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BOSWELL AND DR JOHNSON

During the 300 years since The Drovers was built, we’ve welcomed thousands of visitors.  Legend has it these two infamous Scots characters enjoyed some of our unbeatable hospitality.  And, well, if it’s good enough for Rob Roy ……

Samuel Johnson was well renowned for his distaste of Scotland with many famous disparaging quotes attributable to him; “The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!”

“Knowledge was divided among the Scots, like bread in a besieged town, to every man a mouthful, to no man a bellyful.” He was arguably however the first cultural tourist to visit Loch Lomond in 1773, accompanied by his biographer James Boswell. He remained unimpressed by the weather: “Had Loch Lomond been in a happier climate, it would have been the boast of wealth and vanity, but there is only uncultivated ruggedness.”

Born in 1671 at Loch Katrine, the third son of a Lieutenant-Colonel, MacGregor’s inherited long arms and great strength, gave him abilities with the broadsword that made his name known to many. He fought at Killiecrankie for Viscount Dundee in 1689 before joining the Lennox Watch.

When the name MacGregor was again outlawed in 1694 he used his mother’s name of Campbell. His acquisitions of land and cattle brought him prosperity until 1711 when he persuaded a group led by the Duke of Montrose to advance him £1000 for investment in herding. His chief drover made off with the letters of credit, leaving MacGregor to face a charge of embezzlement. He did not answer to the charge or ensuing arrest warrant and was declared an outlaw.

He moved to the Trossachs lands of the Earl of Breadalbane, who was no friend of Montrose, and from there rustled cattle from Montrose’s lowland estates.

In the Rising of 1715, he mustered the Clan Gregor to fight for the Jacobites. He led his men in successful raids around Loch Lomond and Callander. Despite his inactivity during the Battle of Sheriffmuir, he was charged with High Treason. From 1716 he lived at Glen Shira on the Duke of Argyll’s land. He was twice captured and twice dramatically escaped with style that added to his fame.

In 1725, following his decision to turn himself in to General Wade, he received a pardon from the King and after thirteen years was no longer an outlaw.

ROB ROY’S GRAVE

Rob Roy’s grave is located in front of Balquhidder Old Kirk next to the present parish church and remains a popular tourist attraction. The inscription on the gravestone states ‘MacGregor Despite Them’, and notes that the grave is also the last resting place of his wife, Helen Mary, and sons Coll and Robert.

The three plaques read:

“(HELEN) MARY, WIDOW OF ROB ROY, DATE OF DEATH UNKNOWN”,
“ROBERT MACGREGOR (ROB ROY), DIED 28th Dec 1734 (0,5), AGED ABOUT 70”
“COLL DIED 1735, ROBERT DIED 1754, SONS OF ROB ROY

Cattle played an important part in the Highland economy. A chieftain’s wealth was measured by the number of his cattle. Rent to a feudal superior was paid in cattle. They were also an important food source. As well as their meat, the cattle could be bled without killing them, and the blood mixed with oatmeal to make an early version of black pudding

Cattle were a major export from Scotland – at least 30,000 head of cattle passed over the border each year. Part of the economy was also based on the sale of the cattle in the Lowlands. This meant that huge numbers of cattle had to be moved each Autumn to places like Crieff which held an annual market, or ‘tryst’.

Cattle droving was a much-valued skill throughout the Highlands. As well as having a business sense, drovers had to know the terrain and weather, in order to judge how fast to move the animals. If they were too slow, they would miss the market. In contrast, if they were too fast, the cattle would lose weight and fetch a poor price.

In addition, cattle were regularly stolen from their owners by any number of clans. When it came to theft, the Highland code of morality excluded cattle and regarded them as communal property in much the same way as Native Americans regarded buffalo.

Since cattle were at risk from marauders, protection could be provided, at a price. The word ‘blackmail’ originated in these times. The Scots word ‘mail’ meaning rent joined to ‘black’, referring to a tribute paid to ensure protection of the cattle, who were black and smaller than today’s brown highland cattle. This business had official sanction from the government of the day. The MacGregors, along with other clans, formed properly organised ‘Watches’. No Highlander would have seen a problem in stealing cattle when they were able, whilst protecting the property of others.

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