England ’86 – Part 3

And so we come to the third and final part of my day by day summary of the UK holiday my family took in 1986 (part one, part two). In this exciting episode we head for recently irradiated Scotland. Prepare for tales of blatent diary forgery, vandalism of historic sites and an encounter with the UK’s oldest living resident!

Saturday May 31st – Drove from Liverpool to wilds of Scotland with Uncle Tony. Memorable and spectacular trip through Highlands that I mostly missed by falling asleep. Checked into A-Frame cabin next to stream at Delny Highland Lodges.

Sunday June 1st – Church (of course) in repurposed Invergordon Nissen Hut, Presbyterians having grabbed all decent buildings. Then off to misnamed Black Isle (it’s a peninsula). Visited Clootie Well, picturesque ruins of Fortrose Cathedral and Chanonry Point Lighthouse from which we observed pod of dolphins. Then visited Fairy Glen which was quite nice. Aunty Mary and Uncle Doug arrived in evening.

Monday June 2nd – Entry begins with blatant fabrication about not just seeing but actually photographing Loch Ness Monster. Shameful! Drove to Loch Ness and attended the exhibition at Drumnadrochit. Particularly fascinated by bisected otter (it died of natural causes). Staged photo of fibreglass monster. Scanned the Loch from Urquart Castle but saw nothing. Lunch at Fort Augustus. Saw deer, went home.

Tuesday June 3rd – Went to the rather impressive Fort George. Dad vanished so I ran full mile around battlements looking for him. Still no sign so had lunch without him. Once he turned up headed to Brodie Castle and saw misprinted dinner plates. Then to Cawdor Castle which was hitting the Macbeth connection hard. Disappointed we didn’t get special treatment for being Cawdor Campbells on Mum’s side.

Wednesday June 4th – Drove across entire country and back to look at palm trees at Inverewe Gardens, despite having palm trees at home.

Thursday June 5th – Went to Landmark Visitors’ Centre at Carrbridge where told so much snow on the Cairngorm mountains they were considering re-opening skiing season. Diverted to the Cairngorm ski-lift to see snow. Got to top, spent two minutes throwing snowballs. then blizzard rolled in. Rode down ski-lift being pelted by snow in gale force winds. Brother spent half hour standing under hand dryer in mens’ toilets. Back to Landmark where saw a movie, walked through maze and brother saw a “facon” (or possibly “falon”).

Friday June 6th – Took advantage of services at Lodges to go for family horse ride. Dad’s horse (“Sally”) completely uncontrollable. Chased by cows. Didn’t know I was allergic to horses at time – diary says nothing but was probably miserable. Shopping in Inverness. Looked into visiting Fryish Monument but everyone too lazy and selfish to consider mere 10 mile walk. Set off for John o’ Groats but only got as far as Bonar bridge before giving it up as a bad job and turning around.

Saturday June 7th – Checked out of Highland Lodges and set off for Perth (many jokes made) via the Great Glen and Glencoe. Split between two cars. Various stops due to brother’s car sickness meant we fell behind – got caught up around Lochy Bridge where others had temerity to blame us for the confusion. Visited Glencoe – careful to keep quiet about Campbell connections as MacDonalds tend not to care about VERY CLEAR DISTINCTION between Cawdor and Argyle Campbells. Continued to Perth then Bridge of Earn where checked into chalets just adjacent to ruins of old bridge.

Sunday June 8th – Went to church, dropped Dad at the Black Watch museum then went through a car wash. Visited Huntingtower where the spiral staircases were built backwards because the owners wielded their swords left-handed (a fanciful tale told wherever there are backwards spiral staircases). Picked up Dad from the museum and went back to chalets.

Monday June 9th – Drove to Edinburgh. Made game of spotting buildings resembling ones in London – fortunate that no Scots overheard or we’d have been killed. Visited Castle, almost froze from wind chill. Fascinated by Mons Meg. Looked for place to eat, found The Witchery sited in building where witches apparently met to “talk to saten”. Ate at big table alongside dummy dressed like witch – most discomforting. Visited cathedral, walked through town for hours. No one wanted to climb Scott Monument despite gothic awesomeness. Fryish monument all over again.

Note: The Witchery is now a very swanky and quite expensive fine dining establishment and boutique hotel that no longer features dummies dressed as witches, no longer claims its location was ever actually used by witches and seems to keep very quiet about its origins as a 1980s tourist trap…

Tuesday June 10th – Toured various factories churning out pottery and glassware at Crieff. Ate haggis at cafeteria.

Wednesday June 11th – Visited Killacrankie and Blair Castle. Saw deer penned up with sheep. Impressed by sheer number of horns on display. Less impressed by state of dining room, roof of which had collapsed. Visited “friends” who lived at a coal yard. Built fort out of bricks in their sandpit.

Thursday June 12th – Drove around Loch Lomond in appalling conditions of pounding rain interspersed with thick fog. Carried on to Doune Castle – ignorance of Monty Python meant many missed joke opportunities. Caretaker showed us bats – sadly rather small and unimpressive. Back to chalets but Uncle Doug had keys so were locked out. Headed for another castle but couldn’t find it.

Friday June 13th – Went to Loch Levan and caught ferry to island with castle where Mary Queen of Scots imprisoned. After lunch visited Stirling Castle. Saw Wallace Monument across valley but no one wanted to visit it except me. Scott Monument all over again.

Saturday June 14th – Checked out of chalets and drove approx 700kms back to Warsash with Mary and Doug via Carlisle. Long drive even by Australian standards. Various stops for food, refreshments and brother’s car sickness. Mum and Dad got a day to themselves for once.

