Sir Walter Scott and the discovery of the Trossachs and Loch Lomond.
Around 1790, Sir Walter Scott, as an apprentice in his father’s law office, had to deliver legal documents to some ‘difficult’ tenants in Balquhidder Glen. Trouble was expected, and Scott picked up an escort of six soldiers and a sergeant from Stirling Castle. From this sergeant – who knew the ground well - he heard more tales of Rob Roy, to add to those he had already learned from an old Highland client of his father who had known Rob personally.
He further added to his growing familiarity with the Rob Roy country in the 1793 when, as a newly qualified advocate, he visited several of the homes of other legal associates and friends who came from the area around Callander.
For some years afterwards he pursued his career and also became known as the author of ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel’ and ‘Marmion’. He decided to put his store of knowledge of the geography and folklore of The Trossachs and Loch Lomond area into another creative project. By the summer of 1809 he was at work on ‘The Lady of the Lake’. He rode from Loch Venachar to Stirling to check the time it would take his hero Fitz-James who makes the journey in the story. He then systematically studied the terrain around Loch Lomond. He even read out the first part of the poem while staying with the Duke of Montrose at Buchanan Castle.
‘The Lady of the Lake’ was published in 1810 and was a sensation in its day. Huge numbers of visitors then descended on the Trossachs - far more than the then primitive ‘tourism infrastructure’ could cope with! However, the visitors found the scenery very much to their taste.
This ‘cult of the picturesque’ was reinforced by artists who painted suitable Highland scenes sold as prints to meet demand. Much artistic licence can be noted in the works of this era. Alexander Nasmyth, for example, who painted Loch Lomond as well, thought that his Loch Katrine view could only be enhanced by inserting a classical temple into the composition, in the manner of the classical landscape allusions of the earlier painter Claude.
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