Sir Walter Scott

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So real was the vision that Scott then created that the then land-owners of the Loch Katrine area (the Ancaster family) also built a replica of the ‘sylvan hall’ on Ellen’s Isle as described in the poem. A living tree held up its roof. The inner walls were created with animal skins and old armour and Gothic windows were created by interlacing branches.  There was also a large fireplace. Unfortunately visitors took to lighting fires to boil their kettles there and in consequence, at some point after 1835, the whole place burned down. (This suggests that thoughtless camping is not a new phenomenon in the area!)

But Scott was not yet finished with the landscapes and settings of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. In 1817 he conceived a novel about the famous Rob Roy Macgregor. Characteristically, he researched ‘on the ground’, visiting Rob Roy’s Cave on Loch Lomond. The novel was in print by the end of the year and was an instant success. Set against the backdrop of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion, like The Lady of the Lake it featured easily identifiable local topography and its success attracted visitors, otherwise focused on Loch Katrine, back towards the Loch Lomond area.

As well as the romance and adventure elements, Rob Roy can be interpreted as a symbol of courage and honour, qualities of the clansfolk of old, with Baillie Nichol Jarvie representing the commerce and industry that would change the Highlands forever. And visitors would easily recognise the descriptions of Loch Ard and the Echo Rock used by Helen Macgregor to confuse the soldiers under Captain Thornton. Above the loch on the north side, the Falls of Ledard, earlier described in Scott’s Waverley, re-appear as the setting for Helen Macgregor, Baillie Nicol Jarvie and the hero, Frank Osbaldistone’s open air meal together.   

Overall, it was this weaving together of the ‘Cult of the Picturesque’, the romantic but easily accessed landscape, and the recognisable settings of the popular works of Scott that assured the Loch Lomond and Trossachs area would be high on the list of visitors’ essential experiences of Scotland – and remain popular for the last two centuries.