In September 1969 I was seventeen, had just passed my driving test, and was staying with my friend, Alice, who was fifteen, when I had one of my “good ideas”, to go dormobiling in Scotland. Alice was very practical and she arranged that we would visit her aunt in Drummond Castle. I had a slight sense of misgiving about this whole adventure as Alice was just recovering from anorexia.
I realised we needed another driver and decided, as my mother’s friend’s son, Stephen, had just passed his driving test and we needed a man on the trip, I would ask him. I phoned him and he was happy to get the train from London to Glasgow where we would meet him. We left the island of Jura, took the ferry to the mainland and made our way to Glasgow where we picked up the dormobile. I remember driving to the railway station in Glasgow and being surprised at the amount of traffic there was, but being brought up in London and having learned to drive there, I saw this as normal.
We met Stephen as planned, then we decided to drive up beside Loch Lomond and on northwards to Loch Ness where we saw no monster. At one point we did get out of the dormobile and we saw some purple heather; through it we could see the water and the hills beyond: a wonderful moment, and we bemoaned the fact that we hadn’t a camera. I said that it didn’t matter as we had seen this and it would be in our heads for ever. This, as well as our driving through Glasgow, shows the confidence of youth!
Alice arranged for us to visit her Aunt Wiss in Drummond Castle, and then we went on to Alice’s cousin, Jane Willoughby, for the night. It happened that she had Lucien Freud and his twelve-year-old son, Alex, to supper; we had heard of Lucien Freud but had no idea why he was famous. I imagine that as Lucien Freud was a famous artist we were told not to ask him any questions. I sat next to his son who I asked if he was enjoying Scotland; he said that he was enjoying a holiday on his own with his father. He later told Alice he appreciated having his Dad to himself as he has a lot of siblings. Jane sent us to camp in an idyllic spot in a glen beside a river.
Alice remembers one evening we decided to “camp” in the dormobile in a very quiet lay-by somewhere half-way up a hill or mountain in the Highlands. We had a peaceful night but were woken the following morning by a shepherd tapping on the window of the dormobile. He charged us a pound for our night’s camping and we paid it.
We then continued to the north of Scotland, where Alice had the idea that she wished to be the northernmost person asleep in mainland Britain that night. We parked the dormobile at the correct angle to ensure this, and Alice slept on the top bunk.
We also visited “The Burn”, a house belonging to Pleasance Russell at Blairgowrie, Perthshire, where my father, with his six siblings, spent holidays as a child. My father’s friend had not received my letter so they were not expecting us; they were in the middle of a dinner party and they kindly found chairs for us around the table and gave the three of us supper.
Stephen didn’t seem to have any relatives who had lived in Scotland or to have had any Scottish experiences.
After a couple of weeks we drove back to Glasgow; Alice has reminded me that on our way back we drove onto a car ferry, certainly a new experience for me and Stephen; it went without a hitch. Then we drove on to Glasgow and dropped Stephen at the railway station and returned the dormobile to the hire-place.
I don’t remember any moments of worry for us; I was only seventeen after all!
(Henry, having heard about my dormobiling experience, has suggested I write more about my “good ideas”…)
Mary Smith 30th May 2016