The Queen looked west over Loch Tummel and liked it very much. She liked it so much that someone named the view for her. Or, maybe she commanded that it should be so. Sadly, there’s a little uncertainty over which particular queen we’re talking about here, but whoever it was does not alter the fact that it’s a jolly splendid scene. Indeed, Queen’s View is claimed to be, unsurprisingly, one of the most photographed sights in the Scottish Highlands. It owes its popularity not simply to the wonderful vista over the loch, part of the Tay Forest Park and beyond to the truly mountain-shaped mountain, Schiehallion, but also because it is easy to visit by car, involves a minimal amount of physical effort once you’re there and offers convenient facilities like a decent café and toilets. So, if you’re on one of those whistle-stop tours of Scotland in a day by minibus, you’ll probably find Queens View on the itinerary. In any event, whenever you’re tootling around beautiful Perthshire – and, goodness me, there are plenty of reasons to do that – taking in Queen’s View is something that really has to be done.
There are probably more important debates to be had in the world, but let’s get this ‘which queen’ business out of the way, shall we? There seem to be two main candidates behind the name of Queen’s View: Queen Victoria and Queen Isabella – though one account I’ve seen also suggests Mary, Queen of Scots as a third, outside, contender. Queen Victoria visited in 1866 and, in an acquisitive moment, apparently assumed that the view belonged to her. Others, however, believe that the queen in question is Queen Isabella, Isabella of Mar, who lived five and a half centuries before Vicky and was Robert the Bruce’s first wife. Some suggest that Isabella hid in nearby woods after Bruce’s defeat by the English at the Battle of Methven in 1306, which would be a romantic notion but for the fact that Isabella died in 1296 and Bruce married his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, in 1302. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Isabella can be ruled out of being the inspiration behind the naming of Queen’s View – just her link with Methven, which would more likely involve Elizabeth. I suppose it’s possible that both Isabella and Elizabeth liked the place and used it as a stop-over – and I must say that the bacon rolls are terrific, so who could blame them? By the way, Isabella and Robert’s daughter, Marjorie, married Walter Stewart, Steward of Scotland; and their son became Robert II, King of Scotland – the first of the Stuart monarchs and a distant ancestor of Victoria, as well as of our current queen.
That doesn’t help much, does it? Sorry. Perhaps Queen’s View was thus called simply because the view was considered fit for a queen. Occasionally, though, folk memories linger in place names – so who knows; perhaps it really was a place associated with a real person. Or perhaps the apostrophe is in the wrong place and there was more than one queen. I wonder what the earliest maps tell us?
Moving on, Queen’s View perches over the north east edge of Loch Tummel, a relatively narrow loch about 7 miles long, popular with anglers. There are footpaths all around, so of course people do walk there. But most visitors roll into the pay and display car park off the B8019, pop into the amenities, and then stroll a few yards to the viewpoint. And that’s what we did, guided by good friends and Molly the Dog. I was struck by the shape of Schiehallion, which in Gaelic is Sidh Chailleann, the ‘Fairy Hill of the Caledonians’. My mate Pat, who knows about technical things, told us that, because Schiehallion has such a regular shape, it was used to help calculate the first ever measurement of the mass of the earth in 1774, by the Astronomer Royal, Neville Maskelyne. Please don’t expect me to explain this – it was something to do with plumb-lines; all we need to know is that it happened and that Schiehallion is, therefore, a unique mountain.
I’m hoping I haven’t under-sold the facilities at Queen’s View, which include a splendid wooden carving of a mother and child (no, I don’t know the association), a visitor centre, a shop where you can stock up on essentials like fridge magnets and ‘I Love Scotland’ T-shirts and, outside, to underpin the authentic Scottish experience, piped bagpipe music. The bacon rolls are superb, though; did I mention that? And the guys running the café were really great. It’s worth taking a look at the website of Forestry Commission Scotland for more serious information.
However, most visitors are done with Queen’s View pretty quickly: after all, there’s only so long you can stand in one place taking in a nice view, only so many times you can say, “Oh, isn’t it luvly, Mavis”, and only so many photos you can take of it. And, besides, you want to give someone else a turn, don’t you? Which brings me to the extraordinary individual I think of as (small drum-roll) – Selfie-Girl. Now, I tend to avoid taking photos of myself for a variety of reasons, not least because I’m a modest chap (with much to be modest about) but, mostly, because the involuntary facial contortions I pull in the process make me look like an entrant in a gurning contest. I am not anti-selfie per se – it is perfectly natural for other people to want to take photos of themselves in great places, and it is a nice thing to do, to have the memories. Enter Selfie-Girl and her assistant. Selfie-Girl was a kind of ghastly cross between Kim Kardashian and Jessica Rabbit, wearing spray-on clothes. She quite unselfconsciously posed, preened and pouted all over Queen’s View as though she was participating in a parody of a fashion-shoot, oblivious to anyone else, their sensibilities, or the fact that she was just getting in the way, whilst happily clicking away at herself. It was grotesque, yet horribly fascinating. Her companion, who seemed relatively normal, tried to follow suit, but, frankly, I’m not sure her heart was really in it. Selfie-Girl’s grand finale was to hand her mobile ‘phone to her chum and strike an impressive assortment of thrusting postures with her assorted extremities, throwing her arms up to the sky, tilting her head from one side to the other, pursing her lips into a variety of shapes and finishing off with her back to the camera, looking over her shoulder. I didn’t know whether to applaud, or call for help. It was an astonishingly theatrical performance, the kind of thing you imagine people only doing in the privacy of their own homes, maybe in front of a mirror. (My Elvis impersonation is coming on a treat, thank you for asking.) Perhaps Selfie-Girl was actually a reincarnated queen, returned to claim her view. Anyway, it was a curious encounter and a rare privilege to witness that degree of self-obsession outside politics, TV reality shows, or Facebook.
Do visit Queen’s View; the view and the bacon rolls are marvellous (did I mention the bacon rolls?). I bet it’s stunning in the autumn – or the winter, when it offers fabulous opportunities for selfies in ski-suits.