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The rush to the glens

Books | Summer 2017

The simpler life, Queen Victoria style: Balmoral, bought by Prince Albert in 1852

Highland Retreats: The Architecture and Interiors of Scotland’s Romantic North by Mary Miers, reviewed by James Fergusson

Sleeper trains to Scotland were introduced in 1873. Even Mary Miers, who commutes weekly to London on the Caledonian Sleeper from Inverness, is not immune to their ‘mystique’. Across almost two pages of her lush new book she reproduces George Earl’s painting of twenty years later, ‘Going North, King’s Cross Station’, a thrilling platform panorama of the well dressed off on their holidays (by sleeper, we hope) – a parade of sensible hats and fine luggage (fishing gear, golf clubs, ample picnic baskets) and panting spaniels without number. What is the allure of the Highlands? The weather can be baleful; the brightest day blighted by midges. The mythic Ossian romanticised the region; Walter Scott boosted it, reinventing tartan; and Queen Victoria’s best-selling journals, a hymn to the Highlander (whose ‘independence and elevated feelings’ were epitomised in John Brown, ‘my permanent personal attendant’), set a ringing example to her subjects. But...

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