Thursday, July 19, 2012

Regency Holiday: Scotland

Dear reader, summer is really starting to kick my tootkus. So much so that we're going to leave England behind altogether for this installment of my Regency travel guide and escape to cooler climes. If you're just joining us on our holiday excursions, we've already visited Bath and Brighton. Today we traverse the Great North Road to wild, beautiful Scotland.

If you don't recall your geography lessons, for shame. Your teacher put a lot of time and effort into trying to mold your mind. Your inattention is why she went home and drank wine and cried to her cat every night. Be that as it may, here's a quick reminder of Scotland's location:

Jamie Fraser resides in the Scottish Highlands. And in my heart.
It's the orange bit on the map. Scotland occupies the northern portion of Great Britain. At the time of the Regency, Edinburgh was the most cosmopolitan city in the country. It was far less populated than London, of course, but boasted a social scene on par with the ton's, but on a smaller scale. There was a season, theater, balls, parties, and all the normal diversions. So, an urbane aristocrat who wished to flee London's heat could summer in Edinburgh and carry on much as he ever did.

Scotland's greatest attraction to uncomfortably warm Englishfolk, however, was the countryside. A fair number of English lords owned estates in Scotland. An invitation to a house party on one of these Scottish estates was quite the hot commodity come summer. Guests descended on the host's home for a stay of a week or two, sometimes upwards of a month. During this time, the company engaged in civilized activities such as after-dinner charades, musical evenings, horseback riding, and stealing kisses in the hedge maze.

Others owned a property called a "hunting box," a quaint term which could refer to a house ranging in size from a cabin to a mansion only slightly less grand than the family heap. The hunting box's prime distinction was that it was a retreat for the sporting gentleman, rather than a family home. Here, a man might pass a couple weeks with his friends, partaking in such manly pursuits as hunting, fishing, and... well, it was pretty much hunting and fishing. Maybe they wrestled bears, too. I don't know.

The moor, aka Scotland's Nebraska.
Grouse, partridges, and pheasants were all brought down with fowling guns. A "grouse moor" was a prime piece of real estate for bird hunting. One person, called the "beater," walked in front of the hunting party swatting at the ground, trying to flush birds out. When they took to the air, ka-boom! Felled birds were fetched by dogs. It was all terribly manly, you see. So very, very manly.

Land-bound game, such as hare and deer, were also defeated by the Regency huntsman. Oh, and did I mention the "cub hunt"? This was a pastime in which inexperienced riders could practice hunting baby foxes. So. Very. Manly.

Perhaps more picturesque than the grouse moors were the fishing spots. Rivers, streams, and lochs provided cool water for swimming, foot dangling, and shoving unsuspecting buddies. Fly fishing was the method by which men later boasted about how they came thisclose to bringing in an absolutely enormous trout. No, really, you guys, you should've seen this thing. It darn near pulled my arm out of the socket.

Loch Lomond, upon the bonnie, bonnie banks of which I shall never again meet my true love.
Whether it was a mixed-company house party, or a week with the boys at the hunting box, Scotland gave Regency travelers a much-needed break from the summer heat. Its natural beauty offered vacationers all the fresh air and exercise they wanted. Rusticating never felt so good.


  1. I love it! Who wouldn't want to go for a few weeks? Although I guess I'll content myself lounging about in the family heap because cub hunting doesn't seem to catch my interest. I guess I'm just not manly enough!

    1. I'll join you at the heap, as I also lack the testosterone necessary for the cub hunt. I wouldn't mind riding a horse through some Scottish back country, though. Sounds heavenly!