A holiday in the Highlands, 1871
In early Victorian times, holidays were only for the wealthy. Some took breaks in the Scottish countryside – rambling, fishing, hill walking and mountaineering. From the 1850s hydropathic hotels became fashionable holiday venues for middle and upper class Victorians to ‘take the waters’.
It was not until the late nineteenth century that more people could have time from work to enjoy a holiday. If working class people had a day off they lost a day’s pay. (Official unpaid holidays were not approved until1899). With the expansion of the transport system, cheaper rail fares and associated steamer trips travel was more affordable to the working classes. Railway companies also organized outings with reduced fares to suit local and trade holidays.
Henry Paton toured the Highlands when he was 16 years old. He travelled with his father and his father’s friend, William Paterson. Henry kept a diary of his camping holiday which he called his ‘First Grand Tour of the Western Highlands.’
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1st Grand Tour...Western Highlands
Monday August 14th 1871 1st Day
Left Edinburgh at 6.30am, per train at that time
for Glasgow, taking with us, tent, etc & some
provisions. The train was a fast train, stopping
only at Haymarket Station & Polmont Junction
on the way, and arriving in Glasgow at 8am.
[There were three of us, my father (Mr J Paton), Mr W[illia]m Paterson,
& myself.] We took our way to the Broomielaw,
where the Steamer, 'Clydesdale' which was to take
us to Oban, was lying, loading, to start at 10am
put our tent & some other things on board, and
went to see the town, intending to join the
vessel at Greenock at 2pm.
In Glasgow we saw many places of interest, 'The
Cathedral, which is very well for a work of art, but
certainly not for a place of worship.' 'The Necropolis,
the burying ground, just beside the Cathedral, & in
which there are many fine monuments, one to John
Knox & other worthies (Scotch). 'The Royal Exchange',
'Arcade', 'The Saltmarket', 'Glasgow Green' & the fine
Bridges across the Clyde, The Albert Bridge, Suspension &
Glasgow Bridges. We left Glasgow for Greenock
by the 1pm train. & arrived there at 2pm. The
scenery as we passed down was very fine, passing
(National Records of Scotland reference: GD1/1126/5 p.3)
Transcript of additional extracts from Henry Paton's diary
Tuesday, August 15th 1871
Oban. After landing, we pitched our camp near Pulpit Hill... Later, we walked along the sea shore to Dunolly Castle and …resolved to go to Ballahullish in the paddle steamer ‘Chancellor’.
Wednesday August 16th
Set out for Glencoe …and looked for some place where provisions might be procured. Inveroran was the nearest place mentioned on the milestones, which were regular and anxiously watched by us. Our next place on the milestone was Tyndrum.
Thursday August 17th
We are now 14 miles from Inverarran at the head of Loch Lomond and had to be there at 4.30 for the boat. We passed several parts of the new railway in construction from Killin to Oban. The first we saw of it was at Clifton where there is to be a station... Sailed down Loch Lomond to Inversnaid and reached the side of Loch Katrine at 7.00pm. We looked for a place and pitched the tent on top of a hillock, boiled some coffee, cut down a good quantity of ferns for our bedding and went to sleep.
Friday August 18th - Day 5
We have just woken from the most comfortable and warmest bed we have had since we left Edinburgh... There is now a road from the Head of the Loch to the Trossachs Hotel where we had breakfast. We left at 11am… for Callander… After some dinner, we looked about the town and booked through tickets for Edinburgh, by Stirling. Got home about 10.30pm.
(National Records of Scotland reference: GD1/1126/5 pp.5-16)