The Sporting Life Grand Tours of Scotland


The Sporting Life

Paul Murton follows in the footsteps of Scotland's first tourists. In the spirit of Victorian manliness, he travels from Dunkeld to Balmoral on an 1870s tricycle.


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For the last 200 years, tourists and travellers have been attracted to Scotland

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by the magnificence of its wild scenery,

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a land where deer roam free, eagles soar and salmon fill the rivers.

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But not all visitors to Scotland wanted to commune with nature.

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Many sought to conquer it.

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Victorian men came here to prove themselves, challenging nature,

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savage in tooth and claw, to become masters of all they surveyed.

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In Victorian times, many holidaymakers followed routes

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suggested by the most influential guidebook of all, Black's Picturesque Guide To Scotland.

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In this series, I'm taking my own well-thumbed copy of this fascinating book.

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It's been in my family for generations, and was always kept

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in the glove compartment of my father's car when we went on holiday.

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Now it's inspired me to make six journeys of my own.

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Letting its pages guide me, I want to retrace the steps of the early tourists.

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'Woo!

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'Oh!'

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To find out how Scotland became a jewel in the crown of tourist destinations.

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On this journey, I'm in search of the sporting life, finding out how a high-minded appreciation

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for the landscape went hand in hand with a lust for killing.

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My route begins in the heart of Scotland, in Dunkeld, then travels north

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through Perthshire, before climbing the mountains to Royal Deeside.

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From Balmoral, my journey continues to Glenmore, through one of my favourite parts of Scotland,

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the famous mountain pass of the Lairig Ghru.

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In the spirit of Victorian sportsmanship and manliness, I've accepted the challenge

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to follow this route as far as I can, using a conveyance of the period.

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Now, this is probably a foolhardy enterprise, but I couldn't resist

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the opportunity to try out an authentic Rudge lever tricycle from the 1870s,

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and what better way to explore Scotland's sporting heritage

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than on such a fabulous machine?

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Well, to be honest, I can think of one or two.

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The first stop on my muscle-stretching, buttock-bruising journey is Dunkeld,

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on the banks of the River Tay.

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Black's is fulsome in its praises.

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"There are few places of which the first sight is so striking as Dunkeld.

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"Its finely-wooded mountains, its noble river, its magnificent bridge

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"and its ancient cathedral combine to form a picture of rare beauty."

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Although the charms of Dunkeld weren't entirely lost on early visitors,

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the town didn't really take off as a tourist destination

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until the arrival of a very special couple of holidaymakers, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.

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'In the summer of 1842, Victoria was just 23 years old,

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'recently married and very much in love with her new husband.

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'The couple embarked on a tour of Scotland,

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'which they described as "the northern portion of their kingdom".

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'When they arrived in Dunkeld, they were treated to a spectacular Highland welcome,

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'which had a great impact on the young monarch.'

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The Queen was very impressed, and both she and Albert were "highly amused", which no doubt encouraged

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their subsequent love affair with Scotland and all things Scottish.

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'Victoria and Albert's expedition north would play a hugely-important part

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'in promoting Scotland as THE fashionable tourist destination of the era.

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'Historian Eric Zuelow has studied Victoria and her obsession with all things tartan.'

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The thing I'm interested in is Queen Victoria.

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-She was a very young woman when she came to Scotland for that first time in 1842.

-She was, she was just 23.

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So when the Queen got to Dunkeld, what did she see?

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She got a real Highland spectacle.

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She rolls through this triumphal arch, she sees 900 Highlanders,

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all decked out in their Highland finery, all of their tartanry, the full outfit.

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They were dancing reels and, most important to her, dancing the sword dance.

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And she hears bagpipes, which of course is one of those things she wants to see.

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And it's set, you know, in this fabulous scenery, right.

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In the hills. When you travel, that's what you want, you want to find something different.

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-The exotic, in other words.

-The exotic, and Scotland was exotic, because it had this...

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this Highland culture.

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'Victoria and Albert were the celebrity couple of the day,

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'and their every move was reported by the press.

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'Thanks to the publicity that surrounded their northern tour, Scotland was seen in a new light.'

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We've got here a copy of The Illustrated London News,

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and it's using all the latest Victorian technology of line drawings and etchings

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to show the public the sights that the Queen was presented with.

