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    Notes about “Rob Roy” by Sir Walter Scott…

    Going on with my  reading notes about Sir Walter Scott’s books, the next in file on my chronological reading list is Rob Roy, one of his most famous novels which was published in December 1817. I’ve just finished it and it is still open on my desk together with a number of extremely interesting books about the  author and his works. My last ‘Notes’ were about Old Mortality.

    Old Mortality and The Black Dwarf   had been published in 1816  and belong to the first series of ‘Tales of My Landlord’ attributed to Jedediah Cleishbotham contrary to Rob Roy,  which was published under the name of ‘The Author of Waverley, Guy Mannering and The Antiquary’.

    On the title page of the first volume of the 1818 edition of Rob Roy one can notice that the publisher is Archibald Constable and not Blackwood. Walter Scott’s publishing adventures are not lacking in spice as many biographers  have pointed out.


    Rob Roy illustrated – Walter Scott – George Routledge & Sons circa 1880

    The success of Rob Roy was immediate, as it is underlined by W.S Crockett in The Sir Walter Scott Originals, published in 1912.

    “The novel received a welcome as warm as any of its predecessors. So great was the demand for copies that the entire cargo of a smack sailing from Leith to London consisted of an edition of ten thousand – an event unprecedented in the annals of literature, and in the history of the Custom House. When the novel was dramatised and acted at Edinburgh by William Murray’s Company, it brought down the house.”

    Rob Roy has never stopped being edited since its publication. The book was soon translated into French by Auguste Defauconpret and published in France in 1830.

    Walter Scott has always been very popular, especially during his lifetime and in the decades following his death. He had and still have many fans in Europe. Goethe, a contemporary writer of Sir Walter, used to interrupt all his activities when he received the latest production of the Scottish novelist and immersed himself in his reading to the last page. During his last journey in Europe, Sir Walter had planned to meet Goethe but, alas, the great German writer  had died in March 1832, about six months before Sir Walter. Boths writers wrote until their last days, Goethe publishing the 2nd part of his Faust in 1832, but Sir Walter was aged 61 when he died, and Goethe 82…

    Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott, Edinburgh Edition 2008

    Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott, Edinburgh Edition 2008

    Referring again to the excellent Walter Scott Digital Archive and more especially to the page devoted to Rob Roy, I’ve chosen a quite interesting extract relating to the genesis of the book.

    ‘The contract was signed in May 1817, and in July 1817 Scott visited Rob Roy’s cave at the head of Loch Lomond and Glen Falloch, in order to refresh his memories of the scene of the outlaw’s exploits. Work on the novel began in August 1817, but progress was hampered by a recurrence of gallstone-related illness. Suffering from intensely painful cramps, Scott was forced to take high quantities of laudanum while dieting almost to the point of starvation. Astonishingly, it was under these conditions that Scott wrote perhaps the most fluently readable of all his stories. The novel was finished by early December 1817 and was published on the 30th of the month.’

    Only six months passed between the signature of the contract and the publishing of Rob Roy. Not much time when we know how Sir Walter was  busy in his other activities. In the long run this rhythm of work, that he kept throughout his life, was not without consequences. Sir Walter died on 21 september 1832, at the age of 61… a very sad day indeed. It would be the same sad story with our French writer Balzac (1799-1850), who died at the age of 51, persecuted by his creditors and completely exhausted…

    Just to get an idea of Sir Walter Scott’s creativity, and in fiction alone, look at the list of his novels as it appears on the back cover of the Edinburgh edition of Rob Roy. [picture above]

    Close up on Sir Walter Scott’s desk at Abbotsford © 2001 Scotiana

    Rob Roy was published at the end of December 1817, the previous year (1816) he had published the two stories included in the 1st series of ‘The Tales of my Landlord’ and The Antiquary. In 1818 the 2nd series of the ‘Tales’ containing The Heart of Midlothian would follow…

    It’s just incredible! Writing so many pages with just  pen and ink! No computer then 😉

    A Historical Novel

    Walter Scott is generally considered as the inventor of the historical novel and the list is long of the books he has written about history, Rob Roy and Waverley being perhaps the most popular. By the way, Sir Walter did not limit himself to Scottish history. For example, the story of Quentin Durward, to mention only this book which I’ve read a long time ago and with much pleasure, takes place in France.

    So far, I’ve read :

    • Waverley
    • Guy Mannering
    • The Antiquary
    • The Black Dwarf
    • Old Mortality
    • Rob Roy

    The next book I intend to read is The Heart of Midlothian

    I must admit that since I started reading Sir Walter’s novels I’ve learned a lot about Scotland and Scottish history.

    “The plot of Rob Roy is concerned with the period when Jacobite agents were attempting to win the MacGregors for King James in the coming Rebellion of 1715″. As the history of this period is quite complex I have established a small chronology of the events with the list of the kings and queens more or less concerned by these events.

