10.4 Antiquarian Interest

The 17th-century writer Martin Martin (1999) was one of the earliest travellers to the west coast of Scotland and he provided a glimpse of contemporary life and descriptions of the islands, through the sympathetic eye of a Skye native and Gaelic speaker. A Welsh Celtic scholar from the Ashmolean Museum Oxford, Edward Lhuyd, visited Kintyre, Knapdale, Lorn, Mull and Iona in 1699 seeking information on ‘Highland rites and Customs’ (Campbell and Thomson 1963; Campbell 1975). Lhuyd was fascinated by the details of Highland life and recorded information he gleaned about folklore, local practices, houses and second sight as well as natural history, geology, history, archaeology and philology of the Celtic countries. Another Welsh gentleman Thomas Pennant undertook his second tour of Scotland in 1772 visiting Bute, Arran, Mull, Kintyre, Jura, Colonsay and Jura. His descriptions of the scenery, customs and superstitions of the inhabitants were accompanied by drawings including a well known image of the shieling bothies on Jura and cottages on Islay (Pennant 1772). James Boswell and Samuel Johnson published accounts of their journey through the Hebrides (including Coll and Mull) in 1773 (RCAHMS vol 3 1980, 230-31; Johnston 1775; Boswell 1785).

Interest in the history of Argyll prompted the Duke of Argyll to sponsor the collection of oral history from the west coast of Scotland in the 19th century and these were published as the Dewer Manuscripts (Dewar 1964). As travel became safer and easier in the later 18th century, poets and writers joined those venturing to the west of Scotland including the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who visited Inveraray in 1787 and Dorothy Wordsworth who toured with her brother William and Coleridge in September 1803. Dorothy was a picturesque travel writer and she travelled through Argyll up Loch Lomond visiting Arrochar, Loch Awe and the planned village at Inverarey (Parry and Slater 1980, 241). The published works of writers such as these resulted in a burgeoning interest in Highland culture and landscape which were seen as very different from the Scottish Lowlands and England.