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It is. We have the piper, we have the sword dance, we have the landscape.

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Very romantically portrayed as well, isn't it?

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Very romantically portrayed,

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and you don't just get these great expanses of Scottish hills or lakes

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or big houses or cathedrals, you get little tiny people in the foreground,

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fishing or gazing or hunting.

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-Dwarfed by the magnificence of the landscape.

-That's right.

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But also showing that you can be part of that landscape, you can be there and participate.

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And Scotland simply takes off as a really wonderful vacation destination.

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Queen Victoria's trip to Scotland was an enormous success

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and gave the Highlands the royal seal of approval,

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transforming the country into the place of choice for discerning tourists and sporting gentlemen.

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Thanks to the royal endorsement, lots of adventurous types were soon venturing north to explore

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the Queen's favourite holiday destination, and in 1881, a very intrepid tourist indeed,

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by the name of Commander Reade, travelled all over Scotland,

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2,462 miles to be precise, on his tricycle.

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'He wrote about his amazing adventures

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'in a beautifully-illustrated book called Nauticus In Scotland,

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'an original ripping yarn, full of the thrills and spills of the open road,

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'and full of useful cycling advice.'

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-UPPER-CLASS ENGLISH ACCENT:

-'"On the road, go easy for the first mile or so,

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'"until the muscles are fairly in tune."'

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Uphill, come on, get up, up, up!

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'"This allows the independent wheelman to select his pace, and thus take in the beauties of nature

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'"according to his own individual taste."'

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Thoroughly sound advice.

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Of course, when a sporting gentleman sees a river meandering through the countryside,

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his fancy turns naturally to thoughts of fishing,

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and of all the rivers in Scotland to get a man fumbling for his flies,

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the River Tay excites the most.

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NEWSREEL: 'In some of the finest scenery in the world,

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'the thoughts of climbing, walking and fishing take first place.'

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'Where the Scottish rivers tumble into falls, you can see the salmon leap.'

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Scottish rivers are amongst the best in the world for salmon fishing, and I've come to meet

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angling instructor Jock Monteith,

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who's going to initiate me in the dark art of fly-fishing.

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The best conditions for catching salmon are when they're there

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and in the right frame of mind to take a fly.

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-It doesn't matter if it's raining or not?

-No. They're already wet.

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They are wet! I think I'll be joining them in the wetness stakes at the end of the day!

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'With hundreds of rivers and more than 35,000 freshwater lochs,

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'it's little wonder that fishing has been popular in Scotland

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'since the 1700s.

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'For anglers, the Tay is a river of superlatives,

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'and it occupies a very special place in the history of the sport.'

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That's it!

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The Tay's been a very famous fishing river for many years.

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What do you think makes this river so world-renowned?

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Such a large catchment off the hills here,

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it drains about 2,500 square miles of Scotland.

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-That's huge.

-Huge. So there's always enough water coming down

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-for fish to move, even in the height of summer.

-Right.

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Also, the fact that the British rod-caught record salmon was

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landed on the Tay in 1922 by Georgina Valentine.

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The famous Georgina Valentine?

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About 64 lbs, I believe.

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-That's what you call a whopper, isn't it?

-No' half!

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But she wasn't a very big woman.

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No, but she must have had a very good osteopath!

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PAUL LAUGHS

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It's a very pleasant pastime, standing here in the Tay,

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casting hopefully.

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-And you're casting well there, Paul.

-Thanks very much.

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The last time that I went fishing with a fly, Jock,

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I was about eight years of age, and I only managed to hook my pants.

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Who landed you? THEY LAUGH

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I think I landed myself, actually. I was that surprised.

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'Of course, I didn't catch a salmon. I didn't even get a nibble.

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'Leaving the river and the art of fly-fishing to more appreciative souls,

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'I mount my tricycle to continue my journey.'

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I've no idea how he could cycle 2,500 miles.

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I'm exhausted doing...200 yards.

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Heading north towards the Spittal of Glenshee,

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I pass through a stretch of country much admired by Queen Victoria

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for its rugged grandeur and high passes.

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Although I doubt SHE ever attempted this journey on a tricycle.

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HE PANTS

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Tackling these hills is incredibly hard work.

