5 walks through Scottish history

Step through Scotland's history with one of these five walks and trace the routes takes by whisky smugglers, priests, coffin bearers and the walkers who secured the earliest legal rights to roam through the countryside.

The  Rev AE Robertson, revered mountaineer and the first president of what is now the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society (ScotWays) which is researching the heritage paths that criss cross the country and tell of our connection to the land over time. PIC: Photo Illustrations Scotland via ScotWays.
The Rev AE Robertson, revered mountaineer and the first president of what is now the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society (ScotWays) which is researching the heritage paths that criss cross the country and tell of our connection to the land over time. PIC: Photo Illustrations Scotland via ScotWays.

The Heritage Paths project is researching the routes that were once vital lifelines across the country and today tell the stories of how we connected to the land around us through time.

Eleisha Fahy, senior access officer with The Scottish Rights of Way & Access Society, which runs the Heritage Paths project, said: “People have been using these routes for years and in some cases centuries. They are a significant aspect of Scotland’s cultural heritage.”

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Jock’s Road, Deeside to Angus

Jock's Road which connects Deeside to Angus and was a route used by drovers, smugglers and Jacobite soldiers. PIC: www.geograph.org.uk.
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Starts: Auchallater near Braemar

Ends: Glen Doll

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Distance: 13 miles

Also known as the Tolmounth, this route connects Angus to Deeside and was an important route for drovers moving their animals to market.

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Cattle thieves, whisky smugglers and botanists were also known to tread the path, according to the Heritage Pathways project.

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In 1746, it is said 700 men walked Jock’s Road on their way to fight at Culloden.

Some 140 years later, the route became the subject of a milestone legal battle in the Court of Session, and then the House of Lords, after landowner Duncan Macpherson tried to keep walkers off property.

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The action was raised after a party from the then Scottish Rights of Way and Recreation Society was blocked from signposting rights of way through the Mounth and the Cairngorm Glens, with the group intercepted in Glen Doll by Macpherson’s gamekeepers.

The battle for access was finally settled in the House of Lords, which ruled Jock’s Road was a right of way.

Jock’s Road is said to have been named after a John Winter, one of those who fought the landowner through the courts, although some have disputed this.

Mannoch Road, Moray

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Starts: Knockanrioch

Ends:: End of public road at Shougle

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Distance: 6.6miles

Illicit distilling and smuggling defined the route over Mannoch Hill near Rothes in Moray.

In 1811, a well known illegal distiller John Cumming, who was convicted three times for whisky making, rented out land at Cardow near the south end of the Mannoch Road.

According to the Heritage Pathways project, the distiller’s wife Helen Cumming loaded up with containers of whisky and walked barefoot along the road over Mannoch Hill in order to sell the brew in Elgin.

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In 1824, John Cumming took his enterprise above board and bought a licence to distil under the new Excise Act. The family’s Cardow Distillery, later branded Cardhu, was then founded and the barefoot walks over the hill were no longer required.

The Fish Road, Ross-shire

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Starts: Little Garve, east of Gorstan

End location: The Aultguish Inn

Distance: 6.5 miles

The herring industry thrived in Ullapool after The British Fisheries Society built a number of properties in the village in 1788.

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In just a few years, 500 barrels of fine red herring were being cured in Ullapool with the fish sent to markets in Leith and Greenock, according to research by the Heritage project.

Given booming business, a new road was built in 1797 to carry fish from Ullapool to Dingwall with the Old Statistical Account praising this new route.

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“Where lately nothing could be carried but in creels on horseback, carts and carriages can now travel with the greatest ease and expedition. This road consists of 38 miles and has cost government about £4500 including bridges, of which there must be a good many in its course,” the OSA said.

Researchers with the Heritage Pathways project have found, however, that the road quickly failed and within just 12 years there were calls to build a new one.

By 1835, records described the road as “not only useless, but dangerous, to foot passengers and riders on horseback; and to wheel carriages almost impassable”.

A replacement was built in 1840 and, for the main, followed the original route closely. Drovers moving cattle brought in from the islands continued to use part of the old road as the ground underneath was considered smoother and better for grazing. Part of a bridge on the original fish road can still be seen.

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Bohenie Coffin Road, Lochaber

Starts: Bohenie

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Ends: Achluachrach

Path distance: 1.5 miles

Coffin roads criss cross Scotland and were used to move the dead from remote communities to consecrated ground for burial in consecrated ground.

The Bohenie coffin road was used to transport bodies through Glen Roy with three coffin cairns marking the route. The cairns were sometimes used to rest the coffin on while the carriers were changed. Sometimes, people left a stone as a mark of respect. Sometimes, drams were taken.

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According to Heritage Pathways, the most northerly cairn on this path is right at the edge of the plateau and was likely used to aid navigation.

The Corduroy Path, North Lanarkshire

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Starts: Railway bridge south of Drumglass

Ends: South of Croy station

Path distance: 0.6miles

The Corduroy Path gets its name from the clothing issued by the railway company to their staff.

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The path was created in the 1840s when the railway line opened and was used extensively when the old Edinburgh-Glasgow railway cottages, known locally as Corduroy Row, were lived in.

According to the Heritage project, the railway workers used this path to access the junction at the eastern end.

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The cottages have since been demolished.

The route replaced an older track, locally known as the Zoar Road, which was phased out with the coming of the railway.

For more detailed information on the routes above, visit Heritage Paths