Accompanied by a herd of cows, Griff Rhys Jones retraces the 250-mile droving route from the Isle of Skye to Falkirk market used in the 19th century.
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Britain was once a difficult country to cross.
Roads were few and paths obscure.
And yet our ancestors travelled, for work and for pleasure.
For faith and for fortune.
But the routes that they followed are lost.
I'm going to rediscover them and the people who took them.
What they saw and why they travelled.
Who they met and where they went.
I'm following the forgotten routes that made this country great.
And this week I'm in Scotland.
I'm here to explore a route
that provided one of this country's greatest exports.
Your fillet steak. Enjoy your dinner.
Thank you. Mm, beef.
-What's the best beef?
But the journey that this meat has made
to that world renowned status
is not only the history of Scotland,
but also the history of the way that the rest of the world
And it's a journey that is well worth taking.
So, come with me and join one of the teams
that drove vast herds of cattle
from the islands and highlands of Scotland, down to the lowland towns.
Many were bound, ultimately, for the greatest market of them all,
in Smithfield, in London,
so that meat could be put on the plate
of the great British beef eater.
Droving has left us with quite a cultural legacy,
as well as a network of lost drovers roads that snaked across Britain.
I'm going to follow one of these ancient routes
from the North West of Skye,
through a maze of trackways that criss-cross the Highlands
and down into what was once Scotland's greatest cattle market,
Together, with four beautiful Highland cattle,
I'm going back to the 1800s, when droving was at its height...
..when drovers swam their cows across vast stretches of water...
That's a first for me. Herding cows by boat.
..braved precarious mountain passes
and lead their herds straight through the heart of the town.
By the end of the journey, I want to discover
how the Highland drover became the original cowboy
of the American Wild West.
Scotland has almost 800 islands.
Skye is amongst the biggest and it's topped
by one of the most forbidding mountain ranges in Britain,
Nonetheless, by 1800,
people had been herding, raising and living off their cattle
in this place for 3,000 years.
And every year, they faced the same dilemma.
It's the beginning of October and the weather is coming in.
If I'd lived here on the extremities of the British Isles 200 years ago,
this is the time when I'd be trying to bring my cattle
down from the hills.
And that's easier said than done.
But, there will be no pasture on the high tops in winter.
In the Stone Age, the ancestors of the people who lived here
would have actually worshipped these beasts.
Now, these cows are precious,
a four-legged currency and difficult to deal with.
What happens is I have to gather them together
because there won't be enough feed during the winter
to keep them down around the farm.
Some of them are going to have to go to market
and that's about 200 miles in that direction.
And so begins one of the great annual migrations in Britain.
Come on here, come on.
And there are no lorries and no trains.
They'll have to transport themselves by walking.
As will Ruari Ormiston, the owner of these thoroughbred highlanders.
And like his novice assistant,
Ruari knows how to get his cattle to do what he wants.
It's called cattle nuts.
That's the way to do it.
You don't need to run about, they'll come to you.
OK, I think I've got a bit to learn, Ruari, haven't I?
It's called bribery.
This is my father, Cameron.
-How are you?
-Pleased to meet you.
-Are you coming with us?
-I am hoping to.
I hope you don't mind me asking, how old are you?
-I'm not very sure myself.
-Are you not?
Of course he is.
I happen to know that Cameron is 82 and pretty determined with it.
And we're off, hoping to retrace the still-just-visible signs
of the old drovers roads for 240 miles across dirt tracks,
mountain paths and even public roads.
We've got just four cows with us.
Horny, Frosty, Claire and the matriarch of our group, Cydonia.
Come on, come on.
The first thing that I learn, is that this is no giddy stampede.
The drover covered about 15 miles a day, a leisurely stroll,
enough to permit the cattle to graze on the way,
because they needed to be fattened for market,
not worn down by the journey.
Back in 1800, this drove from Skye to Falkirk
would have taken us two to three weeks.
These weren't the fittest of cows that went, either.
Unlike today's young beef, in 1800,
it was the oldest and the weakest that were sent.
Not excluding myself.
It's a painstaking business.
Who'd have thought it, eh?
You just think you're going to go for a walk
and just somehow the cows will walk with you.
But in fact the cows have their own agenda.
Munch, munch, munch, "OK, I'll walk another few steps."
Munch, munch, munch. "All right, OK, if you like, OK, no,
"I'm going in the other direction."
Just goes on. It's continuous. All day long.
It's wearing me out, honestly!
Well, no, not really.
Crossing the breadth of Skye,
we at last reach the point where the drove road from the West
converges with the one from the East.
We're driving our own beasts, but back in 1800,
droving tended to be carried out by specialist, tough, businessman.
The small farmers on Skye
would be expected to give a proportion of their livestock
up to the laird as rent for their land,
and so it was often the laird himself
who'd hire a man to get the lot down south.
