A topographical carte-de-visite showing the Trossachs hotel, one of the most photographed buildings in Scotland. The scenery around Loch Katrine in the Trossachs was immortalized by Sir Walter Scott in his Lady of the Lake (1810), which did much to attract Victorian tourists to the Scottish Highlands. Once the railways had opened up the area, the region experienced a vast influx of tourists, all of whom wanted photographic souvenirs.
As tourism to the area increased, it became necessary to build sufficient accommodation for all the new guests. Built in the 1850’s on the site of a much older inn, the Trossachs Hotel was one of the grandest of the new hotels that grew up as a commercial response to this increase in the number of tourists. A baronial building with towers and an impressive façade, it is still commonly called the Trossachs Hotel, even though it has now changed its name to Tigh Mor.
Photographed by George Washington Wilson of Aberdeen, identified recto in the lower margin.
George Washington Wilson (1823-1893) was born in Alvah, Banffshire, the son of a crofter. He began work as a joiner in his native parish, but went on to train as a miniaturist in Edinburgh and at the Royal Academy School in London. In 1848 he settled in Aberdeen, where he established himself first as an artist and later (c.1852) as a photographer at 25 Crown Street, Aberdeen. He constructed several remarkably good lenses, with which he carried out a series of interesting experiments. In 1853 he was the first person to photograph the Queen and Prince Consort at Balmoral, later receiving many more commissions from the Royal family when they were in residence at Balmoral. Wilson went on to build up a substantial business as a publisher of topographic views, principally of Scotland, where he travelled to Braemar, the Trossachs, the Falls of Clyde and many of the wilder parts of Scotland. His English output is small compared with his Scottish views, but Wilson made several journeys into England. One important journey was made in 1860 when Wilson travelled to Southampton via the West Country.
In addition to his photographic enterprises, he was also a director of the Opera House Company and the Aberdeen Music Hall. In later life, he ceased to take a leading role in his photographic business and returned to painting, producing oils of several of his old friends. The company reached the peak of its success in the 1870's, after which it went into a gradual decline. He was survived by his widow, four daughters and five sons, three of whom worked for the business.
Wilson made his first visit to the Trossachs with George Walker in 1859, and the two men seem to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Walker tells how they ‘bathed in the loch, in spite of the monster pike we saw, and we hid ourselves in the bracken, which was in many places eight feet in height’. The midges they disturbed attacked Walker with ferocity and brought his face and neck out in bright red swellings. He was puzzled that they left Wilson entirely alone and wondered if it was ‘in consequence of the fumes of chloroform and collodion with which his clothes were saturated’' [quoted in Roger Taylor’s George Washington Wilson: Artist and Photographer, 1981].
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