STAYCATIONS look like the only option for many of us this year. Russell Imrie, managing director of Queensferry Hotels, said last month that it may be like going back to the traditional 1970s family holiday. Here, we recall our holidays from back in the day – from a hotel that could have inspired Fawlty Towers to the joy of a CalMac ferry.

The joy of caravans, 1970s and 1980s

By Susan Swarbrick

Scarborough. Silloth. Nairn. Haggerston Castle. Seton Sands. Pease Bay. Blackpool. Some of the best holidays of my life. All in caravan parks.

Until I was in my teens, I didn’t realise that staying in a caravan wasn’t a prerequisite of going on holiday. It never clicked that hotels and self-catering cottages were even an option. I simply presumed everyone went on caravan holidays because that’s what we did.

Escaping to a static caravan for a week each June (it was always in June) felt wildly exotic and sophisticated. Each morning, after being roused from my slumber by the cooing of wood pigeons, I’d listen for the sound of rain.

If it was raining there would be a constant drumming on the metal roof; blissful silence meant sunshine, or, more typically, mist given we were often on the coast.

Pulling back the net curtain at the window, I’d wipe away the condensation with my pyjama sleeve and peer out into the gloom towards the grass and trees slick with early-morning dew. Then came the bubbling feeling of excitement, wondering what adventures the day might bring.

As a young child, I was horse daft. I have no idea how this seed was planted – no one else in my family has ever shown the slightest interest in anything equestrian-themed.

I'd pester my parents almost hourly to take me to the nearest stables, working myself into a frenzy whenever I heard the clip-clop of hooves. If I misbehaved, the mere threat of a pony-trekking ban was enough to see that swiftly nipped in the bud.

Many of my memories involve the beach. Running through the dunes at Nairn, feeling the prickly marram grass catch at my legs. Gawping wide-eyed at the huge, crashing waves in Pease Bay. Riding joyfully across the sands on a donkey at Blackpool (they weren’t actual horses, but close enough).

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If there wasn’t a beach, the caravan park swimming pool beckoned. Rarely were they heated. And if they were, never sufficiently to take the chill off. Still, many a happy afternoon was spent bobbing around in freezing outdoor pools with a rubber ring and arm bands on.

At Fleetwood, north of Blackpool, I even met the 1976 Olympic gold medallist David Wilkie who was giving a masterclass as part of a whistle-stop tour around the UK.

The evenings were when caravan parks came alive: disco dancing, bingo, talent shows – one year I won first prize in a best-dressed hat contest with a creation cobbled together from random bits and bobs, including a My Little Pony, plastic eggshells and seagull feathers.

As money was carefully budgeted, all meals – save for the occasional fish supper as a treat – were cooked on the small gas cooker in the caravan. Nothing fancy: beans on toast, eggs or sausages.

There was a simplicity to it all which I find myself craving lately. Several decades have passed since I last did a week in a caravan. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to give it another whirl.

The Wye Valley, 1975

By Barry Didcock

It’s a commonly held belief among fans of Monty Python that the idea for Fawlty Towers came to John Cleese in 1970 during a working holiday with the Python team at Torquay’s Gleneagles Hotel, then managed by an eccentric and snobbish character named Donald Sinclair. “He was bonkers,” Michael Palin wrote in his diaries.

Fair enough. But I have an alternate origin story for Basil Fawlty, one which places his inspiration in a hotel a few hundred miles to the north. I can’t remember the hotelier’s name or whether he had a wife called Sybil – and there was definitely no Spanish waiter – but in every other way, from his neatly combed parting to his polished brogues, he was Basil Fawlty to a tee. So did John Cleese every holiday in the Wye Valley and is that where he really found the inspiration for Basil? I have my suspicions.

The Wye Valley, if you don’t know, is a picturesque part of England covering parts of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire. The hotel we stayed in was large and roomy and set in its own grounds. I imagine it was once a vicarage or the home of some country squire.