By the time he reached this bridge,
the drover might have accumulated anything up to 100 cattle
from various different sources.
'It would have been like Hyde Park Corner around here.'
It's the walking coat rack I haven't quite got used to yet,
it's the idea that...!
Woah! Come on! Come on! Come on!
And I haven't got my cow call quite worked out yet.
You know what I mean?
You need a, "Yodel-oh-ho-ee"!
Or a, "Yippee! Whoop! Hey!"
We're in Sligachan now -
where there was, er, a tryst,
or a special market, established in 1794
by MacLeod of MacLeod.
But it's also a stance -
it's a place where people stayed for the night.
A stance was a sheltered area of grazing land
that was recognised as a place where drovers could break camp
and graze their cattle.
In the 19th century,
before the arrival of modern breeding techniques,
cattle were at least 40% smaller than they are today.
Not much bigger than sheep, in fact.
I'll catch up with the girls a little later.
I've realised I'm not really prepared
for this dreich Highland weather,
so I've made a bit of a detour
to Portree - the main town on Skye -
to find...something suitable.
Back in 1800, they didn't believe in fussing around
with anything too tailored.
I've been given...
It's a feileadh mor, or "great kilt".
And effectively, a man...on a drove
would have taken with him little more
than six to nine yards
of woolly cloth.
The oil in the cloth would have formed
a sort of wet suit. In fact, when he woke up in the morning,
he was enjoined to rub it in the dew until it was nice and damp
then hold it over the fire, and he got a bit of warmth in him,
and then basically start wrapping himself in it.
It's the sort of grand-daddy
of those...skirts, highly-coloured skirts,
that we see accountants wearing in Brisbane
on Burns Night.
But of course, many of those Australians -
and Americans, too, for that matter -
have a genuine claim to wearing the tartan,
so rooted in the history of these cattle lands.
200 years ago, the population here was five times what it is today.
That was until tens of thousands of crofters
were forced off the land by the lairds,
who wanted to replace them -
and their cows - with lucrative sheep farming.
These were the infamous Highland clearances.
Many crofters and drovers chose to emigrate
rather than starve,
taking their cattle-ranching skills with them
to the four corners of the globe.
'For us, today,
'the journey is not so great...'
Come on! Walk this way, please!
'..but it does have its own problems.'
We've come to one of our first major obstacles,
and that's a stretch of water to get ourselves across to the mainland.
I've been sent ahead, in fact, to try and stop them
jumping into the ocean on either side.
To get to the mainland, drovers brought their cattle
to Kyle Rhea, where the passage across the sea is at is narrowest.
But this ferry service
has only been operating since 1934.
'Cattle can get spooked by the sound of their own hooves
'on hollow surfaces, such as wood or metal,
'which is one of the reasons I think they're reluctant to get on board.'
Here we go, Griff, try that!
'Yes, cattle nuts - generally the answer to all our prayers
'but not in Cydonia's case.
'She just doesn't want to get on board.'
Where's she gone?
-You get up there...
-Oop, she's gone right behind there.
Come on! Come on! Stop her going that way!
'This has become more like Pamplona than the Inner Hebrides.
'We're talking about 1,200lb of angry beef...
'with horns attached.
'But with a little sweet-talking, we overcome her reservations.'
FERRY HORN BLASTS
Back in 1800, the only way the drovers could get their cattle
over this fast-moving channel was to force them to swim.
6,000 cows were coaxed across Kyle Rhea every autumn.
But because of the strong current, not all of them survived.
I've come to find out how it was done, from Huw, the skipper.
Well, they'd have taken a calf across...
initially, in maybe a small rowing boat or something like that.
And they would have tethered it the other side,
to where the cattle were, and they'd have led Mum in,
and they'd have probably prodded the calf a bit, to make it...
And Mum would have heard it, and of course,
that bond is very strong, so she'd have swum across.
This is no joke, to get them across here -
Cattle swimming may be no joke,
but there's one place in Skye where it still goes on.
Little Staffin Island lies just off the north coast,
and somehow, local farmer Ian MacDonald
swims his entire herd of cattle
over to the island to graze on the pasture every October.
The cattle are stampeded down the beach.
There's a big shelf just off the shore, and suddenly,
they're all in deep water.
MEN SHOUT AND WHISTLE, DOG BARKS
They may all look as if they're swimming for their lives,
but they're keeping their heads above water,
and swimming for their lunch.
Ian has been driving his cattle back and forth to Staffin Island
for 62 of his 80 years.
His only concession to age
is that he now conducts proceedings from a boat,
when he actually used to swim alongside the cows, in the sea.
Today, we're lucky, it's quite calm...
Oh, yes, I was very lucky, yes.
-But it can be pretty, er...
