After some discussion we decided we would like to go on a cycling holiday, cycling was not new to us - we cycled everywhere in the grim war years. It was our means of freedom. But this was different; we had Victorian parents, both born in the 1880s, so to get permission for such a venture would not be easy. It was to our great surprise and much relief that permission was given and with their blessing.
So we set off on a lovely late summers day, our baskets packed with essentials; heading over the Stockiemuir Road to Drymen. Living on the North side of the city we knew the road well, beyond Drymen lay the unknown.
We had not gone very far before we had a puncture . Having done our homework well it was soon repaired , albeit with the help from a passing cyclist! With some satisfaction we set off again. On going down a steep hill my front basket tipped over and the contents rolled down to the bottom of the road. My memory is of oranges and others but mainly a toilet roll which reached the very bottom of the hill. Recovery was long and embarrassing but we got on our way again ensuring that the basket was securely tied. Eventually we arrived at the youth hostel at Rowerdennan - a very new experience for us - used to some degree of comfort and orderliness in our surroundings this was strange indeed. It took us some tome t take it all in and to adjust to a different way of living. People were very kind and we learned a lot from it. It was basic but it worked.
The following day we set of for Crianlarich - an uneventful day however with a growing degree of confidence in hostel living.
Day 3 was cold, wet and miserable. Which has since left me with a permanent memory of gloomy Glencoe. Added to that the Hostel was full so courage in both hands we approached the door of the Glencoe Hotel. The doors opened, they took one look at us soaked and very bedraggled and sad they had no vacancies!
We had no option so we cycled to Ballahulish and stopped at the first B&B we come to. There we spent a blissful night with all home comforts. In the morning, all our clothes had been dried and we sat down to the best full Scottish breakfast you could imagine.
Next day the sun shone again and we cycled to Fort Augustus. It was a beautiful placed. The hostel was a lovely old wooden building, we had it all to ourselves. It was so good we stayed for 2, or was it 3 days. There was plenty to see, some beautiful old buildings and of course the Caledonian Canal with Telford's masterpiece - the locks. We got friendly with the lock master and he gave us the opportunity of helping him open and shut the gates - what excitement!
Next day we were to reach our goal - Inverness. Being Doonhamers [ a person from Dumfries] or more currently Gallovidians [a person from Galloway] the far north was totally unknown to us and we eagerly approached the great City. Going in we could feel a strange aura about the place - we had forgotten it was the Sabbath. It was dead - not a person to be seen. Not a shop open - we felt guilty and out of place. For the first and only we cheated and took the train to Kingussie. There we got a nice surprise. Our mother knowing we had little money had posted us a piece of salmon, cooked and wrapped in large green leaves; we dined in style for two further days.
My memory for the rest of the journey is poor. I can only think nothing unusual happened. We must have stayed in two more hostels. By that time we were used to hostel life so it did not impress us any more.
We arrived home tired but happy. No one was in, so we sat on the hard back door steps and counted our money. We had a penny left between us.
Years later I returned to the hostel at Rowardenan. It was late August 1997. I was part of a group walking the West Highland Way for Alzheimer’s Scotland.
I was amazed at the change in the Hostel. It was spotlessly clean and shinning with all modern conveniences and comforts. I could have stayed there perfectly well but verging on 70 I had chosen to book into B&B’s for the next five days. I was in the Hotel in Rowardenan with the leaders of the group.
Anxious not to be late I got up early the following morning. It must have been about 06:00 am I turned the television on. I learned that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash in Paris. When I went down for breakfast I told the others the news. At first they did not believe me.
At this time of advancing modern technology and the present restrictions on our movement it is good to look back on the simple pleasures and the freedoms of the past.