Friday, 29 April 2011

Will and Kate - Wedding day giveaway

Time to give you a temporary break from the Road to the Isles tales. 

I was in the Post Office purchasing some postage stamps recently and saw these for sale -

and decided to buy them for anyone who is interested in receiving a Will and Kate's Commemorative Royal Wedding keepsake.

If you would like the opportunity to own these commemorative stamps - issued by the Royal Mail - please leave a comment to that effect and I will select the lucky recipient.

If this isn't your thing, and if you haven't already seen it, why not check out T-Mobile's latest spoof advert - of the Royal Wedding - and see if you recognise any of the look-a-likes!  Made me laugh! 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Road to the Isles (5) - Sights of interest

We had hoped to go the Butt of Lewis but by this time the mist had fallen - so low that the "white clouds" were at road level and made for uneasy driving. That, combined with a precarious single track road, the decision was made - we'd gone far enough!

So we headed south. We hadn't gone far before the brakes were on and a u-turned was made as Suzanne had, thankfully, spotted a little unit belonging to "Rarebird", the makers of some beautiful Harris Tweed products, particularly bags. We popped into their new premises and had a long and interesting chat with the owners/makers of this lovely brand. Down to the finest detail they displayed quality. Although the tweed fabrics were beautiful I coveted the handmade ceramic buttons, which adorned many of their bags. Alas, they were not for sale! Though a tad disappointed about this, I also approved that they weren't for sale, as they added something to the bags - a statement - that shouted a Rarebird product! The couple have only been in business for 4 years and already they are supplying Japan with their products! How terrific is that? There they were, just ordinary people, who had made a life-changing decision to move to a remote island to try to make a business of what they do well - she the fabrics and he the ceramics. They are doing so well that they are now extending their premises into a unit next door! I just love a success story!

Continuing south we visited an example of the Blackhouse at 42 Arnol where crofting families lived cheek by jowl with their animals with only a wall to divide them. We did the tour and here is what we saw

The house was dark and smoke-filled as you can see and I nearly passed out when I ventured into the bedroom and saw this vision lying asleep in the bedroom!

The peat fire was the centre of family life and was never allowed to go out and that tradition continues at 42 Arnol to this day.

Believe it or not this Blackhouse was occupied until 1966!

When families moved out of a Blackhouse they moved into a Whitehouse (below)

but some couldn't hack it. The owner of this house simply walked away
and left it as it is today. The calendar on the wall by the fireplace is dated 1967.

We had hoped to visit the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, which is a fully restored Blackhouse village where you can rent high standard accommodation. At the bottom of the little street there is a beach, the Atlantic and nothing else between you and the USA!

Because this is a site of interest it is only fair to the occupants that access beyond 5.30 in the evening is not allowed. We arrived too late and the gates were closed so had to grab what pics we could - shame!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Road to the Isles (4) - Isle of Lewis

We took to the road again - our aim for the day was to head for Port Ness on the Isle of Lewis, the most northerly point in the Outer Hebrides. The weather forecast had been for white cloud - we'd cope with that.

Dramatic scenery unfolded as we drove

and sure enough, white cloud

covered the top of the hills.

White wooly creatures casually lazed

wherever the mood took them

and this little guy, was completely unphased by the hulking piece of metal that came trundling towards him -

so we drove around him!

Some more lovely scenery

By the time we arrived in Port Ness the mist had descended - but you get the picture!

Cute wee gallery close by

Ness Post Office - seriously cute wee post office that has graced many a postcard.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Road to the Isles (3) - Harris Tweed

We arrived at the lovely Harris Hotel wondering if we would be as lucky with our accommodation as we had been last time - and we weren't disappointed. Suzanne was allocated "my" room from last time - which was more than we could have hoped for - and "my" room this time was of an equally high standard. Good start!

This time we chose not to have dinner in the hotel, instead we opted for some delicious fish and chips in the Harris Inn (neighbour to the hotel) then hit the hay for a well-earned rest.

It was Suzanne's love of Harris Tweed fabric that first took us to the Outer Hebrides around 18 months ago (my first time - her umpteenth!). At that time the Harris Tweed Industry was in a precarious state and the availability of the fabric was in short supply. As Suzanne is the maker of some beautiful tweed products, this set off the alarm bells. So on a mission of mercy we headed north on a Harris Tweed hunt. By the time that trip was over Suzanne had acquired a hefty supply of the wooly stuff to keep her happy for quite some time. So this trip was more of a holiday than a hunt. However, how could she possibly be in Harris without purchasing just a wee bit more?

So after a hearty Scottish breakfast (which included the delicious Stornoway black pudding - yum!) the Harris Tweed & Knitewear Shop was our first port of call.

At the back of the warehouse lay Katie's loom. We visited Katie during our last trip and she gave us a demonstration of how she weaved her tweed - at home in the traditional way; by hand on the traditional loom - overlooking the inspirational and beautiful Scottish landscape. There were two looms in Katie's workshop, the second worked by her daughter Catherine who has taken the tradition forward to the next generation.

Unfortunately, Katie has since passed away. So her loom has been brought to the warehouse in Tarbert with, I believe, the intention of giving weaving demonstrations to visitors to the warehouse.

Crisis over? These days the warehouse certainly appears to be heaving with tweed

from the traditional

to the contemporary

Here is a selection of Suzanne's purchases.

Nice eh?!

As for Catherine's shop - business has certainly picked up in the last 18 months and it is now heaving with Harris Tweed products.

which, though great to see,

I hope as much attention is being paid

to quality

as it is to quantity!

Sometimes - less is more - don't you think?

Do you like Harris Tweed? Traditional or contemporary?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Road to the Isles (2)

We continued to travel north and I continued to click my camera. Many of my photographs were taken as we drove,

so to further enhance them,

some cropping was required.

One beautiful scene



Until we arrived at Eilean Donan Castle.

Alas no time to visit

but we did have time to stop for some pics.

Before long we had crossed the Skye Bridge and were on the Isle of Skye.

In the distance, and through the mist, as we drove I managed to catch a photograph of the Old Man of Storr.

After stopping in Portree for a tasty bite in Cafe Arriba
We finally arrived in Uig -

where we boarded the ferry and set sail for the Isle of Harris - the land of the Tweed!

The crossing was "bracing" to say the least but it was good to get the wind in the hair. Quite a contrast to the light fantastic that had kept us entertained during our last voyage.

In less than 2 hours we had arrived! Phew! Thanks Suz!