-Oh, yes, yes!
Aye, it can be...
I've seen me... We had bullocks in,
and I've seen them coming ashore way out there.
-They come up on their own, and, oh...!
-What, they just swim away?
-Or get carried away by the current?
even when cattle were transported in boats -
as they often were from the Outer Hebrides -
they were usually thrown off about a half a mile from the shore
just to give them a good wash.
But our ladies step on dry land -
safe and happy.
We're on the mainland, and now we're following
the northernmost of two drovers' routes,
down through Glen Shiell to Cluanie,
where we hope to make use of a short cut.
We're imagining our journey as taking place
on the cusp of the industrial age.
Before the coming of chemical fertilisers
and improved agriculture, land was scarce
and yielded little.
Geography determined what was farmed.
All the hills and mountains to the west of Britain
were cattle country then.
'Cattle were one of the few forms of food
'that delivered themselves to market.
'But as demand for beef in Scotland and England increased,
'any advancements of the burgeoning industrial age
'that could be adapted to speed the progress of the drover
'were grasped with vigour.'
We're actually on a trackway
that was built at huge expense
on top of this boggy ground,
in order to provide a short cut for drovers.
And it cut about three days off the journey.
And it was all part of a giant scheme
designed to bring improvement to the Highlands -
which was surveyed and organised by Thomas Telford.
Telford was one of Scotland's greatest engineers.
He understood the significance of the drover
to the Highland economy, and he determined to speed their passage
-'where he could.'
-Come on, girlies. >
I like it when they, erm, they sort of hunker down
-into the wind!
-THEY BOTH CHUCKLE
They just sort of let their shoulders drop a little.
I think we should be joining them, the way it is today.
Before this road was built, drovers travelling along Glen Shiell
were forced to take a wrong road, through the centre of the country.
But Thomas Telford saw an opportunity to forge a short cut
through Glen Loyne, which would connect the drover
to a more direct route to Falkirk.
I just can't help noticing that our wonderful road
is coming to a direct halt ahead of us.
THUNDER AND RAIN
It looks a bit wet, doesn't it?
I can see it, look, it actually goes on,
on the other side of the loch, over there.
Either it's rained a lot more than any of us have thought,
or something has happened to change the landscape around here.
Thankfully, there's somebody to ask.
Professor Ronan Paxton can often be found knocking about in his region.
He's an expert on the history of Scotland's great engineering achievements
and for him, Telford's forgotten road is nirvana.
Even if it's disintegrating by the minute.
The last time the road would be used was before the Loch Loyne
-was flooded by the hydro-electric people in the 1950s.
Until that time, this road would be in regular use.
So in other words, a project to improve the Highlands
finally wiped out an earlier project to improve the Highlands.
-You could say that.
-I just have.
The old map shows that by the 1930s,
Telford's drover's road had become the A87.
In other words, the main road for motor traffic from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye.
Back in those days, Loch Loyne was two small
and separate lochs connected by a river,
and this was the bridge that carried that road over that river.
The bridge and the road are still down there somewhere,
submerged by billions of gallons of water
and making the odd appearance when summer droughts drain the loch.
Thomas Telford's pioneering drover's road of the 19th century,
termed "a road for motor cars of the 20th century",
is now a disused track
and stands as an epitaph to an economy built on beef.
But the weather is fit for neither man, nor beast, nor professor.
Roland invites me to shelter in the back of his car.
Tell me a little bit about Thomas Telford.
It has been said and I wouldn't disagree with the fact
that Telford's improvements have advanced civilisation in Scotland by 100 years.
How many miles of roads did he build in the Highlands in the end?
Well, 1,100 miles of roads and about the same number of bridges too,
which... is a very remarkable achievement.
Why was this drove route seen as being of such importance?
Well, because of the actual patronage of the route.
It was taking something like 20,000 to 30,000 beasts a year.
It's certainly difficult to imagine such vast numbers of cattle
passing through this deserted glen today.
We have to turn back.
We've got to find a way to reconnect with the road
on the other side of the loch.
But I'm noticing the girls don't seem to love these hard surfaces.
Is this road too solid for them though?
I think it probably was.
Their feet would wear out quite quickly on a surface like his.
That's why we keep seeing them going to the other side and walking on the grass.
Telford's road speeded the passage of the drover,
but wore down the hooves of the cattle that walked them.
Luckily, there was a solution available.
After mobile farrier Robin Pape
has finished an emergency replacement of various horse's shoe,
I grab the opportunity to ask Robin how they dealt with cattle.
-What I understand is they used to take a horseshoe...
..on top, cut it in half, which then gave you two halves, like that.
And then they used to draw down the area of the toe
and fold it up like a clip.
Now, given the horse's foot as we have seen, as we appreciate,
is one unit. It's a single unit.
