Paul Murton follows in the footsteps of the first tourists to Scotland. With a Victorian guidebook in his hands, Paul travels across the country tracing the changes that have taken place since the birth of Scottish tourism 200 years ago.
For centuries, Scotland was regarded as a place to avoid, and early travellers complained about the terrible weather, bad food, poor roads and the uncouth habits of the natives. To find out what changed to make Scotland an internationally celebrated tourist destination, Paul recreates six Scottish tours suggested by a well-thumbed, 19th-century copy of Black’s Picturesque Guide to Scotland.
Part 1: The Romantic Ideal
Paul goes in search of the romantic ideal, travelling from the Trossachs out to Iona and then the fabled Isle of Staffa – all places that enchanted and inspired visitors with the magic of Scotland’s unique history and landscape.
Part 2: The Sporting Life
Paul discovers how 19th-century Scotland’s mountains and glens were a playground for rich gentlemen eager to test themselves against the forces of nature. In the spirit of Victorian manliness, Paul makes the journey using a conveyance of the period, an original 1870s tricycle. Enjoying the dubious delights of his unusual mode of transport, he travels from Dunkeld along the banks of Britain’s longest river, the Tay, before climbing the mountains to Royal Deeside. From Braemar he travels to the iconic destination of Balmoral, before attempting to cycle one of Scotland’s most famous mountain passes, the Lairig Ghru.
Part 3: In Search of the Real Scotland
Paul boards the Jacobite steamtrain, and star of the Harry Potter movies, to make one of the worlds most famous railways journeys and goes ‘in search of the real Scotland’. For centuries, outsiders had seldom visited the beautiful landscape of the west coast, but the power of steam changed everything. Within a century, a network of railways spread across the entire country, connecting the industrial cities of the south to the mountains and glens of the north. With the trains came the tourists – all clamouring for a piece of the real Scotland. Paul’s route starts at the foot of Ben Nevis in Fort William and continues along the beautiful railway line to Mallaig and onwards to the fabled Isle of Skye.
Part 4: Mind, Body and Spirit
Paul goes in search of the stunning landscape of the Highlands that has attracted visitors for the last two hundred years with the promise of improving ‘mind, body and spirit’. In the 19th century, the Highlands were very much the preserve of the privileged elite, but as transport links improved in the 20th century, our mountains, lochs and glens were increasingly seen as a giant playground, where people of all classes could escape the dull routine of the modern world. Paul traces the history of the great outdoors, travelling from the shores of Loch Tay in Perthshire, across the great wilderness of Rannoch Moor, climbs the iconic mountain of Buachaille Etive Mor, before ending his journey in the quaint spa town of Strathpeffer.
Part 5: In Search of Perfect Isolation
Paul travels to the Northern Isles to discover how their remoteness from the mainland became a draw for tourists in search of perfect isolation. After all, Shetland is closer to the Arctic Circle than to London and closer to the coast of Norway than to the English border! Keen to escape the noise and pressures of their overcrowded world, more adventurous tourists braved the rough seas to travel to Orkney and Shetland, hoping to restore themselves in the peace and quiet of the far north. Paul’s journey begins on board a Norwegian racing yacht in the ocean to the east of Shetland. Landing at Lerwick, Paul continues to explore the main island and its fabulous wildlife before heading out to sea again and sailing south to the musical Orkney Islands.
Part 6: Wish You Were Here
Paul traces the rise of the seaside as a workers’ playground. In Victorian times, most tourists came from a tiny social elite – the rich – and for the great mass of the population a holiday was just a dream. But when working people eventually won the right to some free time, by far the majority of them did not rush off to the romantic highlands to enjoy the view, most postcards home were sent from the seaside. Paul begins his journey in the historic town of St Andrews, hops across the Firth of Forth to North Berwick and ends up in the capital city – Edinburgh.