I thought it would be exciting to visit as many British Islands as possible, without being silly of course. As a family we sat down and examined the map of Britain. Hmm, quite a daunting task as the islands are scattered and very numerous, and how does one get from one island to another? Having been to Scotland several time before I knew that P&O supply just about all the ferry ships in that part of the world. Not knowing where P&O were based – I assumed London. I wrote a nice little request for travel information and mailed it to P&O London England.
I figured the postman would know the exact address. Surprisingly some three weeks later I received a large manila envelope and in it were timetables, suggested routes and everything you would ever want to know about travel between the Scottish islands. Oh yes and the P&O headquarters is in Lerwick Shetland Islands, not London. We landed at Heathrow in London and took a hire car. Our first island was St Michael’s Mount – excellent, a beautiful castle on a rock just off the coast. Next we took a helicopter ride to St Mary’s Scilly Islands, and then a boat to Tresco Island. This is not a travel guide so suffice it to say it was interesting and exciting. You can look the places up in any good travel guide. The big plunge, so-to-speak, was when we arrived in Scotland. The Isle of Sky is not a place that can easily be seen in one day. There are castles, soddies, (Turf houses.) and beaches, cliffs and very interesting locals – both pubs and people. The next part of our trip was definitely the most dramatic. A ferry ship took us to the Orkney Islands, where we stayed several nights and visited many of the adjoining islands. History abounds there and goes back to the Stone Age. The idea of a story came to me, the islands and the island people would make a perfect backdrop. The power and ruggedness of the coast was quite intimidating. We found one area where ships had been deliberately sunk to block the channels between islands. Some of the ships you can actually walk on if the tide is out. The trip to the Shetland Islands was long and the sea quite rough. One of our party succumbed to seasickness. Personally I’ve never been travel sick on anything, and on one occasion I was at sea for 25 days. The Shetlands are fabulous and I highly recommend them. Oh yes, we actually visited P&O headquarters, which is right on the harbour front. We hired a fisherman to take us out to Mousa Island where I have never seen so many seals in my life before and been so dangerously close to them. That island also has a brock (Stone fort) which is in excellent condition and it predates Christ by a couple of thousand years. Having had such an exciting tour I couldn’t wait to write about it in some form or other. I created another adventure for Bill Reyner. In my story The Secret of Castle Duncan I called Mousa, Percies Island. In Edinburgh Cuckoos I changed the names of places and castles, not wishing to upset any real people.