Thursday, 1 March 2012

"The Trossachs Tour", 1905

 "The Trossachs Tour", 1905

Using historic colour images, this blog features an actual Edwardian tour of the idyllic Scottish Trossachs region, being based on an original 1905 tourist brochure in my possession (part of which is illustrated above). Timings given for trains, coaches and steamers are as per the above brochure.

"The Trossachs" itself is a woodland glen, lying between Ben A'an in the north and Ben Venue to the south, with Loch Katrine to the west and Loch Achray to the east. Our tour will return home via Loch Lomond, also known for some very picturesque scenery.

The scenic charms of The Trossachs quickly became popular with tourists, especially after the publication in the early 19th century of the romantic works of Sir Walter Scott, with "The Lady of the Lake" and "Rob Roy" being set in the area. Increasing tourism to the area prompted the building of a hotel by Loch Achray in 1849.

Our "tour" commences in Edinburgh, continuing in a circular route via Callandar, The Trossachs, Inversnaid, Loch Lomond, Balloch Pier, and Glasgow before returning to Edinburgh.

A Caledonian Railway Drummond "Jumbo" locomotive in blue livery with
carriages standing at the west end of Callander Station [Source Internet]

The starting point for our tour is the Caledonian Railway ["The Caley"] Princess Street Main Line Station in Edinburgh, our train scheduled to depart at 11.20am. After checking in our luggage at the Luggage Office we then check the departure board on the concourse to ascertain the correct platform number. We show our 'Edmondson card' ticket to the uniformed ticket inspector at the platform gate to gain access to the platform itself before finding and settling into our compartmented carriage. As is usual on a passenger service during the Edwardian era, our locomotive is immaculately turned out, being painted in the striking blue livery of the Caledonian Railway Company. The station, with its long distinctive curved platforms and hanging 'smoke ducts' above, lies directly behind the large and imposing newly opened Caledonian Hotel at the corner of Lothian Road and Rutland Street with the main decorative cast iron entrance accessed via the latter. The bustling west end of Princes Street is but a stone's throw away.

From 1965, under British Railways management, services to and from Princes Street were eventually routed through the more convenient and spacious old North British Railway "Waverley Station" with the once busy but operatively inconvenient Caledonian Station later being demolished. The Caledonian Hotel and decorative cast iron entrance are still extant.  

But we return to 1905 where we are full of expectations for a wonderful adventure ahead ! With the signal quadrant on the gantry now indicating a clear road ahead and with a wave of the guard's flag our train whistles in the deep tone typical of the Caledonian Railway then, emitting clouds of steam, slowly pulls out of the station. The view is dominated by the smoky atmosphere, busy goods yards, the station signalbox, grimy tenement blocks, industrial buildings served by railway sidings, then residential housing until we reach open lowland countryside, passing through the occasional small village as the smoke from the engine gently wafts past us.

Our train will make scheduled stops at the towns of Larbert, Stirling and Dunblane before arriving at Callander Station in Stirlingshire for "The Trossachs" at 1.43pm.

Callander Railway Station, 1907

The attractive and rustic Callander Railway Station lay on the "Caledonian Railway" through route west to Oban via Crianlarich Junction. Sadly the central section of the route from Dunblane to Crianlarich closed in 1965 with the notorious and often short-sighted "Beeching cuts". This charming station site is now occupied by a soul-less carpark. We must however leave our train here to continue our intrepid journey by horse drawn coach. This only adds to the adventure of visiting this totally unspoilt and quite beautiful area of Scotland.

Four-in-hand horse drawn coach waiting at Callander Railway Station.
Taken circa 1900 [Source Internet]

As our train continues onto Balquhidder and Killin Junction we now change for the scheduled horse drawn coach service waiting outside Callander station, departing for the Trossachs Hotel on Loch Achray at 2pm. Judging by the crowded carriage pictured above one hopes it does not rain. On a nice day it would most likely be a relatively pleasant journey with great views, although no doubt somewhat bumpy and dusty. Edwardian travellers in search of adventure were however hardy souls! Note the ladder.

A general view of Callandar and showing the River Teith, Pre 1900
[Source : Library of Congress]

Callander with bridge over River Teith with Ben Ledi at rear, Pre 1900.
[Used with permission from Old UK Photos]

Above is shown a view of the attractive Callander village with the arched bridge over the River Teith. We shall however take the coach road which crosses the river north of this point before heading westward towards Loch Vennachar, our journey taking one and three quarters hours. We first cross the River Teith then follow the road alongside Loch Vennachar which has a length of 3.7 miles.

Brig o' Turk, pre 1900
[Used with permission from Old UK Photos]

After leaving the shores of Loch Vennachar we pass through the small village of Brig o' Turk with it's rustic hump backed stone bridge.

