Robert Louis Stevenson around Scotland

On this page you will find details of the other places in Scotland RLS visited: Braemar, Dundee, Gairloch (or Gareloch), Glasgow, Greenock, Helensburgh and Peebles.

Braemar (or Castleton of Braemar)

“The country is delightful, more cannot be said; it is very beautiful, a perfect joy when we get a blink of sun to see it in. The Queen knows a thing or two, I perceive; she has picked out the finest habitable spot in Britain. I wish however she had picked some other”

(Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, mid-August 1881, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol iii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 222)

RLS spent the summer of 1881 writing in Pitlochry and Braemar. After staying in Pitlochry for most of June and all of July, the Stevenson party (RLS, his mother, Fanny and Lloyd – his father joined the party later) arrived in Braemar on 2 August. They stayed in a cottage there, “the late Miss MacGregor’s cottage”, until 23 September.

During this period, RLS began to work on The Sea Cook, the text that would later become Treasure Island (1883). Indeed, RLS began to work on the text after he drew a treasure map to entertain Lloyd. RLS wrote about this experience in his essay “My First Book: Treasure Island” (1894).

Dundee

According to J.R. Hammond in A Robert Louis Stevenson Chronology (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997), RLS and his parents were in Dundee in July of 1859. From 14 June – 6 July the family had been staying in Bridge of Allan, travelling afterwards to Perth and Dundee.

Gairloch (or Gareloch)

“I am staying with my people at Shandon Hydropathic Establishment, Gairloch, Clyde. I hate it, and am dull, stupid and a little wee bit gloomy between whiles. When I cannot work, cannot walk, and am not much in the humour to read, my time hangs upon my hands. I think I never feel so lonely as when I am too much with my father and mother, and I am ashamed of the feeling, which makes matters worse”

(Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, April 1879, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 312)

From 5-14 April 1879, RLS and his parents visited Shandon Hydropathic at Gairloch (or Gareloch), near Helensburgh.

Glasgow

“When I am at home, I feel a man from Glasgow to be something like a rival, a man from Barra to be more than half a foreigner”

(RLS, The Silverado Squatters, The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Swanston edn [London: Chatto and Windus, 1911], p. 194)

RLS visited Glasgow on 5 and 6 April 1871 with his engineering class. Prof Fleeming Jenkin, who led the trip, was taking the class on a tour of engineering works there.

On 19 September 1873 the Stevenson family visited Glasgow. While Thomas was dealing with business, RLS and his mother shopped in Buchanan Street and had lunch: “We had lunch together and were very merry over what people at the Restaurant would think of us – mother and son they could not suppose us to be; and I think we were throughout good friends” (Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, 19 September 1873, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], pp. 304-05).

Glasgow does occasionally appear in RLS’s fiction. The unfortunate Edward Challoner in The Dynamiter (1885) travels to Glasgow on a fool’s errand and is nearly arrested. In Weir of Hermiston (1896), one of the Four Black Brothers, Clem, runs a successful business in Glasgow.

Greenock

On 6 August 1879, RLS travelled from London to Glasgow and Greenock. On the 7th, the S.S. Devonia, left Greenock Harbour bound for New York. Stevenson was on his way to see his future wife Fanny in California.

RLS left for his journey in an anxious mood. His friends and family disapproved of his decision to go to the States, and the experience marked a turning point in his life. From Greenock he wrote: “I have never been so much detached from life; I feel as if I cared for nobody, and as for myself I cannot believe fully in my own existence. I seem to have died last night; all I carry on from my past life is the blue pill, which is still well to the front. I have seen my berth, or at least others of the same sort. They are all right” (Letter from RLS to Sidney Colvin, 6 August 1879, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], pp. 2-3).

For more about his travels in the United States, please see the section devoted to following RLS’s footsteps in the USA.

Helensburgh

“I write under all manner of contrarious circumstances – on my knee, with a very dim light, in a cold room”

(Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, 15-22 September 1873, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 303)

RLS was in Helensburgh on 18 September 1873. From mid-September until the 22nd (when they returned to Edinburgh) RLS and his father were travelling together. On the 17th they were in Bridge of Allan, and from the 19th-21st they were in Dumfries.

Peebles

“Even at the age of thirteen I had tried to do justice to the inhabitants of the city of Peebles in the style of ‘The Book of Snobs’

(RLS, “A College Magazine”, in Memories and Portraits, The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Swanston edn, vol ix [London: Chatto and Windus, 1911], p. 38)

During Stevenson’s childhood the family summered in various holiday resorts and health spas like Peebles, North Berwick and Bridge of Allan for both RLS’s and his mother’s health.

In the autumn of 1856, RLS and his mother stayed at a health resort in Innerleithen, Peebleshire. Stevenson dictated a letter to his mother so that he could describe his visit to his father: “We went to Ashietiel and Yair Bridge. It was very pretty and we saw some salmon catchers. They were wading in the water up to the top of their legs. I have been trying to fish and I caught one trout and Cousin Jess gave me one that she got. Mama did not get any at all and neither did Mr Swan. This is a very bad day and we can’t get out to fish” (Letter from RLS to his father, 27 September 1856, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995, p. 91].

The Stevensons visited Peebles in the summers of 1864 and 1865. The family stayed at Elibank Villa in the Springhill area of Peebles. In 1865, the family were there from 4 July – 6 September.

In the autumn of 1867 RLS was in Leadburn, Peebleshire, where he met with friends.

RLS, his wife and mother stayed in Peebles from 26 June -22 July 1882. During this visit, they stayed in Stobo Manse, near Peebles, which RLS wrote about in a humourous poem:

“I would shoot you, but I have no bow:
The place is not called Stobs but Stobo.
As Gallic kids complain of ‘bobo’,
I mourn for your mistake of Stobo”

(Letter from RLS to Edmund Gosse, early July 1882, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol iii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 337).

While at Stobo Manse, RLS made trips to London and Edinburgh. Afterwards, he went to Kingussie, where he spent the rest of the summer. For more information on RLS’s stay in Kingussie, see the Highland section.

Top image courtesy of Alan Marchbank, Peebles image courtesy of the Writers’ Museum (The Edinburgh Museums Service)