    Below is the summary of the historical events which led to the deposition of Stuart King James II & and VII,  his exile in France and the Jacobite rebellion intended to restore him to the throne.  The two French kings who reigned during this time were Louis XIV (1643-1715) and Louis XV (1715-1774).

    James II & VII succeeded to the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland following the death of his brother with widespread support in all three countries, largely because the principles of eligibility based on divine right and birth were widely accepted. Tolerance of his personal Catholicism did not extend to tolerance of Catholicism in general, and the English and Scottish parliaments refused to pass his measures. When James attempted to impose them by decree, this was met with opposition; some academics have, however, argued that it was a political principle, rather than a religious one, that ultimately led to his removal.

    In June 1688, two events turned dissent into a crisis. Firstly, the birth of James’s son and heir James Francis Edward on 10 June raised the prospect of establishing a Catholic dynasty and excluding his Anglican daughter Mary and her Protestant husband William III of Orange from the line of succession. Secondly, the prosecution of the Seven Bishops for seditious libel was viewed as further evidence of an assault on the Church of England, and their acquittal on 30 June destroyed his political authority in England. The ensuing anti-Catholic riots in England and Scotland led to a general feeling that only James’s removal from the throne could prevent a civil war.

    Leading members of the English political class invited William of Orange to assume the English throne. When William landed in Brixham on 5 November 1688, James’s army deserted and he went into exile in France on 23 December. In February 1689, a special Convention Parliament held that James had “vacated” the English throne and installed William and Mary as joint monarchs, thereby establishing the principle that sovereignty derived from Parliament, not birth. James landed in Ireland on 14 March 1689 in an attempt to recover his kingdoms, but, despite a simultaneous rising in Scotland, in April a Scottish Convention followed that of England, both finding that James had “forfeited” the throne and offered it to William and Mary. After his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690, James returned to France, where he spent the rest of his life in exile at Saint-Germain, protected by Louis XIV. While his contemporary opponents often portrayed him as an absolutist tyrant, some historians—beginning in the 20th century—have praised James for advocating religious tolerance. More recent scholarship has tended to take a middle ground between these views.


    The Jacobite rising of 1715]; (or ‘the Fifteen’) was the attempt by James Edward Stuart (the Old Pretender) to regain the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland for the exiled Stuarts.

    At Braemar, Aberdeenshire, local landowner the Earl of Mar raised the Jacobite standard on 27 August. Aiming to capture Stirling Castle, he was checked by the much-outnumbered Hanoverians, commanded by the Duke of Argyll, at Sheriffmuir on 13 November. There was no clear result, but the Earl appeared to believe, mistakenly, that he had won the battle, and left the field. After the Jacobite surrender at Preston (14 November), the rebellion was over.


    A summary of Rob Roy:

    As for Old Mortality, there is a good summary of Rob Roy in the Walter Scott Digital Archive.

    “Rob Roy is set against the backdrop of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, which aimed to restore the Stuart monarchy in the person of James Edward, the ‘Old Pretender’, son of the deposed James II. The tale is told in the first person by a young Englishman, Francis (‘Frank’) Osbaldistone. A would-be poet, Frank falls out with his father, William, due to his reluctance to enter the family business. Frank is sent north to Northumbria to stay with his Jacobite uncle, Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone, and his place in William’s counting house goes to Sir Hildebrand’s scheming son Rashleigh. Frank falls in love with Sir Hildebrand’s niece, Diana Vernon who lives in Osbaldistone Hall. Her father Sir Frederick, a proscribed Jacobite, lives there too in the guise of a monk, Father Vaughan. Sir Frederick has destined Diana for a convent unless she marries one of Sir Hildebrand’s six sons. Diana, then, cannot listen to Frank’s suit but, when Rashleigh flees to Scotland with vital financial documents, she assists him in his attempts to restore his father’s honour and credit. Frank enlists the help of Bailie Nicol Jarvie, a Glasgow business correspondent of his father, and both proceed to the Highlands to bid Rob Roy, a political dependent of the Vernons, to intervene. Rashleigh is compelled to restore the company assets, and Frank returns to England where he is reconciled with his father. Meanwhile, the Jacobite rebellion breaks out. Sir Hildebrand’s other five sons are all killed in the fighting, and he himself dies shortly afterwards of grief. Rashleigh, who has become an informer, is killed by Rob Roy during an attempt on Frank’s life. Sir Frederick escapes to France, leaving Diana free to decide her future. The path is thus clear for Frank to inherit Osbaldistone Hall and marry Diana.”


