(1). SCOTLAND, August 1955

These are extracts from the diary, which I kept only for the first 5 days (!). Here, as on all my ‘Travels’ pages, italics are verbatim copies of what I originally wrote; normal typeface is used for everything else.

     4th: Off on a farewell tour to freedom [no! au revoir, not adieu!] , seeing what I hope will be the best scenery I have ever seen and back in time before Queen-and-Country come calling. [Plan first day: to Welbourn, Lincolnshire, where school friend David Close lived.]

           By train to  Victoria. Waited 25 minutes at a ‘traffic light’ near Gatwick and as a result I had only 40 minutes to get my bike and myself  across to King’s Cross. Managed it in spite of a bulging tyre….  Stood all the way to Peterborough. Did not bother to wait for the train to Leadenham but had the greater bother of using my bike. 14 m. through, D.v., flat country and charming little villages with (?limestone) architecture: carved gables, dormers, lintels, gateways. The house a fine old place in a typical village… David in mudclog boots and a welcoming smile. Pleasant atmosphere, leisurely evening, good food, space for tent, sweet dreams.

5th: [Plan: by bike to Hope, Peak District, where school friend David Batey lived.] First real day’s cycling and not interesting either, at first: 40 miles of dreariness until Chesterfield, not without hills (Bolsover), slag heaps (Budby), slums (Chesterfield).  However the prospect brghtened up; rode up a picture-skew valley to a rugged chunk of crag, valleys and sheep: Sheffield’s playground. Hopes dashed in Hope: the Batey family was away on holiday! But hope revived when Holme (classmate in French and German) provided a lawn for my tent, hearty food, tour of the district including Treak Cavern, which is on a par with Wookey. On way back puncture No. 1, walked 2 miles, mended OK. By jiminy what a household: buxom Mrs H, taciturn Mr H, 2 other kids, yelling, one cat and three dogs, and me, in the kitchen all at the same time!

     6th: [Original plan: by bike half-way to Edinburgh through Lancashire, and the Lake District. New plan: by bike to Leyburn, Yorks, home of my cousin David Peill.] A comfortable night. New plan necessitates (a) the long Moscar pass, (b) cities such as Sheffield, Barnsley, Leeds. A real dose of concentrated industrial scenery! But by 2:15 past centre of Leeds, and thereafter amicable and not overhilly country. Through snobtown of Harrogate, to Ripon. Last 18-mile stage very slow. Arrived Leyburn 9 pm very tired and hungry. Luvly ‘ot bath and huge supper and, I swear, the most luxurious bed I’ve ever slept in!

     7th: [Plan: afternoon start, as far as possible towards Edinburgh.] Morning car visit to Aysgarth Falls, with David’s three sons Jeffrey, Adrian, Alan. A real lazy time then off on my bike at  4 pm, over the moors, past national servicemen returning to Catterick camp. Through Richmond and very slowly to Barnard Castle. Had hoped to be in Stanhope by nightfall but only managed to get as far as Eggleston. Puncture No.2. Chat with cheery, oft unintelligible farmer, to a camping spot by stream: a very cold and slanting night!

     8th: [Plan: As far as possible towards Edinburgh]. So cold and non-horizontal that up at 6. Walk before breakfast, off at 9:30. One whole hourto push the bike up the 4-mile hill out of Eggleston. Then a steep switchback down to Stanhope. 100 minutes to cover 10 miles! Only the real beauty of the scenery kept me from real anger! After Stanhope, the process repeated. Lunch in a tiny beauty-spot of a village, Blanchland, then a  struggle on to Hexham, with Puncture No. 3. Tyre now had a gaping hole! Annoying: had hoped to be over the Cheviots by nightfall. To make up for it treated myself to a night in  a bed, in the YH in Bellingham. Cheery company, but expensive!

     9th: [Plan: Edinburgh, where June’s John’s sister and family lived]. Another 90-mile run, this time interesting the whole way. A very smooth run up to the border. About noon into Bonnie Scotland for the first time in my life! Downhill to Jedburgh, Puncture No. 4 hole covered by piece of cardbard, Melrose, Galashiels into valley of the Gala. This would have been very enjoyable but for the hundreds of myxomatosed rabbits: on average, one every 30 yards. Then mainly downhill to Edinburgh; Puncture No 5 10 miles from the city. Lucky it lasted the rest of the way! Found the Guthries’ house (Fountainhall Rd.) quite easily. Enthusiastic reception by the four kids (Nigel, Penny, Tom, Joy), who are very noisy, spoiled and nerve-racking. Household very amiably run by Barbara and (not much in evidence?) Charles. Large supper, late bed.

The rest of the trip is reconstructed from memory.

I spent maybe three days in Edinburgh, mostly in the company of the eldest Guthrie, Nigel, exploring the city. Only one clear memory: a long walk around the south-central residential district after visiting Greyfriars Bobby’s statue. Nigel lost his way and I told him the best way home…!

By train with my bicycle to Perth; from there I continued my cycling. As planned, north to Pitlochry and the start of the Pass of Killikrankie, then westwards along the beginning of the “Road to the Isles.” (This does not really start at Pitlochry but the song does: “Sure by Tummel and Loch Rannoch…”). My cycle plan followed the road along the south shores of Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch until it petered out at the railway line. This road was among the most beautiful places I had ever seen:  Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 12.02.43 PM.png          

Loch Tummel :                                         Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 3.44.52 PM.png

Loch Rannoch:

Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 3.45.54 PM.png

          At the western end of Loch Rannoch the road continues on as far as Rannoch railway station and there I waited for, and boarded, the next train south. At Crianlarich I left the railway and began cycling again, south to the very north end of Loch Lomond, then along its western shore.

          And now for the ‘romantic’ episode. Loch Lomond, of all places; and two young female cyclists from Germany in trouble allowing me, the knight on his white charger, to come to the rescue! Which I did, when I saw one bicycle with a bent wheel and one young lady in tears. Knowing German was also a help. I gave advice and assistance for them to get to Glasgow, for the one with the bleeding arm to get attention, and for the wheel to be straightened. I vaguely remember a walk along Sauchiehall Street and the night in the YH. And of course I made a note of their addresses, having become (fatefully) attracted to the (uninjured) one, Ursula. …

The next day I rode back to Edinburgh and had one more night with the Guthries; and the following day set off south, this time (I recall) along a gentle heather-flanked road up to the English border and down to the Lake District. My longest-ever day on my bicycle, over 120 miles. Looking at the map, I see that I probably crossed near Houghton and rode on to Carlisle. I remember camping one night in the Lake District, probably on the shore of Windermere near Kendal.

And the next day, as planned, over the Pennines to my Auntie Hettie’s cottage in Mickleby, the far (eastern) side of the Yorkshire Moors. Not as planned, however, I was violently sick when I arrived, almost certainly from drinking from a trough on the side of the road, downstream from a sheep-scat-filled source.

So, two nights in the cottage of dear old Auntie Hettie, my father’s younger sister: one miserable, one pleasant one! One thing I did do was ask her and note down all she told me about my father’s side of the family — the Priestly (their father’s) and Pinkney (their mother’s) sides. Some of this is, as I later worked out, ‘apocryphal’ — see the ‘Family Tree’ page!

Time was running short by now so, feeling better, I left Mickleby and cycled south and (by some route or other) across the Humber and on to Peterborough, where I took the train south to King’s Cross Station in London and then another from Victoria Station home to Worthing. So I arrived home where my mother could help me prepare for when I had to report to Maidstone barracks, a few weeks later.