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And with no gears, it's almost impossible to make any headway at all,

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which is why, when the going gets tough...

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well, frankly, it's time to get off.

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'I take heart form the words of Commander Reade.

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'When he cycled across Scotland in Victorian times,

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'he saw absolutely no point in working up a sweat.

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'"Directly you begin to feel distressed, either in mounting a hill

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'"or on heavy ground, at once get off and push."

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'How unlike today's self-punishing age.

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'"From the top of the pass, tired limbs are rewarded

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'"with a glorious descent into Royal Deeside..."'

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Woo!

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'..and the destination made famous by Scotland's royal love affair.

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'The romantic novels of Sir Walter Scott may have raised Scotland's profile

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'in the 19th century, but it was the real-life royal romance

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'that was played out here in Balmoral

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'that consolidated the country's reputation as a place to visit.

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'After falling in love with Scotland, the young Queen Victoria

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'and her husband Albert decided to establish a family home in the Highlands.

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'In 1848, they bought the Balmoral Estate,

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'which occupied a special place in both their hearts.

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'Victoria wrote in her diary,

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-UPPER-CLASS FEMALE ACCENT:

-'"All seemed to breathe freedom and peace

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'"and to make one forget the world and its turmoils."'

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Victoria loved it here. In fact, they both did.

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Scotland gave them the time and the space to be a family,

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and the opportunity to reinvent themselves.

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Albert had modelled Balmoral on his romantic idea of a Highland castle,

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and it was here that the royal couple

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acted out their own fantasy version of Highland life.

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She wore tartan, and he learnt Gaelic.

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They ate bannock, oatcakes and haggis.

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'And the vast Balmoral Estate provided Albert with the opportunity

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'to indulge one of his greatest passions -

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'hunting.

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'Although he is reported to have been a rather poor shot.

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'But there can be no doubting the Prince's enthusiasm for the sport,

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'and the Queen, too, often accompanied her much-adored husband,

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'gamely crawling through the heather as Albert stalked his prey.

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'Of all the places associated with Victoria and Albert,

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'Balmoral represents the consummation of the love they had for each other,

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'and for Scotland. In many ways,

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'it's a symbol of the triangular relationship

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'between Victoria, the Prince and the landscape of the Highlands.'

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You can see evidence of this symbolism in the fabric

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of the castle itself.

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Up there is a frieze

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depicting scenes from romantic legend,

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while over here is the foundation stone, laid by Queen Victoria herself in 1853,

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with the initials V for Victoria and A for Albert.

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Like lovers, entwined forever in stone.

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'Sadly, just five years after the completion of Balmoral Castle,

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'Albert was struck down by typhoid and died.

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'Victoria was alone.'

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After Albert's tragic and untimely death at the age of just 42,

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Victoria went into lifelong mourning.

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Walking around the estate today,

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you can clearly see how she turned the whole place

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into a kind of memorial to her lost husband.

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Up on the hill are cairns and stone pillars that mark the places

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where the family picnicked and shared other happier times.

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'Inspired by Victoria and Albert's love of Scotland,

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'the Highlands became THE place to visit,

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'and Royal Deeside became hugely popular with Victorian gentlemen

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'enamoured with the latest sporting fashion - hunting.'

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There was blackcock,

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woodcock, grouse, capercaillie.

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There was red deer and roe deer.

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In fact, in the 19th century,

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there seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of targets

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for aristocrats and southern sporting gentlemen to choose from.

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'By the end of the 19th century,

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'hunting had become a sophisticated leisure-time pursuit.

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'All across the Highlands, sporting estates were developed.

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'These vast deer forests centred on the shooting lodge,

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'offering owners and their guests

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'every modern convenience of the Victorian age.

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'I've come to Mar Lodge.

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'Built in 1895 for Queen Victoria's granddaughter,

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'it represents the high noon of Highland sporting life.

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'In the ballroom, there's an astonishing visual reminder

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'of the insatiable Victorian appetite for killing things.'

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This has to be one of the most bizarre

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and grisly spectacles I have ever seen.

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There must be thousands of stag skulls up there.

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'I must admit, the thrill of killing has always remained

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'a bit of a mystery to me.'

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'But to try and understand the elusive charms of shooting,

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'I've come to meet Stuart Cumming,

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'the head stalker, who's going to put me through my paces.'