Loch Achray and Ben Venue, 1905

A short distance further on, and overlooking Loch Achray, we finally arrive at our accommodation, The Trossachs Hotel, at 3.45pm. Ben Venue (height 2393 feet) towers in the distance across the Loch to the south.

The Trossachs Hotel overlooking Loch Achray

The imposing turreted Trossachs Hotel had been built in 1849 (extended in 1853 and 1891) for Lord Willoughby D'Eresby to service the burgeoning tourism to the area, aided by the ever increasing railway network and the "feeder" coach and lake steamer services which grew up alongside the railways. The Trossachs Hotel is now a listed building and continues to offer accomodation today as Tigh Mor Trossachs Apartments.  

 The Trossachs Hotel Tariff, 1905

While a basic room for one with facilities shared with other guests costs just two shillings and sixpence a night, one has to pay extra for "lights" and a fire in one's room. Breakfast, luncheon and dinner, together with an "attendance" fee of one shilling and sixpence each per night, are available in the dining room (or sixpence extra for a private meal in one's room), along with a basic but adequate "snack" menu - but at "fixed hours". One could assume that the servings would however be "hearty" to match the guest's appetites after hiking hither and thither. Now will we have tea with scones and preserves now or wait for early evening dinner?

Trossachs Kirk on Loch Achray with Ben A'an.
G.W.W. Photochrome print

A worthwhile visit while staying at The Trossachs Hotel is to the nearby and attractively situated "Trossachs Kirk" (just visible at left of centre) overlooking Loch Achray and under the shadow of Ben A'an (1750 feet).

Trossachs Kirk had been opened for worship under the established Church of Scotland on the 14th of October 1849, having received the generous Patronage of Lord and Lady Willoughby D'Eresby. Both generously provided a site for the Church and the ongoing sum of £15 per annum "for the maintenance of a Missionary". Lady D'Eresby was by birth Lady Clementina Drummond, the last of the line of the Drummond Earls of Perth whose vast estates once encompassed both Callender and The Trossachs. Lady D'Eresby considered the site of the Kirk "the loveliest spot in rural Scotland in a magnificent setting of mountain, loch, forest and meadow."

Until 1893 the singing in the Kirk had been lead not by an organ but by a 'Precentor', "a little, very bow-legged old man, with the wheeziest of voices" who always sang the first paraphrase alone. An early visitor, the painter Sir John Millias, asked the Precentor why he did not have an organ. His reply was simply "Ah, man, would you have us take to the devil’s band?".

"Walks and Drives Near The Trossachs Hotel", 1905

The area around Loch Achray in fact offers innumerable excursions by foot or hired carriage. One could include a proper look around "Brig o'Turk", the peaceful hamlet we passed through between Loch Achray and Loch Vennachar, where "the headmost horseman rode alone" as immortalised in "The Lady of the Lake" by Sir Walter Scott. And slightly further up the valley lies Glen Finlas, also noted for its lovely scenery.      

For those who enjoy walking a worthwhile circular three mile walk could be made through "the Old Pass of The Trossachs" where Fitz-James lost his "gallant grey" when in pursuit of the Royal Stag (also from "The Lady of the Lake"), returning via Loch Katrine.

A pathway by Loch Katrine, GWW Photochrome Print
[Source : Library of Congress]

For those feeling a little more energetic maybe a walk around Loch Achray via Brig o'Turk (4 miles), or climbing one of the mountains in the area, Sron Armalite behind the hotel (1150 feet, half an hour), Ben A'an (1750 feet, 1½ hours), Ben Venue (2393 feet, half day), or Ben Ledi (2875 feet, one day).

Those with an interest in Scottish history may wish to travel by scheduled coach the 21 miles north to Clachan of Balquhidder to visit the gravesite of Rob Roy McGregor (in Balquhidder Kirkyard).  

Highland Cattle by a stream at Aberfoyle, pre 1907

Another day excursion by scheduled horse drawn coach or hired carriage could also include travelling through the magnificent wooded scenery and landscapes over the "Duke's Pass" to the village of Aberfoyle which lies about five miles south of Loch Achray.

Advertising poster for Summer Tours of the Trossachs
 and Loch Katrine via Aberfoyle, published by the rival
North British Railway Company in 1912
[Source : National Railway Museum]

Served by the rival "North British Railway" and with scheduled coach connections north, Aberfoyle proudly promoted itself as "The Gateway to the Trossachs". Unfortunately the railway, being effectively only a secondary branch line, closed to passengers as early as 1951 and the line itself in 1959. Aberfoyle however has much in the immediate area of historical interest for visitors.