The cow's foot operates on two halves. It's a cloven-footed animal.
So the way that I understand with these here
I understand that these would need a little bit of adjustment,
-but it would go on fairly similar to that.
-And that would be it.
-OK, but a fiddly job.
Quite a fiddly job,
but I suppose like anything else, you get used to it,
and if you were brought up doing it,
it was an accepted part of your yearly work.
Yes, but Cydonia isn't used to it.
And who can blame her?
In order to be shod, cattle had to be thrown on to their back
with their head held down and the legs trussed up with a rope.
Imagine doing that with 20 to 30,000 beasts.
We've found the perfect stance near the shores of Loch Arkaig.
The horses have been hobbled to stop them wandering off.
The cattle are settling down
after suffering homesickness during the first couple of days.
And under Cameron's guidance, it's my turn to cook.
Yes, porridge again.
Oats happen to be one of the few crops that can be grown
in these regions during the short, wet summers.
-And no milk?
Well, if you can catch her to milk her, you'll be lucky.
The thing about it is you're only having the porridge
when you stop at night and first thing in the morning.
And you've got a fire to do it.
You can go most of the day with nothing else.
-Except a good, decent dram.
A bit of whiskey for now and again. Is that for the cold?
-The water will like that.
-The water will like that.
When the locals needed extra protein,
they would actually cut their live cattle
and add the blood to their porridge.
-Needs some salt.
And this meal was the origin of black pudding,
another great and famous Scottish delicacy.
I've made a detour.
Having tasted the drover's life for a few days now,
I'm curious to understand why Scotch beef developed the reputation it did.
Butcher George McCrae is going to tell me.
So, we've got the fillet of beef here.
By far the most expensive cut, one of the most tender cuts
but not necessarily the most tasty.
Ground onto the sirloin. That's the most populous steak.
Then on the far end down to the best part of the rump,
that's my favourite.
I would of thought in a funny sort of way
that if you're dealing with a tough old beast
that can survive on the hillside, doesn't that result in tough meat?
It's a very, as you say, tough old beast,
but it can fantastically adapt to the area.
'The taste all comes from what you put into an animal.'
And up here in the Highlands, it's fresh air, clean water,
no pollution. Everything is as good as you can get.
The grass quality up in the Highlands in summertime
is fantastic, the best grass in the world.
The water quality is outstanding.
The amount of it that comes down is quite a lot as well.
what gave Scottish beef its reputation is the very landscape
that was regarded as too poor and untenable to use for anything else.
We've now travelled over 100 miles
and we're about to arrive at Achnacarry,
the ancestral home of one of the most important clans in Scotland.
One of the things that I've been wondering as we've been wondering
is what happens when we cross private land.
We've been up on the moorlands so far.
Well, just ahead of us is Castle Achnacarry,
ancient seat of the Clan Cameron.
And I suppose, they'll tell me.
Half of Scotland is still owned by just 500 families.
And the Camerons of Achnacarry are one of them.
They've been around since the 14th century.
They fought at the Battle of Culloden and their vast estate
once included Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain.
The Clan Cameron is big in these parts.
HE RINGS DOORBELL
I want to find out more about the Laird's involvement
in the cattle rearing business.
-Very nice to met you.
Donald Cameron is an Edinburgh lawyer,
but up here in the Highlands, he's known as the Younger of Locheil.
As clan chief in waiting, I asked Donald to explain to me
what exactly a clan is.
It comes from the Gaelic for children.
And that's very fundamental to understanding what it is,
because it's basically a family and the system in Scotland,
the clan system was one where the chief was at the apex of this family.
Everyone in the clan took his name,
Cameron, for example and owed him allegiance
and in return for their allegiance, he would protect them.
-There we are.
And if you came from Skye and you weren't a Cameron,
when you came here, you thought,
is it a wise idea to cross these lands with my cattle,
when the cattle thieving is a sort of gentlemen's occupation?
And people would think nothing of just lifting,
lifting as they say, lifting...
-A toll, perhaps?
-A toll, of whoever it was.
Cattle thieving had been the drover's greatest fear,
but after their defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1745,
the Scottish clans had the right to bear arms removed for ever.
And in fact the only civilians permitted to continue to carry guns
to protect themselves and their cattle, were the drovers.
Perhaps that was the reason that cattle lifting
had gradually died out by the time we were coming through in 1800,
though I was interested to find out how deadly a drover might be.
Brian Ritchie from Vintage Arms Scotland,
has brought an 18th century government-issue musket
for Donald and I to have a go with.
It's a far more accurate weapon than the pistols the drovers used,
but how effective was it?
Because this is a military weapon,
the ammunition would have been issued to the soldiers
in the form of a cartridge.
Strangely enough, cartridge paper with a ball in one end.
-Is that the origin of the idea of a cartridge?
