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Resources on Old Scottish Roads

Roads in Literature, Mythology and Folklore
Roads and journeys appear quite frequently as a theme in literature, mythology and folklore. These links explore this archetypal motif.

Robert Louis Stevenson: Songs of Travel
Stevenson loved walking, especially in the Pentlands, just south of Edinburgh. This suite of poems reflects this. The poems were set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams - one minute previews of each song can be heard on the Passionato site. See also the Wikipedia article that includes a link to the sheet music for the songs.

Michael Fairless: The Road Mender
Michael Fairless was a pseudonym for Margaret Fairless Barber who lived between 1869 and 1901. The Road Mender, enormously popular in its time, is a collection of quiet meditations on the road to heaven by a road mender and contains some fine evocative writing on nature.

Robert Southey: Poems
The Cross-Roads: A sad story of a slighted girl buried at the cross-roads as a suicide.
They laid her here where four roads meet.
Beneath this very place,
The earth upon her corpse was prest,
This post is driven into her breast,
And a stone is on her face.

Inscriptions for the Caledonian Canal
: A eulogising of his friend Thomas Telford, that includes a reference to his roads.
and where his roads,
In beautiful and sinuous line far seen,
Wind with the vale, and win the long ascent,
Now o'er the deep morass sustained, and now
Across ravine or glen or estuary,
Opening a passage through the wilds subdued.

Ronald Primeau: The Romance of the Road
Comprehensive survey of American "road literature".

Matsuo Basho: Narrow Road to the Deep North
A classic of Japanese literature. In 1689 Basho set off on a journey of discovery to the far north of Japan and recorded his thoughts in calm reflective prose and poetry.

How far must I walk
To the village of Kasajima
This endlessly muddy road
Of the early wet season?


Travel as Metaphor, Columbia University
Video commentary on Narrow Road to the Deep North
(click "Show Video" then play - Real Player)

Pentland Hills
Overview of some of the literary figures associated with the Pentlands.

Heathcote Williams: Autogeddon
A poem denouncing the evils of the motor car. It was made into a very successful TV film a year later. I wrote this article about an exhibition at the Glasgow School of Art in 1993 that was based on Autogeddon.

J G Ballard: Concrete Island
I have my own views on this novel but was unable to find a link that agreed with me so this will have to do. Superb bit of fiction.

The archetypal road-myth: from the highway to the Matrix
Nikos Barbopoulos, Pavlos Baltas and Theodoros Chiotis
An examination of the archetypal road-myth in the age of the super highway and the information highway of the world wide web.

Hilaire Belloc, The Old Road
A classic "old road" book following the course of the old road between Winchester and Canterbury - sunny days, rolling downland, old English pubs etc.etc.

Forgotten Roads - Painting on the Edge. Keith Tilley.
Two paintings of the Ca-na-Catanach, an ancient route between Sutherland and Caithness.

Mythology and Folklore
An Analysis of Pre-Christian Ireland Using Mythology and A GIS, Dimitra-Alys A. Caviness
This paper discusses how mythology and modern GIS techniques could allow the possible routes for the Five Roads of Tara and the three cow roads to be identified.

'In Heaven as on Earth', Royal roads and the Milky Way, Penny Drayton
Interesting article about the significance roads may have had for people in the past.

The Perilous Bridge, Alby Stone
An examination of the frequent occurence of the bridge motif in mythology, and what it might mean.

Corpse Roads, Dorian Robinson
A look at the folk-lore associated with corpse roads.

Fairy Paths in Ireland and Wales, A Literature and Field Study of Cognised Landscapes in Two Celtic Countries, Paul Devereux

A Road to the Other Side, Camilla Grön
In an excavation of a Viking Age road/bridge near a burial ground, the author examines its significance as a means of transport to the afterlife.

Geoffrey of Monmouth's Histories of the Kings of Britain
Brief mention of the four great roads of Britain built by Belinus. See also the Molmutine Laws (page 34). This seems to be a reference to major Roman roads.

The Road That Takes and Points, Kaia Lehari

Although this paper and the one following are more philosophical than mythological I have included them as they are full of insights into the nature of roads and bridges.

A Winter Landscape with a Bridge, Kaia Lehari