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I made friends with a boy called Ben who spoke funny because he was from Slough or Woking or somewhere exotic like that, and we’d tear around the garden until we were shouted at and told to come in and eat. I remember the small dining room clearly and I particular the daily palaver that occurred when dinner was served by our Fawltyesque host. He must have fancied himself quite the gourmand, though, because one night we were served artichoke. I’d never seen one before, and I’m not absolutely convinced my parents had either. It was like eating rope dressed with hot butter.

What else do I remember? Ploughman’s lunches in quaint pubs with collections of key rings pinned above the bar for decoration. A humungous statue of Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce fame standing in the centre of Monmouth. Churches, cathedrals and weird half-timbered buildings in a black and white style I learned was called Tudor (why they’d named it after a brand of crisps I could never figure out).

Most exciting of all, I remember glimpsing Edgar Street, home of Hereford United, as we sped through the city in whatever clapped out car we were driving that summer. It was about the only bit of local history I was interested in, but did we stop to take a photograph and buy a leather bookmark? Did we heck.

So, a very 1970s holiday at the establishment of a very 1970s sitcom character. In one way it was atypical of the British staycation, however: I don’t remember it raining once.

Arran, early 1980s

By Garry Scott

"Drive around the corner, you’ll meet a house in the middle of the road." These were the unusual instructions an old worthy gave my dad after he asked for directions. We were in a hired Triumph Toledo, a rent-a-wreck in beige, and we were lost somewhere on Arran but it was a whole new world to me.

It was the first time I remember being on a ferry, the MV Clansman, and I was smitten by the excitement of boarding the Cal-Mac ferry, clambering up the clanging metal steps and finding a slot at the railing.

The big diesel engines throbbed as we left Ardrossan, and I looked down to see the waves far below, as gulls wheeled above. This was an adventure. A multi-sensory treat: the slap of the waves, the spray of the sea, the rumble of the engine. A hit of diesel and the tang of sea air. Ten years later, I’d take my first flight abroad but I can still remember more about that Clyde ferry than the flight to Greece.

I came from a village near Aberfoyle and back then, in the late 70s and early 80s, if you wanted to go swimming you went to a river or a loch, or very occasionally the noisy swimming pool 20 miles away in Stirling. What you didn’t do, apart from our annual caravan holiday, was go to the seaside. So the sea was big. Especially when you were on a boat heading out to a new land, a vast sky above and unknowable mountains in the distance.

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I dare say Europe’s huddled masses were more thrilled to land at Ellis Island but to my young mind docking at Brodick was an exciting moment. OK, the town was not as memorable as the journey to get there but there was always the ferry home to look forward to.

Despite the old man’s directions, I’m not sure we ever found what we were looking for that day but I found something else. A love of all the mini-adventures Scotland can provide. Some people say our country is small. But they are wrong. It’s their horizons that are small. Whether you are a climber, a walker, a golfer, cyclist or mountain biker, a canoeist, motorcyclist, angler, bird-watcher or campervanner there is a whole world to discover at home.

Berry picking, 1971

By Drew Allan

Some holiday, this. Thirteen years old, damn near breaking my back in scorching hot sunshine while my pals are off fishing in the Alyth Burn. It's not bloody fair. Why me?

The answer, I knew, was simple. It lay within the pages of my mum's Littlewoods catalogue. It was a racing bicycle, a Raleigh, blue frame with white mudguards, five gears. I wanted it. I had to have it. But I had to pay for it myself – £25, if memory serves me correct.

That was why the summer holidays of 1971 were spent in the berry fields around Alyth.

The first two weeks were the worst; they were the back-breaking days, when the strawberries had to be picked.

Strawberries, of course, grew on the ground (no raised beds, then; like wheels on suitcases, such simple ideas didn't seem to take off until much later). You could shuffle along on your bum to pick them, but it was much quicker to stoop. And since you were paid according to how much you picked, that was the method you stuck to. But by heavens, it was sore.

