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      Rob Roy: A Crook or a Hero? Make your mind up by walking the Rob Roy Way.

      9 min read

      By Gill McMillan
      More by Gill

      If there’s one character from Scotland’s long history who seems to split opinion, it’s Rob Roy MacGregor.

      We all think we know something about him: robber, thief, outlaw, hero, Highland legend, patriot. The list goes on. Sir Walter Scott immortalised him in his novel Rob Roy 200 years ago but who was he really? Wilderness Guide Gill McMillan gives us her take on both the man and the long distance trail named after him – the Rob Roy Way.

      Named for him in 2002, the Rob Roy Way passes through country that Scotland’s most famous outlaw knew very well. You’ll get a real flavour of the rugged beauty of the land and see Highland cattle, trout-filled lochs and mountains a-plenty. Along the way you can pop into a café for tea and scones or take a leisurely pub lunch and have a blether with the friendly locals about their thoughts on the man. It’s a pleasant and fairly well signposted route that’s ideal for those new to long-distance walking and old hands alike.

      Rob Roy Way Highland Cow

      Who was Rob Roy?

      From my own perspective I recently read W.H. Murray’s Rob Roy MacGregor: His Life and Times and the author takes every opportunity to defend Rob Roy. He notes that ‘thieving’ or ‘lifting’ in the form of cattle rustling wasn’t considered theft by Highlanders, but instead an accepted means of survival for many centuries.

      It seems that Rob, if anything, was an honourable man, physically strong, quick-witted, an excellent swordsman and expert tracker. Rob quickly became one of the best. His strong track record put him in high demand from powerful landowners who needed skilled and trustworthy men to drive their cattle to market.

      As you follow in his footsteps along the 126 km route from Drymen to Pitlochry you’ll walk the land he relied upon as he fell out of favour with the gentry. The walking is straightforward; the route makes use of cycle routes, paths, tracks and minor roads, and is hilly in sections.

      Rob Roy Way Walkers

      • An optional loop from Loch Tay inland to Amulree adds another 49km.

      Where did it all go wrong for Rob Roy?

      Roy Roy MacGregor’s great misfortunes were born with him. Firstly he was born into one of the most turbulent periods of Scottish history and secondly into clan McGregor. Known as the Wild MacGregors they earned their name and living through ‘cattle lifting’ – today we’d call this extortion. The MacGregor lands stretched from the NE shore of Loch Lomond eastwards, through the Trossachs and north to Strathfillan.

      The Trossachs is a rich belt of land as the highlands meet the lowlands and two of Scotland’s most powerful men, the Duke of Argyll and the Duke of Atholl held the land either side. The two dukes were constantly at odds vying for power and status. Should they support William of Orange, or James the Jacobite? Rob Roy’s fortune changed after losing most of his capital and his former patron turned against him. Rob swore vengeance. In this turbulent period backstabbing and shenanigans were commonplace, especially so at the Privy Council in Edinburgh. No one was immune.

      The Rob Roy Way passes through Killin and it’s worth visiting the ruined Finlarig Castle to see the beheading pit. This unique feature is claimed to be for despatching gentry – common folk were simply hanged. This route has a good variety of landscape to pass through, a mix of open vistas, woodland, hills and small towns, each with their history and stories. Rob would have made good use of them all as he swept through the landscape escaping the gentry. There are ancient stone circles en route too, it easy to forget that when Rob Roy fled by a few hundred years ago they were already over 3,000 years old.

      Rob Roy's Grave

      MacGregor’s Grave – Despite Them
      Photo: L P. TOMKINS/ VisitScotland

      Have you made your mind up yet?

      In short, Rob’s old Highland values of honour and loyalty were at odds with a political landscape that was shifting faster than a Highland rain shower. He held fast to his principles, and paid a heavy price. He was portrayed by the establishment as a thief and traitor (Jacobite sympathiser) but held in affection and respect by the MacGregors and allied clans. Life tested him to the limit and he stayed true to his principles above all else.

      • What do you think? How about exploring the hills that Rob Roy fled to as an outlaw before you make your mind up.
      • Discover our self guided Rob Roy Way adventure holiday

      Related Departures

      Trip Date Price Availability Book
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 14th Jan - 22nd Jan 2019 £7352 place(s) leftBook Now
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 10th Apr - 18th Apr 2019 £7352 place(s) leftBook Now
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 18th Apr - 26th Apr 2019 £7652 place(s) leftBook Now
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 30th Apr - 8th May 2019 £735Trip Full
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 11th May - 20th May 2019 £800Trip Full
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 11th May - 19th May 2019 £7352 place(s) leftBook Now
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 12th May - 20th May 2019 £7352 place(s) leftBook Now
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 12th May - 20th May 2019 £7652 place(s) leftBook Now
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 19th May - 26th May 2019 £1,240Trip Full
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 25th May - 2nd Jun 2019 £7652 place(s) leftBook Now
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 29th May - 6th Jun 2019 £735Trip Full
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 15th Jun - 22nd Jun 2019 £685Trip Full
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 19th Jun - 27th Jun 2019 £1,240Trip Full
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 30th Jun - 8th Jul 2019 £7352 place(s) leftBook Now
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 1st Jul - 9th Jul 2019 £7352 place(s) leftBook Now
      Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way 24th Sep - 2nd Oct 2019 £7652 place(s) leftBook Now

      Meet the Author: Gill McMillan

      “As a child I skied in Glenshee and loved being outside. At 19 I started hill-walking and have happily worn out many pairs of boots since. I especially enjoy hill-walking, long distance trails (the Camino de Santiago across Spain and the West Highland Way several times) and wild camping. Late evening sunsets from high up on a mountain have to be among life’s greatest pleasures. Thankfully, in Scotland we’re spoilt for choice.”

      View profileMore by Gill

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