Sunday June 15th – Church (no escaping it) then to Sheila and Mike’s for lunch. Looked at Sarah’s shell collection. Mum and Dad arrived at some point during the day but I totally failed to record when.

Monday June 16th – Shopping in Southampton followed by walk on the beach. Found interesting rocks and built a miniature Stonehenge, which is the kind of thing kids did in the benighted ages before Nintendo released the Game Boy.

Tuesday June 17th – Headed off for the south west. Brass rubbing at Exeter Cathedral. Bought postcard of pipe organ lit up blue despite Mum and Dad hating it. Visited Powderham Castle. Scruffy looking man saw Mum’s interest in music box collection and activated them all. Scruffy looking man was 17th Earl of Devon. Introduced us to the famous Timothy (we fed her lettuce). Visit to grandparents of brother’s school friend Jason in Teignmouth. Checked into bed and breakfast.

Wednesday June 18th – Got lost in Plymouth looking for Dad’s second cousin as discovered by Radio Devon. Found him eventually. Went to Tintagel – only had time to look at fossil museum or King Arthur’s Hall tourist trap. Opted for fossil museum where waxwork posed in window turned out to be very alive owner. Over to castle where large American woman slipped and broke her ankle, having to be carried back to mainland across precarious bridges and walkways by two unfortunate men. Overcome by Arthurian mystique I nicked a stone from the ruined castle walls – have meant to find and return it for years. Up coast to Clovelly where walked up and down ridiculously steep streets and looked at tourist tat in Donkey Shop. Night at bed and breakfast.

Thursday June 19th – Caves at Wookey Hole. No sign of Chewbacca. Toured old paper mill, learned about paper production and played with old fairground machines. Dad extremely evasive on why he wouldn’t let me have a go on the “What the Butler Saw” machine. Drove to Glastonbury and visited the abbey ruins. Laughed at the same sign concerning the Abbot “vaulting the choir and facing it” that Mum had laughed at as a child. Visited more of those mysterious ‘friends’ and checked into a bed and breakfast.

Friday June 20th – Drove back to Warsash. Entirely failed to find a Roman Villa on the way.

Saturday June 21st – Shopping at Fareham in the morning. Mum, Mary and brother went to a bazaar in the afternoon. Brother bought me back a ceramic dinosaur which was very nice of him.

Sunday June 22nd – Diary makes no mention of church, but what are the odds? Drove to Frieth for garden party with Uncle Fran and Sally. Played with hammock in garden afterwards. Then back to Warsash.

Monday June 23rd – Bought pages for postcard albums in Fareham, and ordered even more of them. Had clearly devolved into some kind of postcard fiends.

Tuesday June 24th – Off to Winchester for the ‘Domesday 900’ exhibition celebrating (funnily enough) 900 years since the creation of the Domesday Book. Located in Great Hall and featuring lots of wax figures in Norman robes. Very impressive wood carving of the entire Bayeux Tapestry (an artifact that appears to have entirely vanished from history). Admired round table then paintings of King Arthur in W.H.Smiths. Saw ‘a play’ – a reenacted medieval mummer’s play maybe?

Wednesday June 25th – Helped (more likely hindered) Dad cut down a tree in Mary and Doug’s garden.

Thursday June 26th – Drove to the Weald and Downland Museum. Thirty-one years too early for The Repair Shop. Very impressed by mushroom shaped staddle stones. Visited ‘friends’ in Burgess Hill again – who are these people?

Friday June 27th – Into Southsea for the D-Day Museum. Tapestry not as impressive as the wooden one, but liked the tank. Across to Southsea Castle where we toured the bomb-proof tunnels. Went to a dance in the evening where the crowds and music made me extremely grumpy.

Saturday June 28th – Off to a medieval fair at “Stilbing-ton” which I presume must have been Stubbington. Was picked out of crowd to be a ‘squire’ and follow a ‘knight’ around while wearing extremely heavy chainmail and a helmet. Watched the ox roast roast. Stopped off to pick strawberries on the way home, then the car broke down 100m from the house.

Sunday June 29th – Church in the morning. Sheila and Mike came for lunch. Brother cut finger in bathroom when lightbulb spontaneously exploded – it certainly had nothing to do with it being hit by a damp washcloth we were defintely not throwing around.

Monday June 30th – Back to Fareham to order more postcard album pages (this is getting ridiculous). Got Dad a shoebox for some reason and went to “the predinked” (what?) to get prawn crackers.

Tuesday July 1st – Drove up to London to pick up parcels. Lunch with Tony and Grandmadge at the Italian restaurant with the sorbets, then “watering the ‘club’ oval” (whatever the hell that’s meant to mean). Drove back from London.

Wednesday July 2nd – Had a swim in the pool next door and saw the Fujifilm Blimp.

Thursday July 3rd – Farwell party at Mary and Doug’s. I’d like to say who came but totally neglected to record it, probably due to end of holiday depression.

Friday July 4th – Sombre drive to Heathrow. Lunch at the airport then boarded plane for home. Sadness mitigated by the 1979 version of The Plank at which I laughed so hard the rest of the passengers were laughing at me. Stop offs at Abu Dhabi and Singapore before finally arriving back in Perth.

So that’s it. A holiday the likes of which it’s hard to imagine in these cash strapped (albiet somewhat less-irradiated) days. I’ve been back to the UK on my own several times since and revisited some of these places. I hope to do so again once the international situation stabilises. In particular I mean to find that stone and return it to Tintagel – I don’t know what I was thinking.


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