The visitors arrive...
Sometimes it is said that Sir Walter Scott and ‘The Lady of the Lake’, published in 1810, led to the discovery of the Trossachs. More accurately, his work led to a popularisation of an area that was already receiving attention from people of leisure and taste. By the reign of King George III (1760 onwards) a steady trickle of visitors were penetrating the secret ways and byroads. (The Wordsworths first visit, after all, was seven years ahead of Scott's blockbuster.)
Even the local minister in Callander, the Rev Dr James Robertson, in his contribution to the Statistical Account of Scotland, spends several pages under the heading of 'Romantic Prospects' describing the tourist traffic that was building even before 1790.
He remarks upon what we would call today the 'tourism infrastructure' that locals were putting into place. 'The Hon. Ms Drummond of Perth has erect booths of wicker work, in the most convenient places, for the accommodation of strangers, who visit this wild and picturesque landscape....' He describes the farming tenantry's apparent willingness 'to show the beauties of the place to travellers.'
Exactly the same phenomenon was at the same time taking place in the English Lake District, from about 1760 onwards, and can be seen as a kind of pursuit of the 'Picturesque' as defined by writers such as William Gilpin. The Trossachs became suitable quarry for those who had already 'bagged' England's lakes and mountains!
In the first half of the 19th century, intrepid visitors to the area found conditions difficult. Thomas Carlyle visited a little inn near Loch Katrine in 1818 and found only 'bad oatcakes and unacceptable whisky' on the menu. In 1838, the judge Lord Cockburn was bemused by the 'altercations,' as tourists bickered over accommodation at another tiny inn. (In the end, they all had to bed down together, numbering around 60, in a space more suitable for a dozen!)