Born in Whitton, London, Irvine had a tumultuous and free spirited adolescence, in which she replaced formal education with travel and adventure. She first ran away from school at twelve and had no full-time schooling after her thirteenth birthday.
In 1980, Irvine responded to an advert placed by writer Gerald Kingsland and they became self-imposed castaways for a year on the isolated and uninhabited island of Tuin, in the Torres Strait between New Guinea and Australia. In 1983, she published her account of the experience in Castaway, which was later used as the basis for the 1986 film of the same name.
Following the success of Castaway, in 1985 she published Runaway about her life leading up to the decision to spend a year on Tuin. It describes how, while hitchiking in Greece, she was raped at knife-point and subsequently suffered a mental breakdown.
She published her first novel One is One in 1989.
In 1999 she was invited to write a biography of Tom and Diana Hepworth, British expatriates, who in 1947 set sail from England and embarked upon a hazardous journey in search of a faraway paradise where they could raise a family. They settled on Pigeon Island in the Solomons, running a trading business. Irvine accepted the invitation and, after travelling to the Solomon Islands to immerse herself once again in island life, wrote Faraway.
In 1984, Irvine bought the isolated cottage Rumachroy, on the remote Scottish island of Tanera Mòr, where, most of the time as a single mother, she raised her children. In 2007, she moved to south-eastern Bulgaria.
- "Lucy Irvine's website". Retrieved 2007-05-15.
- "BBC Radio 4 Today interview with Lucy Irvine" (RealAudio). Retrieved 2007-05-15.