We always used to go to Scotland on our summer holidays when we were young. I suppose it was the logical destination living in the North East back in the late 60s and early 70s. In fact it was a family joke that it wasn’t till 1973 that my father discovered that you could turn left as well as right at the end of the road and we ended up in Cornwall and discovered sunburn for the first time! It seems that our holidays were taken to extremes and as such we ended up exploring the far reaches of Scotland visiting the Outer Hebrides and the Orkneys.
Although it was a long time ago I still have happy memories of those holidays. I remember that for some of the journeys to the islands the car had to be lifted onto the boats by a crane. I also remember a campsite on one of the Hebridian islands where we returned each night to find part of the tent knocked down only to discover later that the farmer used to let his cows into the field during the day! The campsite on the Orkneys only had one toilet and an outdoor sink with a cold tap. We stayed there for a week and no one came round to collect any money so when we left my dad pushed an envelope with a £1 note through the letterbox of the town hall to cover the fees. He later received a receipt for the money through the post but not the change!
I remember visiting Skara Brae on the Orkneys plus seeing the Italian Chapel and the wrecks of Scapa Flow. I also remember Maes Howe so it would be inconceivable if we didn’t also visit Brodgar and Stenness. I remember visitor centres in old crofts with peat fires burning and I remember exploring the old second world war pill boxes and collecting stray golf balls from the adjoining golf course. My memories of the Outer Hebrides aren’t as strong but I’m sure we visited the stones at Callanish.
So in 1989 having just got my first company car we set off (my first wife and I) to drive up the east coast of Scotland to go to Orkney and to visit as many of the ancient sites we had read about in Janet and Colin Bord’s book on the way. On the way to Orkney we visited Tomnaverie, Cullerie, East Aquhorthies and Loanhead near Aberdeen before moving up to near Inverness and visiting Clava Cairns, the Hill o’many Stanes, the Grey Cairns of Camster and the stone circle at Loch Stemster.
We also saw the Picady stone and the Maiden stone en route. After we had been to the Orkneys we visited Corrimony and then crossed over to the West coast and visited the Brochs at Dun Telve and Dun Troddan. We almost went to Skye but were worried because it was a Bank Holiday and we didn’t have much cash left so we ended up at Loch Ness being bitten to death by midges instead!
Then the following year we returned to Scotland, this time with our friends Jon and Bev and we hired a cottage miles off the beaten track somewhere near Bonar Bridge and visited the Cairns at Clava and Camster, Corrimony, Loch Stemster and the Hill o’many Stanes again. This caused me some confusion when it came to scanning in the photographs from my camera especially as it turned out that we’d visited them in a slightly different order. It turned out to be a very difficult time because we stopped at my parents house on the way back and my mum died that night, then later in the week we discovered that we were expecting our first child.