Looking west from Aberfoyle towards Ben Lomond, pre 1900.
[Source : National Galleries of Scotland]

Aberfoyle is steeped in history with connections to many historical figures including Rob Roy and Mary Queen of Scots. Robert Roy MacGregor was born at the head of nearby Loch Katrine, and his well known cattle stealing exploits took him all around the area surrounding Aberfoyle. In the village stands a tree that MacGregor reputedly climbed in order to hide and escape from the clutches of the law. Aberfoyle and nearby Loch Ard are immortalised in Sir Walter Scott's "Rob Roy".

Following the Scots defeat at the Battle of Pinkie (near Edinburgh) in 1547, the young Mary Queen of Scots was brought from Stirling Castle to Inchmahome Priory (established as an Augustinian Monastery in 1238) on the Lake of Monteith by her mother Marie of Guise for safety. Even though Mary stayed for just three weeks, there are many stories about her accomplishments during her visit. Her name is still attached to the little box bower in the centre of the island.

In the Trossachs, "Where Twines the Path", 1909

"In The Trossachs", 1904

After breakfast we now leave the Trossachs Hotel to continue our journey onwards to Inversnaid, departing on the scheduled coach service at 10.40am. As our horse drawn coach leaves Loch Achray for Trossachs Pier at the east end of Loch Katrine, we are again reminded of the beautiful and idyllic wooded countryside, peaceful lochs and towering mountains which make The Trossachs such a popular tourist destination.

SS Sir Walter Scott at Trossachs Pier [Source Internet]

Upon arriving at the rustic Trossachs Pier we board our waiting steamer, the elegant and sleek coal fired SS Sir Walter Scott (launched in 1900), for our sail down this picturesque 8 mile long loch to Stronachlachar Pier. The eastern end of Loch Katrine is forever associated with Sir Walter Scott and his epic poem, "The Lady of the Lake", which is based on Arthurian legend.

SS Sir Walter Scott at Trossachs Pier

Utilising an ingenious series of aqueducts, Loch Katrine has provided water for the City of Glasgow since 1859 and can be raised or lowered by 6 to 7 feet. The SS Sir Walter Scott still sails on Loch Katrine, her twin boilers now being converted to run on biofuel.

 Ellen's Isle, Loch Katrine

A short throaty blast from the whistle, the ropes cast off and the ringing of the ship's telegraph signals our departure as the triple expansion steam engine comes to life down in the bowels of the "SS Sir Walter Scott". Our cruise will take approximate one hour and 45 minutes. Shortly after steaming away from Trossachs Pier we pass the small Ellen's Isle on Loch Katrine. To the north above Ellen's Isle rises Ben A'an (1750 feet).

The SS Sir Walter Scott sailing past Ellen's Isle [Source Internet]

The above image shows the SS Sir Walter Scott steaming past Ellen's Isle on her way to Stronachlachar Pier. This image comes from a series of historic old monochrome images which may be viewed on the In Callander Website.

We now arrive at Stronachlachar Pier at the western end of Loch Katrine. A short distance to the south of Stonachlachar, and with spectacular views over the Loch, is "Royal Cottage". This picturesque 'cottage' had been built by the Glasgow Water Works Corporation to accommodate Queen Victoria when she arrived to open the new Loch Katrine waterworks scheme in 1859. Royal protocol demanded that a house be built for her rather than "mobile accommodation". Unfortunately the 21 gun salute in Her Honour shattered the windows of Royal Cottage thus she merely used it as a shelter from the rain and did not remain overnight, all up the day being somewhat of a washout. Queen Victoria was apparently not amused!

Now we shall again take a horse drawn carriage for the short journey to our booked accommodation at the Inversnaid Hotel.

 The Inversnaid Hotel overlooking Loch Lomond.
Arklet Falls are at right

Dating from 1790 and originally built as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Montrose, the Inversnaid Hotel lies on the eastern shores of loch Lomond next to the beautiful Arklet [Inversnaid] Falls. The hotel has hosted many distinguished visitors, including Queen Victoria.

The Inversnaid Hotel Tariff, 1905

 Mr R Blair is the proprietor of both the Trossachs Hotel and the Inversnaid Hotel hence room and meal charges are almost identical.

"Walks Near Inversnaid Hotel", 1905

Loch Lomond at 24 miles in length is the largest fresh water lake in the country. The Loch is particularly well known on account of the 1841 song "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond" which refers to ill fated love from the days of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'.

"Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road, 
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye; 
But me and my true love will never meet again 
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond"

Arklet [Inversnaid] Falls, Loch Lomond  - G.W.W. Photochrome print

Arklet [Inversnaid] Falls, Loch Lomond

In the hotel grounds are Arklet [Inversnaid] Falls, which flow from Loch Arklet and fall into Loch Lomond via a lovely waterfall which is spanned by a footbridge. Inversnaid and the Falls are the scene of Wordsworth's poem "To a Highland Girl".

