Scotland’s populace has been increasingly urbanising for centuries now, occasionally forcibly, as with the Clearances, but often through choice as industry, facilities and fashion have encouraged people to head for the towns. This movement of people has left a legacy of lost townships and villages throughout rural Scotland and the postal service, which has its origins in Scotland in the early 17th century. The early postal service was very limited with few roads suitable for speedy travel, no fixed address system and payment for post paid by the receiver.
A trial of mail coaches commenced in 1784 between London and Bath, the success of which, reducing postal delivery from 38 hours to 16 convinced William Pitt, the Chancellor, to invest in speeding delivery times elsewhere and a mail coach system reached Edinburgh by 1786. This service was increasingly reserved for the wealthy as postage costs increased over the next 50 years until the introduction of the uniform Penny Postage in 1840. This was a revolution in mail delivery and usage opening it up to more people than ever before as 90 million pieces of post were delivered in 1839 rising to 679 million in 1864.
A romanticism has developed over the Royal Mail in the 19th century where mail was delivered by dedicated, heavily armed contractors proud to protect their mail cargo from highwaymen and to deliver to exact times. The coaches let out specific trumpet calls as they approached mail houses when they would dump letters to be delivered locally and pick up letters to be sorted and delivered without stopping, a practice continued after the replacement of mail coaches by railway carriages. However, most of the road network that these coaches used are now under the modern road network having been continually used and upgraded.
In contrast to the fast delivery network of coaches, there is also a romanticism of the rural postal delivery where postmen would brave terrible weather and difficult landscape in order to deliver the mail to far flung and remote communities. This was particularly the case following the introduction of the Penny Post when sending letters became available to many more people and the already existing network of rural paths became known for being used by posties travelling long distances on foot or bike.