    Rob Roy – Walter Scott – Gallimard French Edition 1980


    • Rob Roy MacGregor (Campbell)

    “Judged by Scott’s novel, the biggest, bravest heart that ever beat beneath the MacGregor tartan was that of Rob Roy, so named from the colour of his hair and his fresh, ruddy complexion. Scott did not create the Rob Roy of romance. He idealises, no doubt, but his interpretation of the character of Rob rests mainly on the popular tradition of the man. A descendant of the blood-thirsty Dugald Ciar Mohr, Rob had all his ancestor’s love of the sword and capacity for leadership, without his cruelty. (…)

    Rob was the third son of Donald MacGregor of Glengyle [probably born in 1671 and not in 1660 as given by the Clan History nor 1666 as assumed by Sir Walter in his novel]. (…) Like all his tribe, Rob MacGregor had to assume another name. He took his mother’s, who was a Campbell of Glenfalloch, and he became Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell. (…)

    In Rob’s more reputable epoch he was the occupant of grazing land in Balquhidder, a cattle-drover on a fairly extensive scale, doing business as far south as the Tweed and the Solway. It was a stroke of ill-luch which changed the whole current  of Rob’s career and made possible the Rob Roy of Highland legend and romance. (…)

    Scott had listened to Rob Roy’s story from those who knew Rob personally, and who gave him a high character for beneficence and humanity [a kind of “Scottish Robin Hood”].”

    (The Scott Originals – “Rob Roy” – WS Crockett)

    • Helen, Rob Roy’s wife

    “Rob Roy’s wife, the Helen MacGregor of tale and tradition, was really christened Mary. Born a MacGregor of Comar, she was far from being the vengeance-loving virago of the novel, but is reputed to have been a woman of agreeable temper, domesticated, hospitable, musical, poetic”…

    • Frank Osbaldistone

    “Frank Osbaldistone, the nominal hero, is in some ways a transcript of Scott himself.” (The Scott Originals – WS Crockett)

    Son of William Osbaldistone of the firm of Osbaldistone and Tresham – Owen is the firm’s head clerk. He will play an important part in the scene which takes place in the Glasgow Tolbooth together with Bailie Nicol Jarvie, a Glasgow merchant who is also Rob Roy’s cousin. He helps to liberate Owen and will play an important part up to the end of the book.

    • Diana (Die) Vernon, daughter of Sir Frederick Vernon, a Jacobite, and niece of Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone, her maternal uncle who has six sons. It was decided that she would marry Thorncliff, the eldest one.

    “Miss Cranstoun, afterwards the Countess of Purgstall, one of Scott’s early friends in the social circles of Edinburgh, was thought by many to be the original {191}of Diana,—a belief which she herself shared, chiefly because she was an expert horsewoman. Others have said that Scott’s first love was the real Diana. But Miss Vernon is totally unlike either Margaret of Branksome or Matilda of Rokeby, both of whom were, to some extent, portraits of Miss Williamina Stuart. Moreover, in the unexpected meeting of a charming young woman on horseback, her long black hair streaming in the breeze, her animated face glowing with the exercise, and her costume attractively arranged in the most striking fashion, there is a strong suggestion of the circumstances to which I have previously referred, under which the poet first met the future Lady Scott.”

    (The Country of Sir Walter Scott – Charles Olscott)

    • Rashleigh, Sir Hildebrand’s youngest son who must take Frank’s place in his father’s firm. He  is the villain in the novel.

    “Rashleigh, “whose game is man,” is the scoundrel of the piece – that most difficult of characters to depict, plausible and talented, but an incarnation of baseness, the origin of all mischief that happens in Rob Roy.” (Charles Olscott)

    • Andrew Fairservice, Frank’s servant.

    The canny gardener, “that flower of serving men,” Andrew Fairservice, is a deftly drawn figure, alteit a source of irritation at times” (Charles Olscott)

    Among the great fans of Walter Scott, I’ve already mentioned Goethe. Jules Verne, the famous French writer is another one… below is an extract from The Green Ray (Le rayon vert in French) when one of book’s characters evoke Rob Roy, and more particularly Diana Vernon.

    I intend to devote a special page to the French writer who was a great, great fan of Scotland… The Green Ray takes place on the west coast of Scotland (Helensburgh – Oban) and in the Hebrides (Mull-Iona-Staffa)… The Black Indies (Les Indes Noires in French) take place in the Trossachs. The two books are fascinating tales of adventures, exactly the kind of book I used to read when I was a child! 😉

    (The Green Ray by Jules Verne – photo © David Brass Rare Books)

     (translated from the French by Mary de Hautville. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1883.)

    A very fine ancient book, not at all within my means ! 😉

    “In a few weeks the child will be eighteen.”
    “The same age as Diana Vernon, Sam, Is she not just as charming as that adorable heroine of ‘Rob Roy’?”
    “Yes, with her attractive ways—”
    “Her bright intellect—”
    “The originality of her ideas—”
    “She reminds one more of Diana Vernon than of Flora MacIvor, the grand and stately heroine of ‘Waverley’!”
    The brothers, proud of their national author, mentioned the names of several other heroines from the “Antiquary,” “Guy Mannering,” “The Fair Maid of Perth,” &c., but all to their thinking must yield the palm to Miss Campbell.