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I'm not going to be shooting anything today, heaven forbid,

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but I'll have my camera. Do you usually get people stalking with cameras?

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Not often, but we're beginning to get a wee bit more of that nowadays.

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It's quite a pricey thing to do, to go stalking.

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It can be pricey depending on

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what deer forest you're stalking on, you know,

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-£300 to £340.

-For the day?

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-For the day, plus the VAT, aye.

-Plus the VAT.

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And do you get to keep the stag?

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-No, the stag is the property of the estate.

-Right!

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It's quite an expensive day out then, isn't it?

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It is, but people enjoy it, and they get a trophy, probably, at the end of the day.

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What do you mean, the trophy?

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-Well, the antlers, the stag antlers.

-Oh, really?

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-So that tradition still continues?

-Oh, yes.

-Right.

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We'll just take off in this direction here...

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'For the Victorian sporting gentleman, the whole ritual of deer stalking

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'was bound up with ideas of masculinity, a test of willpower,

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'strength and physical fitness, to overcome fear, subdue nature and kill the noble stag,

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'the monarch of the glen.

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'What better demonstration of heroic manliness

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'than the antlered head of a stag on the dining-room wall?

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'And let's face it, it's a brilliant excuse for grown men

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'to spend the day rolling around in the heather.'

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(All right.)

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(Oh, I see him.

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(What kind of distance are we away from him?)

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(Um, about 110 yards, maybe, say.)

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(And if we were stalking for real with a gun, what kind of distance

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(would be the optimum distance to guarantee a kill?)

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(Well, certainly 110, 150 yards,

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(but obviously you've got to be that wee bit more careful,

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(cos move a bit closer, and they spot you very quickly.)

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(Do you think he can see us?)

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(Looking around, they're always very wary.)

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-(Can sense there's something not quite right.)

-(Aye.)

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(He's in my sights now.)

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CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKS

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(If that was a gun, I would have got him.)

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(You would've got him, aye.)

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(I've got my shot.)

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(Aye, well done.)

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'I may not have a set of antlers for my wall,

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'but I've had a spectacular day in the hills.

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'From Mar Lodge, I want to get to Glenmore, just north of Aviemore,

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'but standing between me and my ultimate destination

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'are the Cairngorms.

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'The conventional way would be for me to follow the road

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'around the mountains, but I'm keen to try a harder, more direct route.'

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This is pretty much as far as I can go because the road ahead

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is definitely not suitable for ancient old tricycles.

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Now this glen marks the beginning of the Lairig Ghru,

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which is an ancient old pass through the heart of the Cairngorms.

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So if I want to get to Speyside, I'm afraid it's "goodbye, tricycle".

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And "hello, bicycle".

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'The Lairig Ghru is an impressive ice-scoured cleft.

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'It was formed thousands of years ago by long-vanished glaciers

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'that once covered the mountains of Scotland.

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'Although it forms a natural pass, the top of the Lairig Ghru

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'is too high and snowbound to have ever developed as a road link.

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'Joining me on my jaunt through the Cairngorms

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'is Scottish mountain-biking champion, Lee Craigie.'

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What kind of track are we on today, do you think? Is it difficult?

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The Lairig Ghru is rooty, it's rocky, it's steep up, steep down,

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so if something goes wrong on a trail out here,

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then it's got different repercussions to a trail centre.

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-Cos you're a long way from civilisation.

-That's right.

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-And rescue.

-You'll need to carry me out.

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I was hoping you would carry me out!

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What do you think our chances are, to get to the top of the Lairig Ghru?

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-If we keep hanging around chatting, very slim!

-Right.

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OK, let's see how far we can get.

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Well, this is definitely easier than the old tricycle.

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'It's the way mountain bikes open up the remote and inaccessible parts

0:21:360:21:40

'of the Highlands that makes the sport so appealing to me.

0:21:400:21:44

'But the term "cycling" has to be used loosely here.

0:21:440:21:47

'There's almost as much carrying of your bike as there is of riding it on routes like this.'

0:21:470:21:53

Right, I'm gaining on you, Lee. You might call yourself the champion, but I'm right behind ya.

0:21:530:21:58

Urgh!

