Scottish Memory Lane - Summer Holidays

Largs, a popular Seaside Resort Within Easy Reach of Glasgow

"Summer Holidays" would be known as "Summer Vacations" in some parts of the world. In my childhood, most Scottish workers had just two weeks (a fortnight in local parlance) with many factories and employment closing down while all the work force went off on their break, often to the seaside, frequently within Scotland. The idea of a "package holiday" by air to Mediterranean resorts didn't really take off until the 1950s.

I'm hoping that readers will send in their own stories and memories of their own childhood in Scotland. All contributions should be sent to

Recently added stories have placed beside their title.

Orkney Bus Saga

Orkney was the furthest anyone I knew had ever been. Most of my friends in Castlemilk in the 50's went to 'Hame'lldae-me' (Home will do me for those not familiar with th local patois). Lucky me – I went to Orkney because my Dad had to have his yearly fix of bracing air. (That's the Orkney flag on the right) From age 6 to 16 I made the yearly pilgrimage and then rebelled. How ungrateful! But then the journey oh, the journey! The journey time now would get you to the Far East but things were different in 1956 when we first went to show off my newish brother aged 1.

We caught the last bus from the scheme and arrived in St Enoch's Square after 11. We had one huge suitcase for four of us for three weeks which Dad carried for ten steps then dropped to 'catch his breath’ so the walk up to Buchanan Street bus station (pictured here on the left) took quite a while. The station toilets were awful to use but needs must as the coach had none at all! We climbed on the stone cold bus (one tartan rug each) and set off at midnight. The bus then leapfrogged up through Scotland stopping every hour or so at church hall toilets, bus station toilets etc to have a 'rest'. That was probably the only rest we had all night...

Eventually, we arrived at Inverness (that's their castle on the right) around 6 in the morning. On that first journey, Mum made us all wear our Sunday best– meeting the relatives was a big deal - so I had my good dress, coat, hat and white gloves along with my dinky little handbag. Really comfy gear for overnight travelling... Coming off the bus from Glasgow, Mum sighed with relief and said, 'Well that wasn't too bad. Let's go for the boat now.' She thought we had made it to Thurso. I had to break the news we were only around half way there. (Dad was too scared.) Cue floods of tears and sobs as we climbed on to another stone cold bus – still one rug each, no toilet.

At noon we arrived in Thurso after more 'rests' in all sorts of tiny places. (Golspie was a winner. We had tea and biscuits there.) From Thurso, a local bus took us to Scrabster (graphic of Scrabster harbour via Wikimedia Commons) where we boarded the St Ola. Forget roll on-roll off. Each car was lifted up on a winch and dropped into the hold. Dad could have done with a winch by this time – don't forget the huge suitcase going on and off all those buses. Later that year two elderly ladies demanded to stay in their beloved car as it went in the hold. Unfortunately they never made it. The car and they went over the side and were dredged up days later. Good thing we took the bus...

The Pentland Firth (graphic here is via Wikimedia Commons) is legendary. The Atlantic collides with the North Sea and even hardened sailors have been carted off the Ola on stretchers after a bad crossing. That was the first time I ever saw a seasick dog and it really was as sick as a dog. All four legs were splayed out and his eyes rolled in misery. Pretty much like Mum. So 21/2 hours later we arrived on the Mainland in Stromness, just in time to catch the bus for Kirkwall and an uncle’s house.

By 6 pm our journey was over – for that day. Granny lived in South Ronaldsay which we had sailed past just as we left Scotland. Bus number five took us over two Churchill Barriers and miles of open country. (There are no trees growing free in Orkney as the wind kills them off at 3 feet.) We fell off the bus at Granny's doorstep, giddy with relief. But after 3 weeks of no running water, no electricity, no radio or tv and incessant rain, I was praying for the bus to arrive and take us back. But that's another story....

Kara McCormack

Fife Was another Country

Most if not all of my holidays involved crossing the Forth River Bridge to Fife...mostly to Dunfermline, where my family was from, and all of my relatives were...This was a great trip, crossing the bridge was like going over to another country....

I loved Limekilns, and Cairneyhill, two villages, which I remember so well....People had just a little bit of a different accent, which I liked....

I was always a little nervous about having a walk down the garden to go to the toilet when visiting Fife as thee wasd no inside dark....but turned out to be fun....At another relative, we had to go outside and downstairs to the toilet, spotless.....and at another we had to cross the little road to a huge barn like building to find the toilet.....But I loved Fife...I guess I just loved being away from the city and in the country.....I now live in a relatively small town, and love it....

Irene, British Columbia, Canada

A Fortnight in Carnoustie

Like many workers in Glasgow, my Dad, a draughtsman in the London Midland and Scottish Railway, took his annual two weeks away from work at the "Glasgow Fair". When I was a youngster in the 1940s that meant during the second and third week in July. A frequent destination was the Firth of Clyde (known as "Doon the Watter" to places like Largs (pictured at the top of this page) or Rothesay. Since my Dad got free rail travel for himself and his family due to being employed by the railway company, we could consider travelling a bit further - and as he played golf, the east coast resort of Carnoustie was a frequent choice, year after year. Of course, we didn't stay at a posh place like the Golf Hotel overlooking the course (pictured here) but at a guest house on the main street in the town.

