John Bonehill, Anne Dulau Beveridge and Nigel Leask, eds., Old Ways New Roads: Travels in Scotland, 1720-1832. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2021. Pp. 240. £20.00. ISBN 9781780276670.

The inspiration for the title of John Bonehill, Anne Dulau Beveridge, and Nigel Leask's illustrated volume examining the rise of Scottish tourism is drawn from the writings of an English rent collector, Edmund Burt. Stationed at Inverness in the 1720s and 1730s, Burt felt the roughness of travelling Scotland's 'old Ways': routes that ranged through 'stony Moors, Bogs, rugged rapid fords, Declivity of hills, entangling woods, and giddy precipices', unfit to be called roads at all (qtd 1). But Scotland's infrastructure was about to be transformed by a large-scale programme of road building, begun in 1725 and conducted under the leadership of General George Wade. Undertaken with the aim of avoiding another Jacobite rebellion, the new roads and bridges 'opened up Scotland not only to the forces of British militarism but also to commerce and trade, as well as to philosophical and scenic tourism' (3). Bringing together experts from literary studies, history, art history, and architecture, and produced in collaboration with the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow (where Dulac Beveridge is a Curator), Old Ways New Roads is a rich visual-textual exploration of how the physical, social, and cultural changes resulting from the transformation of Scotland's road networks 'were variously documented in word and image, evaluated, planned and imagined, and more especially "framed up" in terms of the experience of travel' (4).

Leask opens the volume with an essay on 'Writing the Scottish Tour, 1720-1830' that masterfully surveys the contributions of Thomas Pennant, Samuel Johnson, William Gilpin, Walter Scott, and William Daniell to the rise of Scottish tourism. From there the book splits into four sections. The first, 'The Theatre of War', explores the 'making and commemoration of [Scotland's] militarised landscapes' (22). Bonehill provides skilful close readings of military survey maps and off-duty sketches produced by military draughtsmen attached different parts of the road-building enterprise, including Paul Sandby (whose extensive watercolour drawings are celebrated throughout the volume). Hugh Cheape examines the 'old ways' essential to Highland life, composed of 'drove roads', 'coffin roads' and other cross-country tracks. The following section on 'Antiquities' covers ground more familiar to Romanticists in exploring the rising interest among antiquarians in Scotland's plentiful ruins and sites of picturesque decay. Opportunities for observing 'natural curiosities', especially in the wake of the Ossian phenomenon, encouraged tourists to 'scour the Highlands and Islands in search of Gaelic tradition-bearers' (Leask 67). Fredrik Albritton Jonsson's chapter on 'Natural History' shows how the discoveries of Linnaeus and Joseph Banks drew their followers to Scotland in search of new species to classify. From new sheep farms to the rise and fall of the kelp industry to the planting of new forests by landowners, Jonsson's chapter emphasises the rapid changes that took place in rural Scotland in the eighteenth century and were recorded by scientific visitors.

Section Three, 'Custom and Improvement', captures the range of responses to Scotland's economic development by visiting artists and writers, oscillating, as Bonehill notes, from 'approval to disappointment, fascination to bewilderment' (92). New ventures in building, estate management, and curation (including the creation of the 'prospect view') took place alongside a revival of interest in Scottish customs, including Highland dress, music, and ballads, as modernisation brought tradition into sharper relief. Christopher Dingwall's chapter on roads, bridges, and landscape design offers a focused exploration of how roadbuilding reshaped the estates at Inveraray Castle, Taymouth Castle, Blair Castle, and Dunkeld House, while Bonehill's discussion of 'Scotland's Prospects' draws attention to how the new road networks facilitated 'the artistic "discovery" of Scotland' as a subject for landscape painting. The final section, 'Picturesque Prospects and Literary Landscapes', begins with a rich account of how the visitor's experience of Scotland was shaped by their knowledge of Ossian, Robert Burns, and Scott, ably narrated by Leask and Bonehill. The eighteenth-century traveller could often be found 'footstepping literary sites' (153) through the Highlands, while others were engaged in a more general pursuit of the picturesque and sublime. Viccy Coltman explores the 'portable knick-knacks' that accompanied those embarking on domestic travel through Scotland, from miniature libraries, to cutlery, maps, flasks, and sunglasses. Christina Young's chapter examines the depictions of Scottish landscapes in 'large-scale painted scenery' for the stage and in panorama installations that brought Edinburgh and Loch Lomond to Londoners without the need for travel. Finally, Mary-Ann Constantine and Finola O'Kane reflect on the connections between Scottish, Welsh, and Irish tour writing.

Old Ways New Roads was planned as a tripartite production, comprised of the book, a physical exhibition at the Hunterian that was scheduled to run from January to May 2021, and a companion website (https://oldwaysnewroads.co.uk/). Arranged using the same four sections mapped in the book, visitors to the online version of the exhibition can also choose to 'explore by location' and trace their own route through the images and corresponding captions. There is also a beautifully designed 'Timeline of Travels' (1707-1832). The website is a model example of an online research resource: carefully designed, easily navigable and awash with high-quality images. Like the book, it makes an abundance of rare materials associated with Scottish travel accessible to audiences world-wide, and is a wonderful illustration of the old-new paradigm in action.

Katie Garner, University of St Andrews

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.