    The scenery in Rob Roy

    “No novel of Scott’s so charmingly depicts Scottish scenery, or gives more vivid glimpses of Scottish history, and it is but truth to say that seldom has any work of fiction so enriched the speech of the multitude. ”

    “As for topographical  details Scott knew the Highlands well. In his teens (in 1790 or thereabouts) he was in charge of an expedition from the Court of Session with a Summons of Removal against Maclaren of Invernenty, in Balquhidder. After that, visits to Rob Roy’s Country were frequent, and in the summer preceding the publication of the novel, the ground was again covered in the company of Adam Ferguson.”

    (WS Crockett – The Scott Originals)

    The action first takes place first in London (with a restrospective of Frank’s life in Bordeaux), then  in the north of England (Northumberland) where Osbaldistone Hall is situated, and finally in Scotland, first in Glasgow, in the Trossachs and  in the Highlands before going back the starting point in London.

    The setting plays a vital role in Rob Roy like in Scott’s other novels with many descriptions of the beautiful Scottish landscapes (mountains, lochs, rivers, tumultuous torrents and vertiginous falls, sea and cliffs, forests…). Very important scenes also take place in Glasgow.


    The scenes of Rob Roy which take place in Glasgow are my favourite ones and more especially the one set in the crypt of St Mungo Cathedral.

    St Mungo Cathedral Glasgow © 2007 Scotiana

    I’m not about to forget our first visit to the cathedral. We visited it and the Necropolis the first day of our first trip in Scotland, in June 2000. I remember how impressed we had been by the magnificent blue stained windows and also by our descent into the dark crypt though I had not read Rob Roy then ;-). We revisited it several times au fil de nos voyages, with our children in 2001 and with Janice in 2007. Unforgettable memories!

    “The Cathedral itself corresponds in impressive majesty with these accompaniments. We feel that its appearance is heavy, yet that the effect produced would be destroyed were it lighter or more ornamental. It is the only metropolitan church in Scotland, excepting, as I am informed, the Cathedral of Kirkwall, in the Orkneys, which remained uninjured at the Reformation; and Andrew Fairservice, who saw with great pride the effect which it produced upon my mind, thus accounted for its preservation—“Ah! it’s a brave kirk—nane o’ yere whig-maleeries and curliewurlies and opensteek hems about it—a’ solid, weel-jointed mason-wark, that will stand as lang as the warld, keep hands and gunpowther aff it.”

    (From Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott – Volume II – Chapter Second)


    At the time of Rob Roy, St Mungo Cathedral must have looked more likethe one depicted in Thomas Girtin’s painting… and it must have been much more impressive than today…


    St Mungo cathedral’s crypt Glasgow © 2000 Scotiana

    “… we entered a small low-arched door, secured by a wicket, which a grave-looking person seemed on the point of closing, and descended several steps as if into the funeral vaults beneath the church. It was even so; for in these subterranean precincts,—why chosen for such a purpose I knew not,—was established a very singular place of worship.”

    (From Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott – Volume II – Chapter Third)



    “The cathedral is supported by sixty-five pillars, some of them eighteen feet in circumference. The effect of these huge masses is to throw the crypt into almost total darkness except in the parts near the narrow stained-glass windows.”

    (The Country of Sir Walter Scott – Charles S. Olscott)



    Glasgow cathedral crypt – Rob Roy by Walter Scott -Gallimard 1980

    “In this dark crypt it was formerly the custom to hold services. While standing in front of one of the huge pillars, listening to the sermon, Frank Osbaldistone heard the mysterious voice of Rob Roy, warning him that his life was in danger. Turning quickly he could see no one. I could never understand this scene until I saw the crypt. The large size of the pillars and the dense shadows which they cast would make it easy for one to disappear in the darkness as Rob Roy was supposed to do.”

    (The Country of Sir Walter Scott – Charles S. Olscott)


    While I endeavoured to make a virtue of necessity, and recall my attention to the sermon, I was again disturbed by a singular interruption. A voice from behind whispered distinctly in my ear, “You are in danger in this city.”—I turned round, as if mechanically.

    A massive round pillar, which was close behind us, might have concealed the speaker the instant he uttered his mysterious caution; but wherefore it was given in such a place, or to what species of danger it directed my attention, or by whom the warning was uttered, were points on which my imagination lost itself in conjecture. It would, however, I concluded, be repeated, and I resolved to keep my countenance turned towards the clergyman, that the whisperer might be tempted to renew his communication under the idea that the first had passed unobserved.

