The Cairngorms National Park has been a source of inspiration for the creative arts for hundreds of years. From Robert Louis Stevenson in the 1800’s through to a Walt Disney and Pixar animation due to be released in 2012; the landscapes, lochs, mountains, wildlife, myths and legends of the UK’s largest National Park have impacted so much on the imagination of some of the greatest authors and movie makers in the world.
With the nominations for the Oscars and the BAFTAS being announced and the Costa Book Award winners being crowned in the first month of the year, What’s On has come over all creative! So we went in search of the arts and inspiration in the Park. Read on and you may well be surprised by how much this special place has featured in books, poems and films over the years.
Robert Louis Stevenson
The writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and many more popular books, can be seen as one of the biggest fans of holidaying in the Cairngorms National Park! He spent much of his time in Pitlochry and Braemar and actually started writing The Sea Cook, which later became Treasure Island, during his time in these Highland villages. Yet it was his time spent in Kingussie that was immortalized in the poem “Where Go the Boats” detailing his enjoyment at sailing paper boats on the burn in the River Gynack.
In fact, he loved the capital of Badenoch so much that he later wrote in a letter to his friend W.E. Henley in 1882 “I think I’ll send all my friends to Kingussie. I burn to write works of imagination for youth, and behold me harnessed to your pikter book and making No Way”.
Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus in 1797, was the eldest of five children of Sir John Peter Grant, laird of Rothiemurchus. Spending her childhood mostly on the family estate and in London, she entered Edinburgh society in 1814. The family returned to Rothiemurchus in 1820 and from around 1826, Elizabeth wrote articles and stories for various magazines to supplement the family income.
After meeting her husband and moving to County Wicklow, Elizabeth wrote a private memoir of her years spent in Scotland. This was to become her most famous work – ‘Memoirs of a Highland Lady’ – edited and abridged by her niece and first published in 1897. Second and third editions followed, with a full complete edition not appearing until 1988.
Accounts of Highland life during this period, from the female perspective, are rare which makes Grant’s works one of the most important social documents of it’s time.
Glenfeshie Estate was the filming location for the 2011 blockbuster Centurion. All actors were local extras from Aviemore, the Strathspey and around the Highlands, so keep your eyes peeled for recognisable faces.
British director, Neil Marshall penned the script and was firmly at the helm of the production and the thrilling sword and sandals thriller, set during the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 117, starred Michael Fassbender, Dominic West and Olga Kurylenko.
The film, which was originally titled Ninth Legion focused on the Ninth Legion troops that marched into Scotland from Hadrian’s Wall with over 4,000 men and disappeared. Historians dispute the fate of the legion; some believe they were disbanded, while others believe they were massacred in Germania years later. Marshall said of his take of the legend:
“It’s not meant to be historically perfect. I’m picking up on a legend and exploring it… it’s an action thriller.”
Brave, dreamed up by Walt Disney and Pixar, and filmed in 3D will be released in UK cinemas in 2012 and although was not filmed in the Cairngorms National Park, it was inspired by our mystical and enchanting Highland landscape. With a great line-up of Scots stars doing the voices – including Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson, Kevin McKidd and Kelly Macdonald playing the lead role of Princess Merida the film is set to be a sure fire hit.
It tells the story of Scottish princess and fiery redhead, Merida (voiced by Macdonald) who defies her parents by pursuing an interest in archery, but inadvertently jeopardizes her father’s kingdom in the process. Director Mark Andrews describes Brave as “an epic adventure full of action, humour and heart. There’s no more perfect a setting for this powerful tale than the dark and rugged Scottish Highlands. Imagine: magic, mystery and danger—all set within a haunting and beautiful landscape.”
Walking in the footsteps of great writers or filmmakers, and seeing landscapes and buildings through their eyes can be one of the most enjoyable and sustaining of pleasures, yet the books and films set in the Cairngorms help to continue to raise the area’s profile across the world bringing fans of the books and silver screen on pilgrimage’s to the perfect setting.
Did you know? Elisabeth Beresford, the creator of ‘The Wombles’, named one of the characters after the National Park’s famous mountain range? Cousin Cairngorm McWomble the Terrible was introduced in the second book (The Wandering Wombles) as a Highland Womble clan chief. He appeared in the TV series when he visited the Wimbledon burrow!
For information on the area which inspired all of this go to www.visitcairngorms.com or m.visitcairngorms.com for the mobile version.
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