Putting Scotland on the road to being transformed

I was a bit apprehensive about Old Ways New Roads: Travel in Scotland 1720-1832 first landed on my desk but my feelings were greatly misplaced.

It details the 1725 military road and bridge-building programme implemented by the British military leader General Wade that went on to transform 18th-century Scotland.

However, this description alone does not do the book justice.

Academics have come together to explore how the Scottish landscape was planned, developed and imagined into what we see today. By opening up new routes, military occupation and trade were able to flourish, particularly benefitting the Highlands.

As well as discussing the impact this had on Scots, the development of tourism is considered. However, it is the imagery that really sets this work apart.

A combination of over 200 paintings, maps, photographs and plans are presented alongside descriptions of what occurred, helping set the scene.

Of the images included in the book, I found the painting titled ‘South Western Views from Loch Lomond’, 1834, by John Knox particularly beautiful. It displays the formidable, rocky terrain that Scotland is so well known for, and highlights just how hard it was for Scots to travel around the country during this time.

The travel restrictions faced by Scots in the 1700s were very different to the bans we are currently facing as a result of the ongoing pandemic, although it does allow you to sympathise.

A wonderful balance of art and history, as well as a fascinating insight into the experiences of travellers and tourists of the time, its subject matter will appeal to a great many Scottish readers.

Old Ways New Roads: Travel in Scotland 1720-1832, edited by John Bonehill, Anne Dulau Beveridge and Nigel Leask, published by Birlinn, £20.

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