    My plan succeeded. I had not resumed the appearance of attention to the preacher for five minutes, when the same voice whispered, “Listen, but do not look back.” I kept my face in the same direction. “You are in danger in this place,” the voice proceeded; “so am I—meet me to-night on the Brigg, at twelve preceesely—keep at home till the gloaming, and avoid observation.”

    Here the voice ceased, and I instantly turned my head. But the speaker had, with still greater promptitude, glided behind the pillar, and escaped my observation. I was determined to catch a sight of him, if possible, and extricating myself from the outer circle of hearers, I also stepped behind the column. All there was empty; and I could only see a figure wrapped in a mantle, whether a Lowland cloak, or Highland plaid, I could not distinguish, which traversed, like a phantom, the dreary vacuity of vaults which I have described.

    I made a mechanical attempt to pursue the mysterious form, which glided away and vanished in the vaulted cemetery, like the spectre of one of the numerous dead who rested within its precincts. I had little chance of arresting the course of one obviously determined not to be spoken with; but that little chance was lost by my stumbling and falling before I had made three steps from the column. The obscurity which occasioned my misfortune, covered my disgrace;

    (From Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott – Volume II – Chapter Third)

    Glasgow Tolbooth © 2007 Scotiana

    “On High Street, Glasgow, we found an old tower, which was a part of the Tolbooth, where Rob Roy had his curious interview with Bailie Nicol Jarvie. The old Salt Market has changed greatly since the days of the good Bailie and his father, the deacon, and it is no longer necessary at night to be escorted along the city streets by a young maidservant with a lantern.” 😉

    (The Country of Sir Walter Scott– Charles S. Olscott)

    Osbaldistone Hall/Chillingham Castle

    The north front of Chillingham Castle Northumberland England

    “There is little by which Osbaldistone Hall can be identified, but if geographical considerations count for anything, it is not improbable that Scott may have had in mind Chillingham Castle, the seat of the Earl of Tankerville. This is one of the places to which he refers in a letter written in the summer of 1791, as ‘within the compass of a forenoon’s ride,’ from the farm in the Cheviot Hills, south-west of Wooler, where he was then staying. During that vacation excursion he became very familiar with all the surrounding country, an experience which doubtless had something to do with choosing Northumberland as the scene of an important part of the novel. Chillingham Castle is a fine type of the old baronial residence. It was designed by Inigo Jones, the famous architect of the seventeenth century, though portions of the building are still preserved which were built as early as the thirteenth century. It stands in a magnificent park of {190}fifteen hundred acres, about two thirds of which is set apart for the accommodation of deer and wild cattle. The latter, almost the only descendants of the herds of savage wild cattle which once roamed the Caledonian forests, are famous throughout England and Scotland. Sir Walter refers to them in the ‘Bride of Lammermoor’ and again in a note to ‘Castle Dangerous.’ The present castle is a large square structure enclosing the walls of the older building. Entering the inner court, which is paved with stone, we came to what was once the front of the ancient structure, looking something like ‘the inside of a convent or of one of the older and less splendid colleges of Oxford,’ to quote from the description of Osbaldistone Hall. We were shown a large banqueting-room, now used as a library, which extends across the entire width of the building. Its walls were decorated, after the fashion of Osbaldistone, with many trophies of the chase, such as the heads of deer, elk, buffalo, and other animals, all shot by the present earl. But in this splendid apartment with its luxurious furnishings, there was little else to suggest the dingy old hall, with its stone floor and massive range of oaken tables, where the bluff old Sir Hildebrand and ‘the happy compound of sot, gamekeeper, bully, horse-jockey, and fool,’ which, with the addition of a highly educated villain, constituted his family, daily consumed huge quantities of meat and ‘cups, flagons, bottles, yea, barrels of liquor.'”

    (The Country of Sir Walter Scott Charles S. Olscott)

    A 19th-century view of the Chillingham Castle from the south

    The country of Rob Roy

    “Forget not the clachan of Aberfoyle.”

    Rob Roy’s parting injunction to Frank was ‘forget not the clachan of Aberfoyle.’ We therefore made it our business to find that interesting spot, combining it, as did Scott, with our investigation of the scenery of ‘The Lady of the Lake.’ The portion of the Scottish Highlands generally included in the so-called Rob Roy country comprises all that part of central Perthshire from Loch Ard and the river Forth on the south to Strath Fillan and Glen Dochart on the north, and from Loch Lubnaig on the east to Loch Lomond on the west. This region, so easily accessible to us by means of carriages and automobiles, was in the time of Rob Roy not only difficult to approach, but exceedingly dangerous. The only highways of travel were narrow defiles through the mountains, easy enough, perhaps, for the experienced and hardy clansman, who knew every twist and turn of the paths, but as impassable to the unguided Lowlander or ‘Sassenach’ as the tablelands of Tibet.