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By far the biggest crop on the farm where I earned my pennies, though, was raspberries. The serious pickers, the most industrious, the dependable crew, picked into buckets. The berries were squeezed down, made into pulp, ideal for jam and the like. The heavier the load, the more you earned.

We kids weren't trusted with the buckets. Too much scope for cheating, I guess. You could weigh your bucket down with stones, water, even fluids of a more biological nature. So we picked into plastic punnets, rasps that were destined for the shops.You picked in pairs, one to each side of the "dreel".

You collected your pallets and a pile of plastic punnets at the weighing station. You'd hang your jacket on the post at the foot of the dreel to show it had been claimed. With a length of string you tied the punnets round your waist, swinging them round to your back once you'd filled them. Every time you filled six, you placed them in the pallet; when your pallet was full you took it to the weighing station, where it would be checked, and you'd get your money.

You were busy, yet your days were filled with quiet, reflective moments. You had a partner at the side of the dreel, yet you rarely spoke. But I ended up quite enjoying the experience. And by the end of the summer, I had my bike.

A few days later, I crashed it, whirling down the Boat Brae in Blairgowrie. It was badly scratched, as were my face, arms and legs.

Ach, well. Some holiday, that.

Douglas, Isle of Man, 1973

By Teddy Jamieson

That summer everyone I knew seemed to be on the Isle of Man. Northern Ireland had gone to Douglas on holiday. Or our corner of Northern Ireland, at least; our next-door neighbour, my mum’s uncle’s brother, my uncle and aunt and my two cousins.

Actually, the latter wasn’t so much of a surprise since we’d all come on holiday together. Me, my two sisters, mum and dad, my Uncle John and Auntie Margaret, cousins John and Deborah.

July 1973. The Twelfth holiday, probably. I had just turned 10. We’d got on a prop plane at Aldergrove, the first plane I can remember ever being on. When we arrived in Douglas we decamped to a B&B in the back streets. Two B&Bs, in fact. There wasn’t room for all of us in the one we had booked, so every night, our two cousins, my sister Julie and I would all troop out and around the corner to stay in another building. No such thing as helicopter parenting back then.

We had two rooms near the top of the stairs. I could never remember how many floors up. One night I miscalculated and walked into a room full of sleeping people, none of whom I knew. Before closing the door, I could see them stir from sleep and rise like some nightmare I was probably going to have later on.

Apart from a day out to the Laxey Wheel and a trip to the theatre to see Dora Bryan, mostly we spent days in Douglas on the beach. When not building sandcastles, I bought Action Man outfits and comics and ate Manx ice cream and split my cousin’s head open playing golf, with my backswing. On the first tee. We still played a full round.

Most nights, though, we went to Summerland leisure centre. I have a vague memory of a dance floor and bar at ground level, but we kids made a beeline for the basement where the amusements were. My mum would give us 50p and off we’d go. I spent most of my time in the bouncy castle until I bounced down the side and sprained my neck.

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Summerland had been built in 1971. It dominated the Douglas seafront. Looking at pictures now, it seems even larger than I remember it, 3.5 acres in size, the “biggest indoor entertainment centre in the world,” with indoor heated pool, sauna, underground disco and transparent roof.

It was clad in Oroglas – a transparent acrylic sheeting. On August 2, just a couple of weeks after we’d gone home, a fire from a fly ciggie set the place alight, the Oroglas became molten and dripped onto the people trying to escape through safety doors that were locked.

The fire was terrible. Some 51 people died. Another 80 were injured. And yet all these years later it has surprisingly little purchase in the national memory.

In my head the fire and that summer are all wrapped together. How could they be otherwise?

Last year I went home for my Uncle John’s funeral. Standing outside the church waiting to carry the coffin my cousin John turned to me and said: “Do you remember splitting my head open on the Isle of Man?”