-In here, we have black gunpowder.
That would just get poured down the barrel like that
and then we simply push the ball under.
Very fine powder, in the pad, like that.
Then close the lid and if you watch it, chaps, if you put your ears on
and we're clear to fire.
The hammer comes to full cock.
Off we go.
Donald's stalking experience means that he's an ace shot.
But I'm not sure how many stags he'd bag with this gun.
DRUM ROLL CONTINUES
I'm immediately failing the basic strength. Good.
-And then just shove it in.
Good tap. Seat it well. That's it, sir.
Put some priming powder into the pan.
The expression, the flash in the pan, is where
he powder charge in the pan goes off
and for some reason doesn't go through to the barrel,
-so you get a flash in the pan, but nothing else.
Back to full cock. Well in the shoulder.
-Weight on your front foot.
-I'm frightened that the rustlers
might've got over the hill by now, but let's have a go.
Good shot, sir.
High left is almost off the board.
I think I'm going to need a little bit more practice
if anyone wants to take Cydonia off me.
We haven't been able to cover all of this journey on foot.
Moving cattle across country is today subject to strict regulations,
to prevent the spread of diseases, like foot and mouth.
And so Cydonia and the girls have had to travel sections
of the drovers' route in their trailer.
We've got to cross the Great Glen.
This is an enormous geological fault
that cuts Scotland in half.
It runs from Inverness in the north
for more than 70 miles
to Fort William in the South.
And 80% of it is deep water loughs.
Once we're on the other side,
we need to cross the highest and most challenging mountain ranges
we'll encounter in our entire journey.
We're back on the trail with Ben Nevis behind us
and we've still got around 70 miles to go.
Although the sun is shining at the moment,
we're going to be descending into Glencoe,
which has a notorious reputation
for bad weather amongst other things.
First though, we've got to climb down the side of a mountain by a route with an ancient name,
which was revived in the 20th century.
That's the Devil's Staircase down there,
called by workers on the dam
for the hydroelectric scheme up there.
And they used to come up this path in order to get to the pub
and on the way back in the darkness, apparently,
the Devil claimed a few of them.
The hairpin bends that give the Devil's staircase its name,
make it easier to travel up and down this treacherous mountainside.
It's a modern hikers' track now.
But our cattle are finding this a bit of a struggle.
Back in 1800, if they'd slipped and broken a leg, that would have been the end of them.
And each disaster like that threatened to make the whole venture a loss-making enterprise.
The poor dears have got very sore feet
on these very hard stones on the hikers trail,
so we've had to take great loops
finding the old route down through the grass.
I think we're just about getting down.
Onward my darlings! Onward!
Let us go to pastures new.
The much wider loops of the drovers' route that that weave their way
in and out of the tighter zigzags of the modern pathway
can be seen as a much deeper green
and that's because the grass is still nourished
by centuries of cow dung from deep below the surface.
Cattle droving was a hard life, but it had its rewards.
It was down to the skill of the drover
to transport as many cattle as he reasonably could,
as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
If he got it right and didn't lose too many
on the way, the drover could earn between three pounds
and four pounds a week.
Which was around four times
the average wage of an agricultural labourer at the time.
We're in Glencoe and the weather has turned.
Luckily though, three miles down the valley is an inn.
This was the northernmost of a series of drovers' stops
that ran at about 15-mile intervals all the way to Falkirk.
Well, there we are. That's a welcome sight.
That's the Kings House.
For about 150 years was known
as the most miserable and wretched place in the Highlands.
Come on, Zeno. Come on.
No, no! Come on.
Oh... Round this way, then. Come on. Come on.
-'I think Zeno's heard about this place too.
'It got its name because it was maintained as a barracks.'
In the 18th century,
they had to pay a man £9 a year just to keep the place open.
Dorothy Wordsworth was an early middle-class tourist.
She came here in 1803 and found it dirty, cold and miserable.
But for drovers like us,
The Kings House represents the ultimate in luxury.
'We find it rather better than Dorothy did.'
You would always stop different places...
'I want to know how he thinks our drove is going.'
-They seem perfectly happy to follow.
But the lead cow...
she's the boss.
And they know to follow her.
Plus the fact of the ponies or the horses,
as we called them in the old days. They were Highland horses.
you know, they sort of build up a friendship amongst them.
You can see even how the cows look at the horses
-and how they look at one another.
-I could see that.
They were looking all the time to see what the others were doing
and thinking, "Can I stay here long enough? I've got to catch up."
There's pure Highlanders, they've got it up here, you know.
Good health. Slainte mhath.
-SPEAKS IN GAELIC
What does that mean?
Good health for every day you see and every day you don't.
And so, to bed.
Back in 1800, this would have been the first time in weeks
that the drover hadn't spent the night in the heather.
