by Chris Brooks, Heritage Action.
Many of us harbour a dream of visiting far away places on a ‘trip of a lifetime’, whether that be to the other side of the country, or to the other side of the world. One Heritage Action member recently did exactly that, and fulfilled his dream. This is his account of his journey to the far reaches of… Scotland!
I had always wanted to satisfy my longing to see the ancient prehistoric sites of Orkney having viewed many of the beautiful images on TV programmes and in my ever extending collection of books. It had always seemed such a mystical place to me, sparsely populated and with the added bonus of getting some really good atmospheric pictures into the bargain too.
The journey to visit the islands of northern Scotland from the south of England is not to be taken lightly and deciding the method(s) of travel is certainly not an easy one to make. Shortening the time it takes to get there (i.e. by plane) is offset by the increasingly proportional costs of the method of transport used… often to the point where it can be prohibitive for non-wealthy types (me).
But with the ever increasing possibility of redundancy and my son’s ‘kick-up the backside’ statement of, “If you don’t do it now you will never go” I set myself on the road for my latest venture. Whilst mulling over the best travel and accommodation options it occurred to me that if this was going to be a one shot occasion, (which it probably would be) why not try to get over to the isle of Lewis also. After all everybody has told me I need to go and see the mighty Callanish at least once in my life. As mentioned before, the various options of getting there all have their good and not so good points but after even much deliberation, I finally had a plan. This plan involved almost all forms of public transport, but would allow me the freedom I required to visit both Orkney and Lewis… but obviously with some compromises.
I would catch a train to Bristol from sunny Wiltshire, catch the Bristol Flyer (bus) to the airport, fly a certain cheap airline to Inverness and hire a car there for the duration. I would then drive to Orkney via the Pentland ferry at Gills Bay and stay in a holiday cottage for the week I was there. I would then return to the Scottish mainland and drive to Lewis via the CalMac ferry from Ullapool. I would stay on Lewis for a few nights in a B&B to see Callanish and and other sites and would then return to Inverness to catch my plane back to Bristol and then onward to home.
Doing it this way would avoid having to drive almost 700 miles to Gills Bay which would likely take a minimum of 12 hours, and also likely need overnight stays en-route. But by using this method my main compromise would be in what I would be able to carry on the plane to Inverness. As a keen photographer I have a range of equipment but there is no way I would be able to take much of the heavy stuff such as my uni-loc tripods. However, I would still have the opportunity to visit a some good prehistoric sites after arriving at Inverness airport just over an hour after leaving Bristol.
The cost of buses, planes, trains, automobiles and the ferries as well as accommodation and fuel… you don’t want to know… OK you do… all in and including most things it would turn out to be about £1400 for the trip for just me (the price of a good holiday in guaranteed sunshine). Now obviously if there are more of you or you live within reasonable driving distances of northern Scotland then the proportional cost per person would be very much less as you could save on such things as flights and car hire as well apportioning costs of fuel (12p/litre more expensive on the islands) and ferry costs.
The following blogs are a short summary of my trip which I hope you will enjoy…