Holidaymakers in the Highlands
Travelling for pleasure needs leisure, money, transport and somewhere to stay.
Early travellers from England and Europe visited the Highlands as somewhere exotic and different.
The “Romantic” artists like William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, John Keats, and the remarkable Sarah Murray, often walked or rode, or hired a carriage. The dramatic Highland scenery was the lure.
After crossing the Rest and Be Thankful on August 29th 1803
Dorothy Wordsworth wrote –
“……we began to descend into another glen, called Glen Kinglas. We now saw the Western sky, which had hitherto been hidden from us by the hill – a glorious mass of clouds uprising from a sea of distant mountains, stretched out in length before us, towards the west – and close by us was a small lake or tarn. From the reflection of the crimson clouds the water appeared of a deep red, like melted rubies, yet with a mixture of a grey or blackish hue; the gorgeous light of the sky, with the insular colour of the lake, made the scene exceedingly romantic; yet it was more melancholy than cheerful. With all the power of light from the clouds, there was an overcasting of the gloom of evening, a twilight upon the hills.”
For her account of her second visit to Cairndow in 1822 look in the wooden poster display.
In 1803 maintenance of roads was handed over from the military to the Commissioner of Highland Roads and Bridges, which encouraged regular coaching stages and hotels.
The visit of George IV to Edinburgh, stage managed by Sir Walter Scott in 1822, introduced the tartan apparel and all things Scottish to the English.
And then when Queen Victoria bought Balmoral Estate and built the castle there (1855), it encouraged the fashion (for the well-heeled) for shooting and fishing and house parties in baronial mansion houses, from the mid 19th century until, and even after, the outbreak of war in 1914.
Around this time steamers and trains began to make it possible for ordinary people from the industrial cities to be able to take holiday trips.
See, Uncle and Aunt’s Trip to Butterbridge, 1881.
1890 – 1914 was the heyday of the pleasure steamers – fresh air, sunshine and fun.
See the poster for The Lord of the Isles, 1882.
“This was the Clyde steamer’s great trick: that within an hour or two it could take you from one of the world’s densest cities into the heart of one of its most intricate and beautiful landscapes, and give you companionship as well as food and drink.”
Ian Jack, The Guardian 29th September 2011
The advent of MacBraynes Bus Service in 1906 began to make visits with relations in the countryside easier. Children often spent holidays with Uncles and Aunts.
Another type of holiday here, it was quite common for local people to move into a barn, or outhouse or caravan, and let their house to holiday makers.
See, Summer in Cairndhu 1910.
These patterns of holidaying continued during the first three quarters of the 20th century, few people had much money to go on holiday.
Landowners let out simply furnished houses to regular summer visitors, like Glen Fyne Lodge and later Inverchorachan.
Then in the 1960’s, when houses had indoor bathrooms and electricity, many people in Cairndow offered “B and B”.
In the 1970’s cheap air travel and package holidays meant that many families began to go abroad for holidays, and still do. During recent years many houses have been bought as “second”, i.e. holiday “homes” and/or to be let out as holiday houses.