Rare book reveals Trossachs charms in 1797

A message to the owner of Blair Drummond estate from write James McNayr.
A message to the owner of Blair Drummond estate from write James McNayr.
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A 220-year-old travel guide to Glasgow and the Highlands which warns prospective tourists only to undertake a visit to the region “from the middle of July till the end of August” has been put up for sale for more than £800.

Detailing the route from Glasgow to Stirling and beyond past Perth and Dunkeld and into the Trossachs, the book gives a revealing historical insight into a route that is still well-used today by thousands of tourists every year.

Written in 1797 by Glasgow University graduate and writer James McNayr, this edition is inscribed by the author to Laird George Home Drummond, whose property, the Blair Drummond estate in Perthshire, is one of the main attractions that were visited by McNayr.

Entitled: A Guide From Glasgow, the travelogue begins: “Til you approach the environs of Stirling, the road between it and Glasgow, by Cumbernauld, now the best and shortest, exhibits few objects sufficiently interesting to attract the attention of a traveller. The country, however, is in general, tolerably well cultivated and enlivened with some gentlemen’s seats.”

It also provides reports on the condition of roads and the quality of inn accommodation in the area, adding that the road from Stirling to the Trossachs was “ranked amongst the most picturesque in Scotland”.

Close to Callander, Mr McNayr advises that the traveller should “supply [himself] with provisions for a day” as there “are no accommodations...save a few wicker huts”.

When he arrives at Blair Drummond estate, the former country house of the then-laird’s father – the enlightenment thinker Lord Kames – and now the site of a popular safari park, he describes it as being “perhaps inferior to few in the kingdom”.

While generally impressed by the countryside, the author goes on to complain that there have been no “provisions” made for tourists on the banks of the River Dovan, where, he says “a communication for travellers on foot might be opened by the water’s side”, adding that the lack of a bridge “is very much calculated to damp the ardour of your curiosity”.

On the return leg, ending in Glasgow, McNayr, who died 11 years after the publication of the book, laments that although Glasgow Green is a “delightful publick walk”, it is “little frequented” as it is “detached from the west-end of the town by the slaughter-house”.

The volume has been unearthed by antique bookseller Tom Lintern-Mole of Antiquates in Dorset, who picked it up at a sale in Edinburgh last year. It is now up for sale for £807.50.

Lintern-Mole said: “What is nice about this book is that it’s a personalised copy from the author – and even better, the person for whom it is destined is a landowner in the part of Scotland which the book is about. Clearly this was at least destined to be part of the Blair Drummond estate’s collection.”