But his Phillimore wouldn't have been far away.
In the southern Highlands, the mountain ranges run east to west,
with precious few gaps between the peaks.
One of the few passages through the mountains is Glen Ogle.
The early drovers were the pathfinders through here.
Their same route was used by military roads in the 18th century,
railways in the 19th century, and modern A roads
and the National Grid's electricity pylons in the 20th century.
All through the 1700s and 1800s,
the trade in droving grew enormously.
It happened because a sort of peace had come to the Highlands.
The Risings were over and it meant that the trade in cattle
could become a principal export commodity.
And then along came the steam engine.
And everything changed.
The landscape of the Highlands proved just as difficult
for the railways to conquer as it had centuries before
for the early drovers.
Costly solutions like the Horseshoe Viaduct in Glenfinnan
were built to avoid boggy ground, and a series of arches in Glen Ogle
was the only way to deal with the near vertical valley walls.
But once construction was completed
and the connections made through to the south,
the steam train completely took over the mass transportation of cattle.
The train hasn't run through Glen Ogle for almost 50 years.
But the route of the line has been converted for walkers and time travelling drovers like us,
who've reclaimed it.
But what with all these horns,
I just hope we don't meet any lonely hikers coming the other way today.
The horns are pretty vicious looking things.
-Can they do damage with those horns?
-Oh, yes, definitely.
My own father was injured about 35 years ago by a cow.
They're worst when they're calving, and they would try and kill you
if you started to interfere with the calf too much.
-Look in the eye of Cydonia and suddenly she's going...
Like that. You know that she means business if she wanted to.
-Well, when she gives you the eye...
..it means that she's not happy about something and it's time to respect her.
Look at the hole in my jacket from the other day.
She had enough of me pushing her around,
and she just said, "Hey, wait a minute, mister, I'm in control here."
I'm no horseman. But after days of cajoling from Rury,
I've graduated from a humble footsoldier of this drove,
and clambered up on Zeno.
See, this is the way to do it. Now I'm a proper cowboy.
It got a horse, and I can get the horse to move the cattle.
And as soon as you get up here, you realise what it's all about.
Even if you can't do a thing with a horse.
Suddenly you can do things with a horse. Come on.
Oh, now I've left one behind! Look out. Come on, round, round, round.
Round, round, round. Come on. Come on. I'll get it.
Come on, you see, come round like this. Round like this. Come on.
Come on, let's get the cattle. Come on. Woo!
I see you're completely unmoved by this, Rury.
This is Loch Katrine, tourist hotspot of the Trossachs,
but the reason is became so goes back to the drover's roads
and one drover in particular
and a world famous author who immortalised him.
We were coming on down through Glen Ogle there
by what is known as the Rob Roy Way,
and the cattle are now going to continue by truck while I try
and find out a bit more about that particular legendary Scotsman.
This steamship has been ferrying tourists
up and down this loch for over a century.
It's named after Scotland's greatest novelist for good reason.
OK, guys, have fun!
Born towards the end of the 18th century, Walter Scott
was the first English language writer
to have a truly international career.
His principle subject was the Highlands.
Scott transformed people's image of the Highlander
from unruly savage into swashbuckling hero.
He did this by immortalising the story of a real Highlander
born on the shores of Loch Katrine.
Rob Roy was a cattle drover.
He'd been making money by taking cattle from the Highlands
and selling them in the Lowlands
and he'd been funded by various rich investors.
When it all went wrong they wanted their money back
and he didn't have it.
And so Rob Roy the drover became Rob Roy the cattle rustler,
stealing cattle from the rich clan chiefs,
he was rewritten as Rob Roy, the Robin Hood of Scotland.
Scott was creating a tartan mania.
He delivered a romantic version of Highland Scotland
that has had some staying power.
-Well, we're up on a Scottish dancing holiday.
-We walk in the day and dance at night.
-And where are you from?
-Where are you based?
-We're from Lancashire.
-The Fylde Coast.
You've come from Lancashire to show these Scots up here
how to do it properly?!
-Yes! That's right.
Here you are, as Scottish country dancers,
steeped in the idea of Scotland and the romance of Scotland,
have you ever read one of Walter Scott's novels?
I'm afraid I haven't but I will now!
-No, I've not read them, I'm sorry.
Me neither. No, that's not true!
I've read Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, and I used to read them a little bit
when I was boy, and they are very exciting stories, adventure stories.
The reality was more down to earth.
Rob Roy was also known for another practice.
Demanding money for immunity from raiding.
It was called a name that we still call today for extortion -
Loch Katrine, Roy's birthplace, may seem a romantic name,
yet Katrine was no flaxen-haired beauty.
Katrine is the Anglicised version of the Gaelic word, ceathairne
which means "cattle thief".
We've reached the Scottish Lowlands.
