Wednesday, 24 February 2010

"Stunning" is in the eye of the beholder!

Last Sunday I was invited out for lunch and the choice of where we went was up to me. As it was such a beautiful day we were going to make the most of it - a nice drive, stop for some pics, have lunch, drive some more, take more pics - at a nice leisurely pace. For lunch I fancied a hearty bowl of soup, nice sandwich and some home baking. I had a vision in my head of where I wanted it from - a nice tearoom, somewhere nice - homely, warm, picturesque and in nice surroundings - you get the picture? ("Nice" being very important!)

I searched the web for some guidance in the Stirlingshire area and I found The Tea Room, on the Visit Scotland website, which was also recommended here. A lovely little tea room with "stunning" views of Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument - that'll do for me!

So off we went taking in some beautiful scenery

stopping to take some pics

and to feed some coos.

Having no idea where this place was we made enquiries at the Tourist Information Office in Stirling. We followed their directions as best we could and ended up in an industrial estate! Then an area full of car dealerships and eventually had to telephone the folk at The Tea Room for directions, which strangely, led us into a small housing estate and to the "stunning" views of the castle.

Oh, and did we forget to mention the "stunning" views of the castle are shared with views of the most grotesque cement factory or some such?!

Is it me or was I right to be rendered almost speechless!?

Feeling just a bit misled and let down - lunch was cancelled! We turned on our heels and left - disgusted! Instead we headed for the Wallace Monument, climbed all 246 steps to the top, took in the views of the Castle and beyond -

shared the space with a group of very excited and very loud Italian students,

the Ochil Hills

Oh, and "stunning" views of the cement works! (I think the houses to the left of it are part of the housing estate in which The Tearoom is located - very odd!)

A lovely day out nonetheless!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Harris road trip with FiELDy - 6

After a very interesting day we passed the tranquil and idyllic setting of Luskentyre Cemetry and finally made it to the gem that is Luskentyre Beach - and what a treat it was! White sand, clear aqua coloured water, stunning scenery, dry and sunny with evidence of no more than around six people - and a couple of dogs - such bliss! I had heard of this beach; I had seen photographs of it but to actually be there experiencing it was just the best feeling ever - Wow!

What do you think?

And so the sun went down on our last night on the beautiful Isle of Harris - what better way to end our stay - I feel very lucky!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Harris road trip with FiELDy - 5

After all our busy-ness the day before we had a slightly later start to Saturday - only slightly - we still managed breakfast!

As I try to recall the order of our activities for our last full day, I find it hard to believe how much we actually achieved in that one day!

As arranged we went back to pick up Suzanne's tweed from the Harris Tweed Shop - Oh! and maybe she had missed some the day before - so she added a few more metres to her stash! Quite a car boot-full of tweedy loveliness! How nice would it be to be able to actually see how the tweed is woven we thought. After enquiring in the shop it turned out that the mother of the owner, Katie Campbell, just happened to have some tweed on the loom, so we arranged to pop in to see her on our way to the famous Luskentyre Beach.
The sun was shining, the sky was blue.... I know, I know, you've heard it all before...!

Including our visit to see Katie at work we also visited:
Finsbay Gallery
The Mission House Gallery
Stopped for a look around St Clement's Church in Rodel
Had lunch at Anchorage on the pier at Leverburgh
Bought more tweed at An Clachan
Drove through the lunar landscape
and finally arrived at Luskentyre Beach, which I will post photographs of in my final blog about our Harris Road Trip.


Is this what inspires Katie? (view from her workshop)

Katie's Loom

Katie's daughter Catherine's Loom
How nice must it be to work with your mother, carrying on the family tradition; how nice for your mother to know that the family's proud tradition is being continued by the next generation.

Skeins of wool hung out to dry

Provider of said wool?
The Mission House Gallery

St Clements, Rodel
View from the Anchroage at Leverburgh

Friday, 5 February 2010

Harris road trip with FiELDy - 4

We arrived in Stornoway and set about finding the location of the Harris Tweed Authority. When we got there it looked as though it was closed for the weekend - but we were in luck - someone was behind the closed doors! As it turned out Suzanne had a very interesting and productive meeting with the Lorna, Director of the Harris Tweed Authority who, it turns out, is related to a family friend of mine (small world!) - so that added to the mix! Not being directly involved in the making or selling of anything Tweed,I found the discussion about the production and promotion of the Harris Tweed industry, plus future plans for further promotion of the brand, very interesting.

Satisfied that the main objective of being in Stornoway had been achieved Suzanne set about showing me some of the highlights of the Isle of Lewis.

We visited the Lewis Loom Centre - a place that's hard to describe. Is it a museum, a junk shop, a fabric shop? I'm not sure, but it is very old, very odd, a bit random and very chaotic. I have little doubt that the owner knows just exactly what everything is, and where it is, should you need to know more!

Had we more time to spend there I know it would have been very interesting but we still had ground to cover, places to see - we were inside, it was dry outside and the sun was still shining......!

I loved the simple handwritten notes and notices, some with scribbled corrections, and I particularly like this photograph with the handwritten note drawing your attention to Prince Andrew's signature pinned above it - alongside that of David Dimbleby - whose name isn't given quite the same prominence! (Click on photograph for a closer look)

We stopped awhile in An Lanntair, Stornoway's Arts Centre. Then we drove to Borve to visit the Borgh Pottery

Then, as an absolute bonus and unbeknown to me, Suzanne decided that we just might be able to make it to see the Standing Stones of Callanish as the sun was going down. I can't describe how incredible it felt to be in such a place at such a time. Conditions were absolutely perfect - dry, no wind and the setting sun. We had the place to ourselves, the only two there, so we were able to wander freely with our own thoughts amongst these monolithic structures - erected some 3,000 to 4,000 years ago! - close enough to be able to touch the stones if we wished; surrounded by absolute awe-inspiring beauty, in the stillness of the night and in complete and utter silence.

Rarely, if ever, have I experienced such a moment - ethereal, calming and completely breathtaking!

From there we headed back to Stornoway for some delicious food in Digby Chicks and then it was back on the road and back to Harris.

An unforgettable day!