New travel writing: Thomas Pennant’s tour of Scotland in 1769

We have just added another tour to our collection of travel writing. This is Thomas Pennant’s A Tour in Scotland 1769, joining his later The Journey from Chester to London (1780). The book ends with a simple list of the places visited, and here our automatically generated map very clearly traces out his route:

pennant_route_mapAlthough less well known than Boswell’s and Johnson’s accounts of their similar journey four years later, Pennant provides a far more detailed description of the places visited. At one point Boswell commented “After supper, we talked of Pennant. It was objected that he was superficial. Dr Johnson defended him warmly. He said, ‘Pennant has greater variety of inquiry than almost any man, and has told us more than perhaps one in ten thousand could have done, in the time that he took’.”

In particular, Pennant provides a fascinating account of the Highlands relativel soon after the 1745 uprising, and its brutal suppression following the Jacobites’ defeat at Culloden:

At the end of Loch-Shiel the Pretender first set up his standard in the wildest place that imagination can frame: and in this sequestered spot, amidst ancient prejudices, and prevaling ignorance of the blessings of our happy constitution, the strength of the rebellion lay.

He also notes how industrialisation was affecting even northern Scotalnd:

The north side of Loch-Tay is very populous; for in sixteen square miles are seventeen hundred and eighty-six souls : on the other side, about twelve hundred. The country, within these thirty years, manufactures a great deal of thread. They spin with rocks, which they do while they attend their cattle on the hills; and, at the four fairs in the year, held at Kinmore , above sixteen hundred pounds worth of yarn is sold out of Breadalbane only: which shews the great increase of industry in these parts, for less than forty years ago there was not the lest trade in this article. The yarn is bought by persons who attend the fairs tor that purpose, and sell it again at Perth , Glasgow , and other places, where it is manufactured into cloth.

Adding Pennant’s book to the system also meant defining another 276 “places” — so our coverage of hamlets and castles in northern Scotland is greatly improved.

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About Humphrey Southall

Director, Great Britain Historical GIS; Reader in Geography, University of Portsmouth
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