Travel to Carnoustie initially involved getting a tram car (graphic here of a tram car is from the Transport Museum in Glasgow) to Buchanan Street railway station - carrying all our luggage in suitcases (long before anyone had thought of adding wheels to luggage). Since so many people were travelling at the same time to various destinations, the trains were often extremely busy - I recall at least one occasion when we ended up in the guard's van sitting on top of mail bags all the way! There is a nostalgia for steam trains but I can assure you that getting specks of coal dust in your eye if you stick your head out of the window was not something to be nostalgic about! On the other hand, I recall that long after the tradition had largely died out, at the end of the journey my parents would go to shake hands with the engine driver and thank him for a safe journey. I suspect that was because my Granddad Scott was a fireman in the 1890s when the LMS trains going up the west side of England and Scotland left London at the same time as the LNER trains going up the east side raced to arrive first in Perth to win the contract to carry the Royal Mail! Later in his railway career my Granddad had the honour of driving the royal train in Scotland (according to his obituary in the Perthshire Advertiser newspaper).
But I digress...

The train took us from Glasgow to Dundee but we had to then transfer to a local train from Dundee to Carnoustie which left from a different station! So we had to struggle with our luggage from one to the other. I don't recall taxis being mentioned - even if such luxuries existed in Dundee at that time! It was another trek from Carnoustie station to our lodgings, thankfully in the centre of the town and not too far from the station.

Carnoustie was (and is) a small town with not much in the way of entertainment apart from the golf course and the beach. When we were there it had just one cinema (currently they don't even have one). I can recall standing in a queue one evening in the pouring rain waiting to get into the evening performance. When the weather was good, the beach was always worth a visit but the North Sea, even in summer, is always a bit chilly for more than just paddling! I don't know where it came from, but my swimming costume did provide some warmth out of the water as it had straps and covered my chest (maybe it was a hand-me-down from my big sister?) It's biggest problem, however, was that it had been knitted from wool - and when I did go into the water the wool sagged a lot!!

The sand dunes above the beach were a great place for a small boy to play and I would have my lead soldiers battling it out like the Desert Rats in North Africa. Unfortunately, on one afternoon I forgot to collect them before we left. I went back the next day but one sand dune looks very much like another and I failed to locate them. Maybe in a few hundred years from now somebody will find them again. They won't get the same reaction as the Viking chessmen found in Lewis, but somebody may wonder how they got there!

Scottie, Glasgow

Lest We Forget

Although not Scottish by birth, I've loved Scotland all of my 79 years. On one visit, I went to Glencoe and decided to pack a lunch etc. and go hill walking in the beautiful area. There was one small house and not wanting to trespass, I stopped and asked a elderly man if I could have his permission to do my walk over his property. He told me I was the first person ever to do so. I promised not to leave anything behind and lighting my pipe, headed out.

A few hours later I again stopped at the house to thank the gentleman. When I told him I was from Canada, he said he had only good memories of many Canadians he had met during World War II. I told him my Dad had served in both World Wars, my sister and three brothers were Veterans and I was a former Canadian Soldier, and I was presently a serving member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

I was invited into his home for a drink, but not being a drinker of whisky, I had a few cups of tea. As I was leaving, he asked what kind of tobacco I was smoking? I handed my package telling him to help himself. I usually carry a few packages in my backpack, so I took three out and gave them to him along with some roll-your-own tobacco papers.

I received a manly hand shake, a hug and an invite to return any time. Unfortunately when I returned a few years later, my friend was not there, he had died a year after my visit. I had lost a good friend who left me with great memories.

Lest We Forget.

Bob Little, New Brunswick, Canada.

Vacation in Onich, 1954

We lived in a council house in Townhead just a bit from Coatbridge and the gas works.It was great place to get away from...

In the summer Mom,Dad and us four wains would pile in Dad’s old Alvis car for the (what we thought was a long haul) up to Onich (on the east shore of Loch Linnhe, Lochaber, in the west coast of Scotland). The graphic here is of a 1938 Alvis, © Lars Göran Lindgren, via Wikimedia Commons)

We always stopped at Angus the store just outside the village to stock up on groceries. I remember old Angus used to come out of the store to welcome us and always said he knew summer was here when we arrived. We stayed at a big house up the road a bit from the store [it was called the Marine Hotel then] which we rented from a lovely local couple, The Mclean’s.

In those days, the small farms [crofts] could not afford to keep their own bulls, but the village had one kept at a farm. (Graphic of a Highland bull is © J.Verhaegen Wikimedia Commons). However the farmer let it run at large so he then didna need to feed it. One summer, the bull, a great big white cow got loose, [again] and came thundering down the path to the beach at loch Linnhe where we were having a picnic.

My sister who was eight at the time was digging in the sand oblivious to the people yelling to her that the bull was right behind her. She must have heard it snort and turned around! Petrified, she let out a scream that could be heard in Fort William! 10.3 miles away. The bull turned and went flying back up the path... To this day we still tease my poor long suffering sister about a white bull being just around the corner.

We all emigrated to Canada in 1956 but still recall our “holidays” in Onich.

Peter Crichton.

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