Tourists in the Trossachs

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Tourism probably began some time after the Jacobite Risings. Indeed, Tobias Smollett, born in the Vale of Leven, observed that in the 1760s Scotland was less well known than Japan. There were visitors before then, but they were travellers rather than tourists. Two of them, Thomas Pennant and William Gilpin, wrote books which became 'Bibles' for new visitors, and the first proper guide book was published long before Scott brought hordes of what might definitely be described as tourists to Scotland. Since then Loch Lomond and the Trossachs have borne the brunt of tourism in Scotland. Scott’s influence was described by Alexander Smith in Summer in Skye (1865):

“Scott's novels were to Edinburgh what the tobacco trade was to Glasgow. Although several labourers were before him in the field of Border Ballads, he made fashionable those wonderful stories . . . As soon as The Lay of the Last Minstrel appeared, everybody was raving about Melrose and moonlight. He wrote The Lady of the Lake and next year a thousand tourists descended on the Trossachs, watched the sun setting on Loch Katrine, and began to take lessons on the bagpipe. . . . . Where his muse was one year, a mail-coach and a hotel were the next.” 

However, almost immediately, the downside of tourism manifested itself. In a letter addressed to Scott, John MacCulloch (1773-1835), the geologist, complained of some of the effects of Scott’s works. These included, for example, an adaptation of Rob Roy for the London stage:

“The mystic portal has been thrown open and the mob has rushed in, dispersing all these fairy visions, and polluting everything with its unhallowed touch. Barouches and gigs, cocknies, and fishermen and poets, Glasgow weavers and travelling haberdashers now swarm in every resting place and meet us at every avenue. As Rob Roy now blusters at Covent Garden and the Lyceum, and Aberfoyle is gone to Wapping, so Wapping and the Strand must also come to Aberfoyle. The green-coated fairies have packed up their alls and quitted the premises, and the Uriskins only caper now in your verses.”