I tried to google this, but I think I don't know enough about insects to search for the right kind! Can you tell me what this is? Pictures taken in the Hebrides, Scotland, July 2012.
It's a Burnet Moth.
This gives information on distribution.
There are six similar species of burnet moth in the UK. The widespread Cinnabar Caterpillar found on Ragwort, transforms into one type, so it's likely to have been around your area when you were younger. Although maybe you were just unlucky and never saw one.
I'm sure you'd remember such a vividly coloured Moth if you'd seen it