0:21:580:21:59

'The modern mountain bike may be much more sophisticated

0:21:590:22:02

'than my old tricycle,

0:22:020:22:03

'but in trying to keep up with the Scottish mountain-bike champion

0:22:030:22:07

'on this rather challenging terrain,

0:22:070:22:09

'I manage to get my first puncture of the trip.'

0:22:090:22:11

Now Lee, it's a bit sad,

0:22:110:22:13

because my tyre has lost all its puff, a bit like me.

0:22:130:22:17

Look at the size of that, a huge hole.

0:22:170:22:21

-I always used to hate mending punctures when I was a kid.

-Yeah.

0:22:210:22:24

I used to always try and get my dad to do it, and he never did.

0:22:240:22:28

He said, "You gotta do it yourself."

0:22:280:22:30

Well, then why am I doing this for you?

0:22:300:22:32

Well, I'm sure you're more expert at this particular type of wheel.

0:22:320:22:35

-That's my excuse.

-OK. You've got to save your energy for the cross-drains.

0:22:350:22:39

I do, cos I'm absolutely knackered. It is quite tough going, isn't it?

0:22:390:22:44

-I'm right to feel tired.

-It's not easy terrain. You're absolutely right.

-It's to be expected.

0:22:440:22:49

But it's a fantastic location.

0:22:490:22:50

I think that's what punctures are for.

0:22:500:22:53

Sometimes on a mountain bike, cos you cover ground so fast...

0:22:530:22:56

Well, YOU might.

0:22:560:22:58

-..you can keep your head down, can't you?

-Uh-huh.

0:22:580:23:01

And you forget to look up

0:23:010:23:02

and it's such a shame.

0:23:020:23:03

What's the point in passing through all of this

0:23:030:23:06

unless you stop to look up?

0:23:060:23:08

'The landscape of the Cairngorm National Park is truly breathtaking,

0:23:100:23:15

'but few early visitors to Scotland

0:23:150:23:18

'would have ventured into this relatively unknown region.

0:23:180:23:21

'The Lairig Ghru has always fascinated me.

0:23:240:23:27

'I first came here when I was 18, and I've attempted to walk the route

0:23:270:23:31

'several times, but have never managed to complete it.

0:23:310:23:34

'I'm determined this time, with the aid of pedal power, to make it.'

0:23:340:23:38

-Oh!

-HE SPLUTTERS

0:23:380:23:40

HE LAUGHS

0:23:420:23:43

'Hmm, perhaps not.'

0:23:430:23:44

Well, here we are, Lee, I think we're only about, what,

0:23:470:23:50

-a third of the way through?

-Yeah, we're not very far.

0:23:500:23:53

And the path is just getting interesting now, isn't it?

0:23:530:23:57

Aye. But I think it's fair to say that you'd expected to be a bit further on by now.

0:23:570:24:02

-Yeah, I think if we were going to try and to Aviemore, we would need to be quite a lot further on.

-Right.

0:24:020:24:07

I mean do you think it's realistic?

0:24:070:24:10

I think we need to go away and maybe do a little bit more training and come back, Paul.

0:24:100:24:15

Do you feel that you're being held back in any way?

0:24:150:24:17

-Oh, I couldn't possibly say!

-Right.

0:24:170:24:20

Well, thank you very much for your advice, Lee.

0:24:200:24:24

But I'm made of sterner stuff and I'm going to bash on.

0:24:240:24:29

So I'll see you later. Farewell!

0:24:290:24:31

More than likely never to be seen again.

0:24:310:24:33

It's nothing to me, a mere bagatelle.

0:24:330:24:37

You know, on second thoughts, it does seem a hell of a long way.

0:24:400:24:45

HE GRUNTS

0:24:450:24:47

I'm going to head back this way.

0:24:470:24:50

Wait for me, Lee!

0:24:540:24:56

I'm coming back.

0:24:560:24:58

'With buttocks hideously battered and bruised, I've once more been defeated by the Lairig Ghru.'

0:24:580:25:04

HE GRUNTS

0:25:040:25:06

You've got gravity to take you back down.

0:25:080:25:11

-Lovely thought.

-HE GRUNTS

0:25:110:25:16

Ah, that's gravity!

