After a long beautifully warm and productive summer, now the evenings are drawing in and the smallholding is edging towards hibernation mode I am to re-engage with my other, indoor, occupation. Getting ready for the winter season of sewing, starting off with my annual tweed buying trip and holiday to Scotland’s beautiful Outer Hebrides. There is something magical about arriving on a remote island, leaving the rest of the world behind, and this time it was even more special as -with my partner unable to join me as usual- I was accompanied by my two lovely sisters Olwynne and Bec. Our first ever sister-holiday
Neither of them had been to any Scottish islands and I was excited to be
taking them to one of the most intriguing and unique places I have visited. Arriving in the cover of darkness, both Ol and Bec were relieved I knew where we were going as the convoluted single-track roads can be disorienting in the dark. Drinishader, a few miles south of Tarbert (where we arrived on the ferry from Skye) is familiar to me now having stayed there several times. It is a small village on the rocky coast of South Harris, with a Hostel, excellent art gallery, Harris Tweed and Knitwear shop in the Old School and the Clò-Mòr Harris Tweed experience museum. It is a small community with much to offer visitors, as George’ and my multiple returns to this very beautiful little inlet attest.
We spent the first couple of days exploring Harris: The vast dunes of Losgaintir (Luskentyre), the quirky St Clements Church at Roghadal (Rodel), the diverse and mountainous North Harris and Hùisinis (Hushinish) with its windswept sandy beach that feels like it is nestled in a nook on the edge of the world. Harris’s landscape is extraordinary. The East side of South Harris is rocky and surreal, like being on another planet, while the sandy beaches and sweeping Machair* joining land and sea on the West coast is green and fertile with evidence of traditional crofting all around and a diverse habitat of interesting micro flora and fauna. Harris’ main port town Tairbaert (Tarbert), lies just above the isthmus that joins the north and south parts of the island. Off to the east of Tarbert you can take a land bridge to the small but thriving Island of Scalpay for amazing seafood and scenic coastal walks, and off out to the west of Tarbert the mountains of Harris await in their stark beauty, and beyond that the equally magical Island of Lewis (connected by land to Harris, they are not actually separate land masses).
The Outer Hebrides are truly an outdoor playground for lovers of nature and wildness. We take long ambling walks, armed with home-made fruit leathers and chocolate, and come back to our accommodation after full days of exploring to enjoy evenings of cooking and enjoy a Harris Gin and tonic or two before curling up in our beds ready for the next adventure… A few days in it was down to business, business of course being the very important job of tweed buying!
There are a number of outlets for buying tweed by the metre on both Harris and Lewis and we planned to visit all of them, taking in some of the history and culture of Lewis while we were there too. I was particularly excited to go tweed shopping with my wonderful sisters, both being creative souls I knew that they would enjoy it and it would be great to get some new perspectives on choosing (George likes tweed but has a very low tolerance for any kind of shopping!). Their brief was to gently nudge me in the direction of colour. I always veer into the earthy tones that reflect the landscape back to me and am generally shy of bolder colours so this would be a challenge! Turns out I do like colours! Ol and Bec did their job well and we came away with all sorts from deep reds and maroons, greens, blues, yellows and even a purple! The diversity and depth of colour found in Harris Tweed has always appealed to me, even the earthy browns I am so drawn to come alive with a huge spectrum of colours when you look closely, just like the landscape, teeming with colour and texture you just have to stop and inspect it.
Now that I am back home, it’s a chilly, frosty morning outside and I am furiously making preserves with the last of the smallholdings bounty before I can retreat to my den of creativity (also known as The Bat Cave) and start making. I have some great ideas for bags using my newly acquired accent colours and have decided this winter to start making waistcoats, cos who doesn’t want a funky Harris Tweed waistcoat to complement their Rosehip handbag… *Machair – the machair is a unique coastal habitat mainly found on the islands to the west of Scotland, grassy, sandy and fertile they are known for wildflowers and other wildlife.