After 150 miles,
the land is finally floorboard flat
hence the meandering of the River Forth.
Slow moving though it might be, this river can be deep,
and in order to reach Falkirk, the drovers and their cattle
had to wade across a shallow section of the river at the Ford of Frew.
Is it too deep, girls?
The cow looks pretty strong there, too.
So the problem for us is if we took them across,
even though we might get one across, they might swim,
but when they're swimming they're caught by the current,
they'll go whooshing down towards Edinburgh
and that's the end of them.
We don't want to lose one. Come on, girls, get out of the water.
Come on, Claire, hurry up!
Claire, get out of there, come on.
Come on, Claire, you've had your swim.
That's it, good girls.
That'll cool your feet down after that long walk.
Well, we'll have to look for another way across.
And there is one.
It's existed since 1500 but drovers were not keen on this alternative.
Stirling is gateway to the Highlands
and the ancient capital of Scotland, but what we're looking for
is Stirling Bridge which has stood here for 500 years.
It afforded a reliable passage across the River Forth,
but at a price.
A toll was levied from a booth in the middle of the bridge.
Those limited profit margins were being eroded once again.
From Stirling, it's little more than ten miles to Falkirk.
Nowadays, it's hard to see where you might find space to accommodate
a quarter of a million animals as they want did.
But surprisingly, perhaps,
the site of the great cattle tryst of the 19th century still exists.
Tucked away behind the town's quiet residential streets.
Well, we finally made it to Falkirk at the site of the famous tryst.
Tryst, deriving from the word trust, it's the place where bargains
were made and cattle were sold, but it's changed it use now.
By the early 19th century, the biggest cattle droves
approaching Falkirk could stretch up to seven miles in length.
150,000 cattle and 200,000 sheep could change hands in on season.
For almost 100 years,
Falkirk tryst was one of the biggest cattle markets on the planet.
At the time of the tryst, huge sums of money passed hands here
because this was the market.
It was paid in gold and also, often, in promissory notes.
It was the beginning of the Scottish banking system.
And talking of money, Rharidh and Cameron have arranged
to have their cattle valued.
David Leggat is the most respected livestock auctioneer in the country
and we're hoping he's going to put a decent price on the heads
of our Highlanders.
Cameron's got a few bits of advice to give me.
Remember and tell it now, that the older cow has been producing milk
for the last three or four winters for your own bairns.
-For MY own bairns?
-Aye, for your own bairns.
They've go to get something, you know.
It's the good milk from the Highland cow that puts the bone into them.
-Right. And that makes them more tasty, does it?
-Into my bairns?
I'm not trying to sell my bairns, though! I'm trying to sell the cows.
I know, but this will put the price up.
-Looking at these, what's your first impression?
-They're really good.
They're very typical of the breed. Nice, long cattle.
You have to remember that nowadays, they're beef cattle
whereas in the old days the Highland breed was used for beef and milk.
They were the house cow.
So today, let's get down to the nitty gritty,
how much would you be expecting to pay for this?
This one's probably the most valuable one. Probably 2-2,500.
These two are the same age but this one's black, as you see,
with a white underbelly, and that's a great sign of milk,
so she would be potentially more maternal.
Maybe 1,800-2,000. And I think this is 12-1,500.
-There's quite a difference.
-And what about Sedonia, the mother?
I can tell you that this lovely Sedonia over here has been feeding
my own children for the last four years, as well as her own calves.
-She's done well, then!
-Yes, she has. She's a very good milker.
-Right, I see.
-Does that influence your choice?
-She's still got a value.
-What sort of value are we talking about?
-Probably around 1,000.
800 on a poor day, maybe 1,200 on a very good day.
I'm so happy now!
I'm going to have to send Cameron in to deal with you later on!
That's between £6-7,000 for the lot,
but David's offer isn't tempting Cameron.
Besides, they were never really up for sale.
These are the closest Highland cattle ever get
to being household pets.
But plenty of others are.
Stirling Agricultural Centre, one of the biggest livestock auctions
in the country is the nearest thing to the old Falkirk tryst.
But today's drovers are truck drivers.
They bring livestock from all over the country,
but once they've delivered their load, their job is done
and it's over to the men in the white coats.
Back in 1800, the drover would have sought out a buyer
and negotiated the sale of his cattle himself.
Nowadays, auctioneers sell livestock to the highest bidder at
the most extraordinary speed.
AUCTIONEER TALKS FAST
David has invited me onto the podium to see how a livestock auction works.
16, 17, 18...
Understanding what the auctioneer is saying is clearly a skill,
let alone saying it.
Auctioneers get through 60 to 80 lots an hour.
A million pounds can go under the hammer in a single day.
How does he spot the bidders when all they do is nod
or wink or twitch?
Well, I'm going to find out because they want me to have a go.
