The Immeasurable Wilds: Travellers to the Far North of Scotland 1600-1900
By Alastair Mitchell
Reveals the intrepid qualities of the various visitors to this then unknown region and provides impressions of what it was like, as seen through their eyes. Provides an illuminating and entertaining account of how the far north was revealed through early travellers. Combines history and aspects of science with first-hand accounts to create an absorbing read.
Towards the end of the 18th century the attention of mapmakers, explorers and travellers turned to the north of Scotland. The mountains that rise north of Stirling formed a formidable barrier for anyone wanting to visit the Highlands, and travellers to the Far North were ever rarer: there were no roads at all into most of Sutherland, and Ross and Cromarty until the early years of the 19th century. Who did go there, and why?
This book follows the early mapmakers who gradually revealed the area, including Timothy Pont and Alexander Bryce who published the first accurate map of the north coast. General Roy covered the whole of Scotland for his remarkable ‘Great Map’, and later, the indomitable and energetic General Colby dragged his reluctant Ordnance Survey team across much of the north. With the new roads came the tourists, flocking to sites like Loch Katrine, in search of signs of Sir Walter Scott’s heroes and heroines. Yet few ventured further north than Inverness. Among those that did were geologists, keen to explore the astonishing landscape, and the last chapter follows the course of the Highlands Controversy, which eventually led to an understanding that the North West of Scotland contains some of the most remarkable geology, not just in Britain, but in the whole world.
Above all, the book gives a picture of this unknown region, as it seemed to those exploring it, an area of astonishing beauty, with inhabitants that showed notable warmth and generosity in spite of their poverty.
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