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Scottish Tourist Season, 1848

Source: The Illustrated London News, JULY 15, 1848

The tourist season is about to commence. The grouse and the red deer will shortly call our legislators to the moors and the mountains. London will go out of town. The pursuit of health and recreation amid the beauties and sublimities of nature, will drive its swarms to the mountains of Wales, the lakes of Westmoreland, and the magnificent Highlands of Scotland. The unsettled state of the Continent will in all probability very greatly increase the number of home tourists. Of late years, Scotland, owing to the facilities of steam travelling both by sea and land, has been visited by annually increasing multitudes; and it is but reasonable to suppose that the political circumstances of the present period will very greatly augment the number of pilgrims to her lochs and mountains. For this reason, the travelling public—and who in these days is not a traveller?—is very greatly interested in a question now pending before the Courts of Law in Scotland. When first mooted last year it excited considerable surprise, if not indignation, not only among tourists, but among the public of all classes—especially in England, where the right of way is jealously guarded by the people, and seldom interfered with by the proprietors of land. We allude to the shutting-up of "Glen Tilt" by the Duke of Athol, and the forcible expulsion of a Professor of Geology and his pupils, by the Duke's orders, if not by his personal assistance. The Professor, it will be remembered, was using a road which had been used from time immemorial by shepherds and drovers; and which was, moreover, the shortest cut between Blair Athol and Braemar, through an uncultivated country, which the proprietor had suffered to lie in a state of nature.

Before alluding more particularly to this individual case, we should remark that more than usual interest is felt in its decision, because it is but one of a thousand almost equally oppressive. Scottish proprietors have not imitated the good feeling of English landlords in this respect. Though English land is so much more valuable than Scottish land, proprietors in Scotland have been more jealous of intrusion into their barren solitudes than Englishmen have been into their rich pastures and plantations. Various reasons have been given for this churlishness and infraction of a popular right, which the people of this country—whatever their condition in life may be—are accustomed to regard with so much reverence and affection. The chief of these reasons has been the alleged necessity for preserving game, especially deer, which is an animal so timid, that a deer forest, where the sport of deer-stalking can be properly exercised, must be in the midst of a solitude larger than many English counties. Upon this pretence the Duke of Leeds shut up a road leading to Glen Lui Beg, and the stupendous altitudes of Ben Mac Dhui, a mountain recently proved to be higher than Ben Nevis, and consequently the highest yet ascertained in Great Britain. Other proprietors have shut up roads without alleging any pretence whatever. "Habbie's How," near Edinburgh, a spot immortalized by Allan Ramsay, was in this way rendered inaccessible to visitors; a knoll on the Blackford Hills, where a magnificent view of the same capital was to be obtained, and which is celebrated in a well-known passage in Scott's "Marmion," was also barred against the foot of the lover of nature; and ? on the sea-shore of the Firth of Clyde, a proprietor took it into his head to prevent the intrusion of the foot of his fellow-man on the barren pebbles of the beach. Nay, one proprietor, not now in existence, actually carried this spirit of intolerance so far, as to place a barrier across the entrance of the famous Cave of Fingal, in the island of Staffa, a spot visited by strangers from every civilised country of the world. But the very sea revolted against this churlishness, and washed away his gates so frequently, that he gave up the obstruction in despair, as somewhat more troublesome to keep in order than the sightseers themselves...