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Isobel Wylie Hutchison


1889 - 1982

Enthusiastic traveller, author and botanist. Hutchison was born in Carlowrie Castle (near Kirkliston), the daughter of a wealthy wine merchant who died when she was aged only ten, but who had provided for his children such that she became independently wealthy. Hutchison was educated at Rothesay House School in Edinburgh, but was able to immerse herself in numerous hobbies and interests. She enjoyed extended walks in Scotland, regularly walking in and around Edinburgh, but is known to have walked from Blairgowrie to Fort Augustus (100 miles / 160 km) and from Doune to Oban (70 miles / 112 km). Her youngest brother died while walking in the Cairngorm Mountains in 1912, and this event deeply effected Hutchison.

She began travelling widely in the period after the First World War, particularly in the Arctic, acquiring considerable skills as a botanist by recording the flora she saw and collecting plant specimens for Kew Gardens and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. She visited Greenland, Iceland, the Yukon, Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, while also travelling across Europe and to China and Japan.

She kept extensive diaries of her travels and recorded the places she visited in watercolour sketches, with photographs and on film. Many of these are now preserved, some in the National Museum of Scotland, other items and diaries in the National Library of Scotland and many of her photographs are held by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. She also wrote poetry, was the author of a number of significant travel books detailing her Arctic journeys and wrote regularly for the American National Geographic magazine.

Hutchison was an enthusiastic member of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, becoming Editor of its Scottish Geographical Magazine and was awarded its Mungo Park Medal (1934) in recognition of her work recording of Arctic landscapes and flora. She also received an honorary degree from the University of St Andrews (1949).

She died in Carlowrie Castle, having never married.


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