Chapter Nine

There is one more character worth a mention. Rob Roy Macgregor lived from 1671-1734. In those years, he came to be known as a cattle thief and a rogue. The Macgregor clan lived in the border regions between the highlands and lowlands of Scotland, east of Loch Lomond. Cattle were a vital financial resource. It was common practice for clans to abscond with the cattle of another clan. The Macgregors were among the worst offenders. They lived according to the ancient ways of the Scots, holding on to their land by the sword, but they lost much to the more powerful Campbells. Rob Roy was brought up trained in the weapons of war as well as a drover (cattle driver) and salesman. He was good at what he did, and he knew the geographical regions incredibly well. It was easy for him to get lost in the highland glens, never to be found by those who sought to stop his business practices. During the times of harsh weather, particularly the final years of the 17th century, the MacDonalds stole more cattle to survive.

Another way Rob supported the clan was to receive protection money. Clan chiefs would pay someone like Rob to protect their cattle, or retrieve them from the thieves. It was not unusual for Rob to be paid to protect one herd while he was stealing someone else’s. He was arrested three times, but managed to escape each time. He was often involved in the politics of the day, particularly in the Jacobite cause. He was called an outlaw, evicted from his land and lived under the protection of other clans, such as the Campbells. He settled peacefully in 1720, given a formal pardon in 1725, at which time he resumed cattle-dealing and cattle-protection schemes. There is a cave on the east side of Loch Lomond where he is said to have hidden during his adventures.

Loch Lomond is an incredibly beautiful place. We spent the first day of our Scotland adventures driving along the west and south shores of the largest loch in England. It is one of the most famous, known for the romantic atmosphere of the nearly forty islands that dot the widest part of the loch. Boats navigate around the islands, some of which are no more than a few feet in diameter. The loch is 23 miles in length and over 5 miles wide at the southern reaches. In the narrow northern part of the loch, the depth reaches 600 feet. The loch has the largest variety of fish and the islands and surrounding mountains host a wide range of wildlife. Ben Lomond, the mountain that towers over the eastern shore of the loch is 3194 feet high.

Along the shore of Loch Lomond are some lovely villages, such a Luss. The television series called The Highlander was filmed in this village of thatched roof, rose covered cottages. We spent some time wandering the streets, browsing in the shops, and walking the beach. The church was closed in preparation for a wedding, but we walked around and looked at the late 19th century architecture. In one of the shops, we purchased a tin of Scottish shortbread, the food that became a staple throughout the week. We also purchased a small bottle of Heather perfume. From the pier, you can see Ben Lomond as well as several of the islands. One is said to have yew trees that were specially planted by Robert the Bruce to supply his army with bows.

Scotch Shortbread
From Traditional Scottish Cooking by Margaret Fairlie

   4 oz sieved plain flour
   2 oz rice flour or ground rice
   2 oz castor sugar
   4 oz butter

Combine flours and sugar in a mixing bowl. Work in butter until the dough is the consistency of shortcrust. Sprinkle board with rice flour. Turn dough on to board and knead till smooth. Cut into portions and shape into rounds. This amount will make four small rounds. Place on greaseproof paper in a baking tin. Prick with a fork. Put in oven at 350º. When the cakes begin to colour (from 20 to 30 minutes), lower the heat. Allow to cool in the tin.

We drove north along the loch past the head in search of the River Falloch. We found a parking area, and walked into the forest following the river. It tumbled over rocks and boulders as it rushed along the way into the loch. At the end of the path, we found the Falls of Falloch, a waterfall that falls into a crystal clear pool. A couple from Wales followed us to the falls, and we talked about our adventures. The man took a dip in the pool, which was obviously quite cold. As was typical of me during the week, as I tended to want to do many unusual things, I threatened to jump in myself. However the concern of my family kept me from doing so. We could have spent hours at the waterfall, enjoying the peaceful moment away from the crowds, but we discovered the annoying Scottish Midges. These insects are tiny little bugs, which fly in swarms and bite anything that moves.

We drove down the western length of the loch to the southern shore and the town of Balloch. There we visited the castle and park. This particular castle is only 150 years old, however the former castle was the seat of the Lennox family. The Country Park offers plenty for a visitor, such as an exercise course, views of the loch and forest paths. We had an ice cream as we sat on a hilltop and enjoyed the lovely sunny day.

The weather throughout the week was rarely ideal, though we did not have much rain. We did not visit the places in the order presented in this travelogue. I felt it would be better to present the history of Scotland in a way that was interesting and created a cohesive story, weaving the people and history with the actual places. I know there is a great deal of history, some of which is very unpleasant, however the stories of the past are necessary to understand where Scotland is today.

One year ago, the Scottish Parliament opened for session. The country is not totally independent, however many are working toward that goal. The cities are like any major city, with the usual problems of traffic, crime and pollution. But the people are friendly, willing to talk to you and share their thoughts and stories. We were never disappointed when we asked questions of the locals, though we often had difficulty understanding the accent and language. It was a most wonderful adventure; a time spent together. There is so much we did not have time to see and so many places I would have liked to spend more time. Perhaps we can go another day. I suppose no matter how much we had seen that I’d still want to go back. There is something very special about Scotland.

From Traditional Scottish Cookery by Margaret Fairlie

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsy face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe or thairm;
Weel are ye worthy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.”
Robert Burns, To a Haggis

This dish is served on Burns’ Anniversary, 25 January, and St. Andrew’s Day, 30 November, carried aloft on a silver tray by a highlander in full Highland dress, preceded by a piper playing a national air.

   1 stomach bag
   8 oz shredded mutton
   liver, lights, and heart of a sheep
   1 breakfast cup oatmeal
   2 onions

Clean stomach bag thoroughly and leave overnight in cold water to which salt has been added. Turn rough side out. Put heart, lights, and liver in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1½ hours. Toast the oatmeal on a tray in the oven or under the grill. Chop the heart, lights, and liver. Mix all the ingredients together with the suet, adding salt and pepper. Keep mixture sappy, using the liquid in which the liver was boiled. Fill a bag a little over half full, as mixture needs room to swell. Sew securely and put in a large pot of hot water. As soon as mixture begins to swell, prick with a needle to prevent bag from bursting. Boil for 3 hours. Serve with mashed potatoes and mashed turnip. Serves 6-8

On Our Way -- The Beginning

Chapter One - Chapter Two - Chapter Three - Chapter Four - Chapter Five
Chapter Six - Chapter Seven - Chapter Eight - Chapter Nine

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