Other places of interest in the vicinity include the site of the Old Fort of Inversnaid (18th century) including the Soldier's Graveyard; "Bruce's Rock" where Bruce took shelter after his flight from the "Men of Lorne" in George A. Henty's novel "In Freedom's Cause"; a circular walk to Binian and back (1½ miles); Rob Roy's Cave, having frequently been used by the outlaw as a place of refuge; or a one day excursion by foot and row boat to Ben Lomond (3192 feet) with the return journey being made by steamer from Rowardennan. 

The curious "Pulpit Rock" on the opposite side of the Loch is a 10 foot high hole carved out of a cliff. Religious services were held here for 75 years during the summer months until 1895 when a Mission Church was established at Ardlui. Religious services in those days could last for a very long time, so a stall was erected behind the Pulpit Rock selling bread, cheese and whisky which led to some people spending more time behind the rock than in front of the pulpit, which led a local wag to observe that "the Lord is at the front, but the Devil lies behind".

A steamer at Inversnaid Pier [Source : The Loch Lomond Steamers]

Sadly, our visit to The Trossachs has come to an end and we must catch the 8.55am steamer from Inversnaid down the Loch to Balloch. Our journey down the Loch is however very scenic.

Loch Lomond from Tarbet, c. 1900
[Used with permission from Old UK Photos]

After departing Inversnaid we call at Tarbet Pier across on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond which connects with coaches to Arrochar and Loch Long as well as the nearby North British Railway line which runs north to Fort William and onto Mallaig and south to Glasgow (Queen Street Station). We shall however stay on board our steamer and continue down the Loch to Balloch.

A steamer at Tarbet Pier with Ben Lomond at rear, pre 1905

From Tarbet we can just see the summit of Ben Lomond (3196 feet).

A Steamer leaving Tarbet Pier, Loch Lomond, pre 1905

We now steam away from Tarbet for the small and remote settlement of Rowardennan which lies on the western shores of Loch Lomond.

Rowardennan Pier. The sign reads "Guides & Ponies to the Top
of Ben Lomond" Source : The Vale of Leven]

Many an intrepid traveller visiting Rowardennan would hire a pony and guide here and ride to the top of Ben Lomond (3192 feet). But we shall continue steaming further south to Luss, again on the eastern side of Loch Lomond. Christianity arrived at Luss as early as 510AD. The small lakeside village is known for its picturesque old cottages. At Luss the summit of Ben Lomond still dominates the northern skyline.

Luss Straights, Loch Lomond, 1905

After departing from Luss we now pass a number of picturesque Islands as we steam sedately southwards towards Balloch Pier.

Swan Island, Loch Lomond  - G.W.W. Photochrome print

This quite beautiful "photochrome" print of Swan Island by the noted photographer George Washington Wilson dates from before 1900. This gives a good indication of the standard of colour photographic reproduction that could be achieved over 110 years ago.

A steamer connecting with a Caledonian Railway train at Balloch Pier
[Source : The Loch Lomond Steamers]

With the thud of the triple expansion steam engine and the sound of the ships telegraph ringing instructions from the bridge down to the engine room we slowly pull into Balloch Pier at 10.30am where the ropes are thrown onto the wharf to securely tie up the steamer to the bollards. With the gangway up we only need to walk across the wharf to join our waiting Caledonian Railway train for Glasgow which has conveniently drawn up onto the wharf. Using trolleys, Railway Porters will take our luggage from the steamer onto the train. 

With a wave of the guard's flag and a warning whistle from our locomotive we steam the short distance onto Balloch itself then through the Vale of Leven on joint North British and Caledonian Railway metals to Dumbarton East. Thence down the heavily industrial but fascinatingly and ever busy Clyde River Valley for the Caledonian Railway Glasgow Central Low Level Station. Porters will take our luggage as we make our way upstairs to the busy and often congested Central High Level Station, notable for the large clock sitting atop the old destination board building in front of the centre platforms. Before we leave we set our pocket watch to the clock which is known for it's accurate timing! We then continue our journey from Central High Level Station back to the Caledonian Railway Princes Street Station in Edinburgh, pulling in to the platform buffer stops "on time" at 1.45pm. Here we sadly finish our Trossachs holiday for 1905. 

If you have enjoyed this "tour" please leave a comment.

Bibliography :

- Written Internet sources.
- My grateful thanks to Phil of Old UK Photos, I highly recommend his site : 
- Unless otherwise stated all other images are from my own collection and may not be used for any commercial purpose without my express permission. Images may however be freely copied for private use with an appropriate acknowledgement back to this site.

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