Friday, 10 February 2017

Fifty Years of Holidays in Scotland

Just before Christmas I saw a request on Twitter from kilt-makers MacGregor MacDuff for memories of Scotland, of why it holds such a special place in the heart of many of us, even non-Scots, and as it has to be my favourite holiday destination, I decided to join in. You can find my piece for them here on their website, but something I hadn't realised till I looked out old photographs was that I'd been visiting on and off for 50 years (!) I've no idea how many trips that works out as; some years I've missed out (last year was one), others I've been two or three times.

This is me, all those years ago, by Loch Lomond

What I do know is that, after earlier holidays spent on the caravan sites of Lincolnshire, I loved everything about that first camping trip - putting up the tent, cramming everything back into the car next day, staying in B+Bs when it rained, forests and mountains, lochs and seaside, a real castle in Edinburgh. It was magical!


Since then I've been back time and time again, to most areas from Gretna Green to John O'Groats, Edinburgh to Ardnamurchan, and island-hopping to Mull, Islay, Skye, Harris, and Lewis.

Dolphins at Chanonry Point
 I've seen dolphins, red deer, golden eagles, sea otters; stayed in touring caravans, self-catering cottages, B+Bs of all shapes and sizes, and even a castle; visited stately homes, gardens, crofters' museums, iron age brochs, castles, black houses, a crannog, cairns and stone circles. 

Edinburgh from the castle

I love Edinburgh when it's packed in August, and the empty beaches of the West Coast. 
And, of course, I'm still finding new places to go, for there's a LOT to see and experience. There are lots of islands I'd still like to visit from Gigha to Shetland. I want to see more of Aberdeenshire's castles, or go on a whale-watching trip. Sometimes I feel I'd like to take the tent and just go wherever I end up - then I think it might be comfortable to stay in a cosy B+B.


Obviously over fifty years some things have changed, the most noticeable being the roads, particularly further north. You'll no longer find a twisting single-track A-road with grass growing down the middle, steep hillls that were more worrying going down than up, or come across the small ferries like Ballachulish, Stromeferry, and Kylesku that were a necessary part of the road network but have now been replaced by bridges. Maybe it's a little less romantic to be able to drive across a bridge to Skye, and certainly some of the intrepid adventuring feel has gone, but there are still plenty of off-the-beaten-track places where you can discover the 'joys' of single track roads.

West coast sunset

People, I find, have pre-conceived ideas about Scotland - it's quite small; well, no, it's not. In part I blame the road signs which just say "Scotland" as if it's one city-sized place, but I think folk envisage somewhere the size of Cornwall, and then are surprised how far Inverness is from the border, or how long it will take to drive to Ullapool before you catch a two and half hour ferry out to Stornoway!

Swimming at Crinan Ferry

- it's cold and wet all the time - again, no! Maybe it's not as hot as the south of Spain or Greece, but I'm guessing no one's heading to Scotland with the intent of spending all day on a sun-lounger by a pool. Summer days are longer than in England, and go north in June and it's almost light through the night. The Gulf Stream warms the west coast enough for palm trees to grow, and the sea to be warm enough to swim in.

Sadly though one rumour is true - the evil highland midges; find a spot with some breeze if you want to enjoy a bite-free sunset. 


  1. We've done Scotland once and it was amazing! I am itching to get back, although we might try and avoid the midges this time! How fabulous to have such great memories of a beautiful country to look back on

    1. I've been told that May/June is the ideal time to visit - long sunny days, especially in June, and too early for midges :)

  2. This looks so serene! I think it'd be a great place to explore and camp. I love the description of how it's changed over the years. Despite all of this it still looks to be a magical place!

    1. Like almost anywhere you can find popular places which seem just car parks full of tourist busses but get away from them and out and about on foot and it is still magical!