David is going to show me the cattle he wants me to auction and introduce me to their owner, Ian Bowie.
The three that we're looking at here,
what sort of price are you expecting to get from them?
-Well, I'd be hoping to get near enough £600 for each of them.
-1,800 all together.
-What will you be happy with?
-What's the minimum you might expect?
-I cant remember ever being happy!
Seven, five five. Eight five, nine five...
Very fine cattle we're selling today, lets have a price list...
Honestly, this is worse than going on at the Palladium.
We've got a rather special guest auctioneer today.
He's thinking about a career change, in the form of Griff Rhys Jones.
So I'm going to hand you over to Griff who will do the sale.
Where are you, auctioneer?
-Here I am!
Thank you very much, David.
Let me just check that...
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,
we're looking at three Highland steer here.
Can we have them? Can we show them, please? Thank you very much.
Beautiful cattle, property of Mr Ian Bowie of Little Carbeth Farm,
weighing in at 390kg.
600, I'm looking for 600.
500! 500, 500.
Looking for 510? 510? 520? 530?
600? 610, sir?
610, going once. 610?
Any more bids, 610?
610, are you going to come again, sir?
615? Any bids at 615?
Going 610, once, twice, sold!
Thank you very much.
Now, two African male elephants.
We have one final stop on our journey through
the drover's roads of the past.
30 miles north of Falkirk, Crieff was the site of the first major
cattle tryst in Scotland, but by 1770 the rise in the demand
for beef from London and the Midlands
forced the business further south.
In recent years, Crieff has celebrated its historic associations
by holding an annual tryst festival with a market selling all manner
of cow-related novelties, a series of talks and drovers walks
for the bovine enthusiast and even a quiz night devoted entirely to beef.
BAGPIPERS PLAY SCOTLAND THE BRAVE
Aye, well, I don't feel a proper drover, I must admit,
Coming from Fitzrovia, as I do.
it's an interesting comment that people have turned out
to see this and celebrate it.
They've loved it.
Whereas once, this town, would have had so many cattle
passing through it every year,
that it would have been a matter of almost complete indifference.
No festival can end without a ceilidh and so we've penned
Sedonia and the girls out in the courtyard.
TRADITIONAL CEILIDH MUSIC
The extraordinary end to this story has still to be told.
The thousands of Scottish cattle-rearing Highlanders
that were forced to emigrate to America in the 18th and 19th centuries
because of the Highland clearances
went on to become the pioneers of early America.
The Scottish drovers, in particular,
adapted their acquired skills of herding and living in the wild,
husbandry and gunmanship and even the music they played
around the campfire, to become the original cowboys.
Musician Brian McNeil has studied the crossovers
between Scottish folk tunes
and the music of the early American Wild West.
I think the first generation of Scots who went over after
the clearances, they took the music with them and, you know,
one of the tunes that interests me -
a very well pink march here, but when I played it to my friend
in West Virginia and he said "What's the name of that?"
And I said "It's called Campbell's Farwell To Redcastle",
and he said "No, it's not,
"it's called Campbell's Farewell To Red Gap"!
Play it for me now.
This is the Scottish version.
PLAYS CAMPBELL'S FAREWELL TO REDCASTLE
'Now, here's the American version.'
PLAYS SAME TUNE FASTER
In the 20th century, legendary Scottish Americans
like Chisholm, McTaggert, Quick Draw McGraw and the James Brothers
became the stars of a whole new culture - the Hollywood Western.
We've travelled over 200 miles and gone back in time as many years.
In the process, we've been privileged to see
how demanding cattle droving really was, but also how droving pioneered
a series of routes through this difficult and challenging landscape
that still form the foundation of the roads of Scotland today.
It's astonishing that we made a journey,
not just across the Highlands but sort of into the Highlands as well.
All those things that Walter Scott made popular
and famous across the world, like the water of life - whiskey,
like black pudding, like kilts and shortbread and tartan,
even scotch beef, owe their existence to a culture
that was based upon grazing and nurturing and selling cattle.
SONG: "Camptown Races"
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Griff throws himself back into the early 19th century, joining a herd of Highland cows and two sturdy farmers to retrace an ancient droving route once taken by thousands as they trudged 250 miles through the Scottish Highlands from the Isle of Skye to market in Falkirk.
Braving the ravages of the Scottish weather, Griff and his companions relive the arduous and dangerous trek through steep mountain passes and fast-flowing rivers that drovers and their herds made so that the great British public could get beef on its dinner plate. As they go, they discover how drovers once risked life and limb to swim their cattle from the Scottish islands to the mainland, braving the inclement conditions in their wet plaid and fending off rustlers with sharp shooting. Griff explores how these hardy men went on to become the first cowboys of the Wild West as well as becoming the stuff of literary legend.