Home in on History; Paul Traces Path Laid out in His Dad's Old Tourist Book

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), October 4, 2010 | Go to article overview

Home in on History; Paul Traces Path Laid out in His Dad's Old Tourist Book


Byline: Paul English

SMELLY hotel rooms, poor food and even a warning about bedbugs.

No, not a throwback to the early days of package holidays, but the Victorian impression of holidaying in Scotland.

This week, Paul Murton begins a TV series about the birth of Scottish tourism more than 100 years ago, retracing the footsteps of the early holidaymakers as set out in an archaic guidebook handed down through generations of his family.

Aberfoyle-based Paul set out on six home shore adventures in a bid to see how much - or in some cases how little - has changed about Scottish tourism in the BBC's Grand Tours of Scotland.

His findings will surprise viewers.

Paul said: "If you lived in Dundee in the Victorian days, you could get on a train to Kenmore, then a steamer from there to Killin and a train back to Dundee. All that in one day trip. You can't make lovely journeys like that in many cases any more.

"I came across a lot of examples like that, where you had the chance to take the steamer and the train and go offand enjoy yourself at relatively low cost. You can't do that now. Our public transport system is pretty knackered.

"The Victorians had an integrated transport system and were always thinking about ways to get further, faster."

Paul remembers his father using a 19th century copy of Black's Picturesque Guide to Scotland to guide his family through holidays in the 70s and freely admits he pinched his idea to make a series for BBC Scotland.

He said: "We've had a copy of the book in the family for a long time. It came into my hands a few years ago and found itself in my downstairs bathroom.

"My father was very enamoured of it and used it as a source of inspiration. I thought it could be an interesting way to explore Scotland's highways and byways from a different point of view as a travel series for TV.

"So I suppose I nicked his idea. It has been fascinating to compare and contrast the two experiences."

Paul tried to replicate several of the journeys laid out in the book using modes of transport available at its time of publication.

He sailed on the paddle steamer Waverley, rode on the Jacobite steam train over the Glenfinnan viaduct and attempted to ride a Victorian tricycle through Spittal of Glenshee.

He also used modern alternatives, including the sea plane which travels daily from Glasgow up the west coast to Loch Lomond and Tobermory.

The book was more than just a travel guide of the times, however. It also warned potential tourists of the pitfalls of contemporary Scottish hospitality.

Paul said: "It was full of very useful tips and advice for the time. For example, that you should be careful when you go to Skye because the island has a reputation for overcharging. …

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