    (The Country of Sir Walter Scott– Charles S. Olscott)

    Walter Scott is second to none to describe the places where his novels are set. A nature lover since childhood, an outstanding walker and rider, he loved to roam about the country,  walkind or riding with his friends or alone with his dogs. He had been interested by  local and folk tales. He was  he had the curiosity of an antiquary, always in search of archaeological and historical sites, old castles and churches, abbeys, ruins,

    “The contract was signed in May 1817, and in July 1817 Scott visited Rob Roy’s cave at the head of Loch Lomond and Glen Falloch, in order to refresh his memories of the scene of the outlaw’s exploits.”


    Rob Roy’s Cave, eastern shore of Loch Lomond It is easy to get near to the cave one mile N of Inversnaid along the path used by the West Highland Way. However, without the graffiti would be extremely difficult to find amongst the jumble of huge boulders. Entry requires a drop of 8 feet into a large roomy chamber but one must have a rope and strong friends outside to assist in exiting, otherwise one will be condemned to share the cave with the ghosts of Rob Roy and also Robert the Bruce who both found shelter here. (Wikimedia)


    Loch Katrine Eilean Dharag aka Factor's Island in the Trossachs © 2007 Scotiana

    Loch Katrine Eilean Dharag aka Factor’s Island in the Trossachs © 2007 Scotiana

    “There is nothing about Glengyle that admits of particular description. it is situated at the head of Loch Katrine and surrounded by black rocks. It was one of Rob Roy’s principal haunts, to whom Glengyle was related. McAlpin showed me the island in Loch Katrine where he confined the Duke of Montrose’s steward, ofter robbing him of his master’s rents and where he nearly famished him. The MacGregors have a burial place at Glengyle, surrounded by a high wall. On one of their monuments their coat of arms and motto are engraved.”

    (James Hogg – Highland Tours) 2007

    (Clan MacGregor Burial Ground)

    The cemetery lies just to the south of Glengyle house, on the west side of Loch Katrine. The inscription over the gateway bears the MacGregor of Glengyle crest and motto, “E’en do and spare not.” (Patrick Pavey on Wikipedia)


    MacGregor despite them…


    Rob Roy's grave - Balquhidder - Perthshire,Scotland © Scotiana 2006

    Do not Maister or Campbell me – my foot is on my native heath, and my name is MacGregor

    (Rob Roy)


    The grave of Rob Roy MacGregor, his widow and sons is situated in the churchyard of Balquhidder


    “The Kirk of Balquhidder, where Rob Roy made his settlement with the Stewarts, stands at the foot of Loch Voil, a few miles off the main road from Callander to Lochearnhead. It is a small ivy-covered chapel, standing beneath the shadow of two large trees. In front is an iron railing, of recent construction, enclosing the graves of Rob Roy, his wife, Helen MacGregor, whose real name was Mary, and two of his sons. He died a natural death in 1734, at an age which has been variously stated as between seventy and eighty years.”

    (The Country of Sir Walter Scott – Charles S. Olscott)


    Rob Roy's grave - Balquhidder - Perthshire - Scotland © Scotiana 2006

    Motto :  ‘S Rioghal mo dhream (Royal is my race)


    ScotClans: by the 16th century, there were five main MacGregorS geographical districts, in valleys (Glens): Dochart, Orchy, Lyon, Strae, and Gyle.

    The Clan is known to have been among the first families of Scotland to begin playing the bagpipes in the early 17th century.

    Sir Malcolm MacGregor current chief of Clan MacGregor and his wife Fiona Armstrong

    Broadcaster Fiona Armstrong is in demand at Scottish events all round the world since marrying clan chief Sir Malcolm MacGregor of MacGregor.

    MacGregor Red and Black, also known as Rob Roy MacGregor, is the buffalo plaid of the US, associated there with the mythic lumberjack Paul Bunyan. This is one of the most primitive setts of tartan. According to tartan scholar Donald C. Stewart, it is probably the oldest “MacGregor” tartan, however it was only adopted by MacGregors at a relatively late date. A specimen of this tartan exists in the collection of the Highland Society of London. This piece is signed by, and bears the Seal of Arms of Sir John MacGregor Murray of MacGregor. This and other specimens of tartan kept in the collection were collected during 1815–1816, and are now kept in the Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh. The clan chief states that any MacGregor may wear this tartan.

    Behind the Scottish “Robin Hood” lies a real man …

    Rob Roy MacGregor from Scotland Painting

    And thus among the rocks he lived,
    Through summer’s heat and winter’s snow:
    The eagle he was lord above,
    And Rob was lord below.”



    Rob Roy is a mythical Scottish hero whose story must have been familiar to Scott from childhood. He indeed owned a number of objects that had belonged to him.