0:25:190:25:21

'Mountain biking may be a great way to get out into the wilderness,

0:25:210:25:25

'but after another puncture and several more miles on foot,

0:25:250:25:29

'rather than in the saddle, I think perhaps some places in Scotland

0:25:290:25:34

'are just not meant to be conquered by bike.

0:25:340:25:36

'So it's back on the tarmac road for me

0:25:400:25:42

'if I'm to make the final leg of my journey

0:25:420:25:45

'and a bed for the night.

0:25:450:25:47

'Reflecting on my journey from Royal Deeside,

0:25:500:25:53

'it strikes me that for a long time, Scotland's sporting pursuits were very much the preserve of the rich.

0:25:530:26:01

'But as society began to change, a wider range of visitors came into the countryside,

0:26:010:26:07

'and they weren't the sort to afford plush hotels or shooting lodges.

0:26:070:26:11

'What they wanted was a cheap-and-cheerful alternative,

0:26:110:26:14

'like the youth hostel where I'm ending my trip.'

0:26:140:26:17

Right. Oh, wait a minute! Actually, that's one of the things about

0:26:170:26:21

staying in youth hostels, is that there are lots of polite notices

0:26:210:26:26

asking you to comply with various regulations.

0:26:260:26:29

Foot locker.

0:26:290:26:31

'Ah, the joys of the SYHA.

0:26:310:26:34

'In 1931, the Scottish Youth Hostel Association was founded

0:26:340:26:40

'to meet the needs of young folk seeking the great outdoors.

0:26:400:26:45

'Its aim was to promote moral and physical fitness, by encouraging

0:26:450:26:49

'a healthy life, through vigorous exercise and fresh air.'

0:26:490:26:54

Well, these somewhat Spartan surroundings at the youth hostel here in Glenmore

0:26:570:27:02

are a far cry from the luxury of Mar Lodge.

0:27:020:27:05

Although there's something appropriate about the transformation of a place

0:27:050:27:10

that was once a shooting lodge for the nobility

0:27:100:27:12

into a place where ordinary men and women could get a bunk for the night.

0:27:120:27:16

'The movement was hugely successful and soon the hills were alive, if not with the sound of music,

0:27:280:27:35

'but at least thronged with ruddy-faced youths engaged in country pursuits.

0:27:350:27:40

'And they could be sure that, at the end of the day, there would be cheap accommodation on offer,

0:27:420:27:48

'ranging from basic wooden huts to converted castles.'

0:27:480:27:52

It also seems quite sporting that ordinary people could now enjoy

0:27:520:27:57

the wide-open spaces that had previously been the preserve

0:27:570:28:00

of a tiny social elite, and interesting to reflect on the fact

0:28:000:28:04

that the great outdoors itself is such a social leveller.

0:28:040:28:08

But the only disadvantage of staying in a place like this is that, well, there's no bar.

0:28:080:28:14

And I'm exhausted and I simply can't cycle all the way to the pub, so I'm afraid it's an early night for me.

0:28:140:28:21

'My next grand tour takes me in search of the real Scotland,

0:28:240:28:28

'joining one of the most famous rail journeys in the world,

0:28:280:28:32

'before going over the sea to Skye.'

0:28:320:28:35

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:470:28:50

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:500:28:53

Paul Murton follows in the footsteps of the first tourists to Scotland. With a Victorian guidebook in his hands, he travels across the country tracing the changes that have taken place since the birth of Scottish tourism 200 years ago.

For centuries, Scotland was regarded as a place to avoid, and early travellers complained about the terrible weather, bad food, poor roads and the uncouth habits of the natives. To find out what changed to make Scotland an internationally celebrated tourist destination, Paul recreates six Scottish tours suggested by a well-thumbed, 19th-century copy of Black's Picturesque Guide to Scotland.

In this episode, Paul discovers how 19th-century Scotland's mountains and glens were a playground for rich gentlemen eager to test themselves against the forces of nature. In the spirit of Victorian manliness, Paul makes the journey using a conveyance of the period, an original 1870s tricycle. Enjoying the dubious delights of his unusual mode of transport, he travels from Dunkeld along the banks of Britain's longest river, the Tay, before climbing the mountains to Royal Deeside. From Braemar, he travels to the iconic destination of Balmoral, before attempting to cycle one of Scotland's most famous mountain passes, the Lairig Ghru.


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