College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was first a history exhibitioner and then a senior history scholar.
Dalrymple has lived in India on and off since 1989 and spends most of the year at his Mehrauli farmhouse in the outskirts of Delhi, but summers in London and Edinburgh. His wife Olivia is an artist and comes from a family with long-standing connections to India. They have three children, Ibby, Sam, and Adam.
This storyteller is fascinated by Delhi’s history, culture and people and paid the city a tribute in his book ‘City of Djinns’. In his mystical odyssey of Delhi, William Dalrymple confesses Delhi has been an unforgettable experience. “Delhi has an interesting ‘East meets West’ legacy. I have lived in New Delhi on and off for nearly 20 years and it continues to be my favourite capital; as diverse and complex as it is beautiful. Above all, it is the city’s relationship with its past that fascinates me… only Rome and Cairo can even begin to rival New Delhi for the sheer volume and density of historic remains.” Dalrymple’s fascination also fills him with grief at Delhi’s neglected ruins. He admits that he has met some interesting people and made close friends in Delhi. “I’ve felt a connection with Delhi that’s tough to explain in words.