    The country of Sir Walter Scott

    “An old flintlock gun of extreme length, with silver plate containing the initials R.M.C.; a fine Highland broadsword, with the highly prized Andrea Ferrara mark on the blade; a dirk two feet long, with carved handle and silver-mounted sheath; a skene dhu, or black knife, a short thick weapon of the kind used in the Highlands for dispatching game or other servile purposes for which it would be a profanation to use the dirk; a well-worn brown leather purse; and a sporran, with semicircular clasp and secret lock, which for a century has defied the ingenuity of all who have attempted to open it, are among the treasures of Abbotsford. They were all once the property of Robert MacGregor Campbell, or Rob Roy, the famous ‘Robin Hood of the Highlands.’

    When I was permitted to take the long old-fashioned gun into my own hands and to test its weight by carrying the butt to my shoulder and casting my eye over the long octagonal barrel, I could not help feeling that Rob Roy was a far less mythical person than his prototype of the Forest of Sherwood.

    Rob Roy was, indeed, a very real person, as the Duke of Montrose knew to his sorrow, but the stories of his exploits are so strange, and at the same time so fascinating, that it is difficult to determine where biography ends and pure fiction begins.”

    (Charles Olscott –The Country of Sir Walter Scott)

    Abbotsford – Rob Roy’s weapons © 2001 Scotiana

    The Scott Originals by W.S. Crockett

    I am very happy to have bought, on the advice of Iain & Margaret, several of WS Crockett’s books, including The Scott Originals (TN Foulis London & Edinburgh 1913 second edition). These books are a golden mine for fans of Sir Walter Scott and very interesting to read. WS Crockett was himself a great admirer of Sir Walter.

    The Book of Prefaces - Alasdair Gray

    Alasdair Gray The Book of Prefaces 1 Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2000

    “How powerfully the subject appealed to Scott is seen in his very long-winded Preface. (…) For those  who wish to dig into the genesis of the story, ascertain what Scott himself has to say about Originals, gauge the author’s mood and feeling at the moment, the “ravelling-out of his weaved-up follies”  – the Preface –  is  indispensable. Where ordinary writers content themselves with expressing indebtedness to so-and-so, Scott gives us a delightful short story interspersed with wonderful pieces of descriptive writing which seem almost wasted upon Introductions so few people ever read.”

    No problem for me with introductions! I have even bought, as soon as it was published in 2000, The Book of Prefaces by Alasdair Gray, a very popular Scottish writer and artist.  Each preface is followed by a comment by Alasdair Gray. This very big book (640 pages), which is beautifully illustrated, includes the “Postcript which should have been a Preface”  written by Sir Walter Scott for his novel Waverley.

    So, following WS Crockett’s advice, let’s take a look at the introduction written by Sir Walter for Rob Roy.

    “No introduction can be more appropriate to the work than some account of the singular character whose name is given to the title-page, and who, through good report and bad report, has maintained a wonderful degree of importance in popular recollection.(…)

    There were several advantages which Rob Roy enjoyed for sustaining to advantage the character which he assumed.

    The most prominent of these was his descent from, and connection with, the clan MacGregor, so famous for their misfortunes, and the indomitable spirit with which they maintained themselves as a clan, linked and banded together in spite of the most severe laws, executed with unheard-of rigour against those who bore this forbidden surname. Their history was that of several others of the original Highland clans, who were suppressed by more powerful neighbours, and either extirpated, or forced to secure themselves by renouncing their own family appellation, and assuming that of the conquerors. (…)

    The sept of MacGregor claimed a descent from Gregor, or Gregorius, third son, it is said, of Alpin King of Scots, who flourished about 787. Hence their original patronymic is MacAlpine, and they are usually termed the Clan Alpine. (…) They are accounted one of the most ancient clans in the Highlands, and it is certain they were a people of original Celtic descent, and occupied at one period very extensive possessions in Perthshire and Argyleshire, which they imprudently continued to hold by the coir a glaive, that is, the right of the sword. Their neighbours, the Earls of Argyle and Breadalbane, in the meanwhile, managed to leave the lands occupied by the MacGregors engrossed in those charters which they easily obtained from the Crown; and thus constituted a legal right in their own favour, without much regard to its justice. As opportunity occurred of annoying or extirpating their neighbours, they gradually extended their own domains, by usurping, under the pretext of such royal grants, those of their more uncivilised neighbours. A Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochow, known in the Highlands by the name of Donacha Dhu nan Churraichd, that is, Black Duncan with the Cowl, it being his pleasure to wear such a head-gear, is said to have been peculiarly successful in those acts of spoliation upon the clan MacGregor.”

    (Rob Roy – Introduction)

    Scotland loves and venerates its heroes. Many statues, monuments have been erected all over the country to their memory. Places are named after them…

    Rob Roy statue Peterculter 2007

    The Rob Roy Way

    “Discover the real Scotland… one step at a time”

    If I had the chance to live in Scotland – though here, in French Perigord, it’s great too –  I would  spend most of my leisure time outdoors, visiting one by one the many places of interest dotted all around the country. I’ll be haunting the trails which lead to Scotland’s most beautiful places (except vertiginous paths and always paying attention to the very changing weather conditions).

    Indeed, the Scots are second to none to protect and improve their priceless natural and cultural heritage and to create activities allowing people to enjoy the best of their country. They are a model for Europe…

    Walking is certainly one of the best ways to discover  Scotland. Its  many  footpaths will take you off the beaten tracks to its most enchanting places and those who are ready to face the difficulties of the road will be rewarded for their effort. And, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced walker, you’ll learn everything to know before getting started on Walkhighlands.

    “Walkhighlands” is one of my favourite sites about Scotland, it makes me dream and travel from my armchair when I can’t be there  ;-). The site offers its readers very interesting articles, a multitude of fascinating accounts of travellers who have taken this or that route and even a very useful thematic selection of walks , a lot of practical information and advice and, last but not least, there’s really a good spirit behind Helen and Paul Webster’s website. Many thanks to them and their team for all that!

    Of course there is a page – several pages – devoted to the Rob Roy way….

    “The Rob Roy Way is a 128km walk linking Drymen (on the West Highland Way) with Pitlochry in Perthshire. An alternative, wilder route variant via Amulree increases the total distance to 155km.

    The route joins paths and tracks through some fine Highland scenery, taking advantage of some attractive villages and small towns for refreshment and accommodation. The route begins through the forests of the Trossachs before a long stretch of cycleway leads through fine glens to Killin. From here the route climbs high into the hills before descending to follow the quiet and attractive road along the southern shores of Loch Tay. The main route then takes in a fine terrace with magnificent views before descending to Aberfeldy, before the final stretch along the river and over the moors to Pitlochry.

    The route was originally devised by John Henderson and Jacquetta Megarry, and became one of Scotland’s Great Trails in 2012.”

    The Rob Roy Way Guide Book

    This guidebook contains all that walkers and cyclists need to plan and enjoy the Rob Roy Way:

    • details of distance, terrain and food/drink for walkers and cyclists
    • eight-page section for the extension via Glen Quaich
    • visitor attractions, side-trips and mountains to climb including Ben Ledi
    • planning information for travel by car, train, bus or plane
    • concise biography of Rob Roy MacGregor
    • background on pre-history, heritage and wildlife
    • detailed mapping on 18 pages at 1:50,000
    • in full colour, with 111 colour photos


    The Rob Roy Way is one of Scotland’s Great Trails and is very popular with both walkers and cyclists. It runs through many places linked with Scotland’s most famous outlaw, Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734). The route starts at Drymen (near Glasgow) and ends at Pitlochry in the eastern Highlands, so it takes you away from the crowds following the West Highland Way to some of Scotland’s finest lochs and glens. Its main spine runs for 79 miles (127 km) and is waymarked. There is an optional extra 17 miles if you take the wilderness extension through Glen Almond and Glen Quaich. Most walkers complete it in 6-8 days and most cyclists in 3-4 days.

    The main route goes through Loch Ard forest to Aberfoyle, goes beside Lochs Venachar, Lubnaig and Tay and passes through superb scenery, with interesting aqueducts, viaducts and a 3600 year-old stone circle. The terrain is a mixture of forest tracks, cycleway, disused railway trackbed and moorland footpaths. The Way passes through a succession of friendly villages with welcoming pubs and B&Bs.

    Our fourth edition has more content, with full coverage for cyclists and detailed description of the Glen Quaich alternative. It is now longer, 80 pages in place of 64, with 111 colour photos, many of them fresh. However thanks to its robust perfect binding it is 10 grams lighter than the previous edition and more pocketable.

    The Rob Roy Way Official Site is a MUST too…

    “The Rob Roy Way runs for 79 miles from Drymen to Pitlochry in the eastern Highlands. It visits many places linked with Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734), Scotland’s most famous outlaw. The main route goes through Loch Ard forest to Aberfoyle, goes beside Lochs Venachar, Lubnaig and Tay and passes through superb scenery, with interesting aqueducts, viaducts and, on the approach to Pitlochry, a 3600-year-old stone circle.

    The terrain is a mixture of forest tracks, cycleway, disused railway trackbed and moorland footpaths. The Way passes through a succession of friendly villages with welcoming pubs and B&Bs. There’s an optional wilderness extension linking Ardtalnaig with Aberfeldy via Glen Almond and Glen Quaich.

    The route was created originally for walkers, who generally take 6-8 days depending on options. Nearly all of it is also potentially suitable for cyclists who mostly complete it within 3-4 days. “

    Let us conclude this page with two marvellous drone flights over the landscape where Rob Roy and the MacGregors have lived and died…

    (we can understand why the Scottish clans used to fight over this magnificent land!)


    Á bientôt.




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