Travel with Joyce James to Scotland
July 1 to July 18, 2011.
Highlights of the 2011 Scottish Skeins & Skerries Tour:
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- Always a popular, unique itinerary. The fourteenth time the tour has taken place since 1995, with visits planned to match your interests.
- This tour has garnered many repeat participants.
- Accommodation in Aberdeen, Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides (Lewis & Harris), Glasgow, in comfortable hotels with ensuite facilities.
- British Heritage Pass for duration of trip.
- Small group, limited size.
- Workshops with members of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers.
- Private visits with talented craftspeople: knitters, weavers, spinners, a basket maker, jewellery and textile designers, mills.
- Opportunities to explore your interests: music, bird watching, nature walks; museums and galleries; archaeological sites; gardens, crafts & culture.
- Relaxed time for knitting.
- Much, much more!
Price: $6585.00 CAD/USD
Download a Registration Form in PDF Format.
Scottish Skeins & Skerries Itinerary - July 2011
Friday, July 1st
The tour starts with our arrival in Aberdeen, known as the ‘Granite City’.
After checking into your room, there will be time to rest or take a stroll prior to our informal reception at 7:00 p.m., before our evening dinner at the hotel. This will be an opportunity to chat with your fellow tour members and hear about our plans for this unique trip.
Saturday, July 2nd
This will be our day for touring in the Highlands and Speyside. We’ll visit two castles and a distillery, all the while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Sunday, July 3rd
A relaxed start to the day in Aberdeen before we board our NorthLink Ferry at 2:00 p.m. for the overnight voyage to Shetland, known as the ‘crossroads of the northern seas”. The ferry is relatively new and has comfortable cabins, plus many public seating areas for relaxed knitting.
Monday, July 4th
Although the ferry docks in Lerwick (capital of Shetland) at 7:30 a.m., we can stay on board until 9:30 a.m. Lerwick is on the ‘mainland’ — which Shetlanders call the largest island, and is closer to Bergen, Norway than to Edinburgh. Located between mainland Scotland and Scandinavia, these islands share the characteristics of both countries. Friendly, talented people, archaeological sites and stunning scenery all make this area a special place.
A coach will meet us to go the short distance to our hotel, the Kveldsro. After checking into your room, your tour escort will take you on a short walking tour through the centre of Lerwick, which is little changed from historical photos. There are many interesting small shops and a well-stocked bookstore, with a number of knitting books. Jamieson’s Yarns has a retail outlet on the main street, and we’ll also stop by a small shop called the Spider’s Web, a local cooperative that sells both hand and machine knit garments, and takes orders for custom-made sweaters. It is pleasant to sit on a bench and watch the many ships, fishing vessels and small boats that dock in the harbour.
After lunch in town, we’ll go to Jamieson & Smith (also known as the Shetland Wool Brokers) to meet fleece expert, Oliver Henry. Oliver will give us an introduction to the fleece of the Shetland sheep breeds and the handling of the wool from fleece to yarn. The friendly, knowledgeable staff will be ready to help you select yarn, and give you suggestions to start knitting the traditional Fair Isle and Shetland lace patterns, as well as more contemporary designs.
Tuesday, July 5th
Your morning is free.
Our first stop this afternoon is the workshop of Shetland Jewellery, a small studio that produces silver and gold jewellery, based on traditional Nordic and wildlife designs.
The event this afternoon is always a highlight of previous tours -- we meet and visit the talented members of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Knitters. This is a special time, when Shetlanders and North Americans chat, ask questions and come away with many warm memories and friendships.
Wednesday, July 6th
Today is a full-day tour to Unst and Yell, the mostly northerly islands in Britain. We’ll travel north from Lerwick and take small ferries to the islands. Arrangements are being made for special stops on each island. Their histories are extremely interesting and go back hundreds of years.
Please note: As an option today and Friday, July 8th, Same-day return flights are available to the island of Fair Isle. Details to follow.
Thursday, July 7th
After breakfast at the hotel, two local knitting experts meet us from 9:00 to 12:00 noon, for instruction in Fair Isle knitting.
After our workshop, our coach will meet us to go to Scalloway, the first capital of Shetland. We’ll have lunch at Da Haaf, the restaurant at the Fisheries College of the North Atlantic, and then we’ll walk to the nearby Scalloway Museum with its memorabilia from the ‘Shetland Bus’ days. (The book by David Howarth, titled The Shetland Bus is well worth reading and describes the heroism of men and Resistance members who sailed between Norway and Shetland during World War II.) There will be local hand knitting for sale at the museum.
Before we return to Lerwick, we’ll have a memorable afternoon visiting the workshops of talented craftspeople:
- The studio of Wilma Malcolmson, justifiably acknowledged as one of the best sources of machine and hand-knitted garments on Shetland. Wilma was commissioned to design and knit the sweaters worn by staff at the Shetland Museum, and she’ll explain the significance of the colours she chose.
- The home of Mary and Jimmy Work. Mary is a talented knitter and hopefully will have some scarves and gloves on hand for us to purchase. Jimmy’s handmade baskets are in high demand and he has promised to have a supply of baskets ready.
- The studio of Doreen Brown with her selection of beautiful hand and machine
Friday, July 8thAfter breakfast at the hotel, we’ll meet two more Shetland experts who will guide us in the intricacies of Shetland lace.
This is a free afternoon, but no doubt you’ll want to visit the Shetland Museum and Archives, opened in 2007 and has already received five-star status from Visit Scotland. Curator, Dr. Carol Christiansen, will talk to us about the knitted Shetland items in the Museum’s collection and the importance of their conservation and history.
Saturday, July 9th
Today we’ll visit the Bod of Gremista, which is the temporary home of the Shetland Textile Working Museum. This 18th century fishing bod (Shetlander for a cabin) was the birthplace of Arthur Anderson, co-founder of the P. & O. Shipping Line. Members of the Shetland Guild will be on hand to show you some of their collection of knitted treasures.
Another suggestion is to take a ‘Seals and Seabirds’ cruise to the island of Noss, a national nature reserve. The cruise is accompanied by an ornithologist.
Sunday, July 10th
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll leave for the airport at Sumburgh, on the southern tip of the mainland. Our short flight to Orkney is on Loganair, Scotland’s national airline, and the flight path takes us over the tiny island of Fair Isle. Hopefully the weather conditions will be clear and you’ll be able to see how small it is.
Before arrival at the airport, we’ll stop at Old Scatness Broch (probably a defensive fortification) and an Iron Age village. Archaeologists are currently excavating the site and you will have the opportunity to ask questions and have a look at the Roman glass and Pictish painted pebbles that have been discovered. Jarlshof, a former prehistoric and Nordic site is also nearby, and its settlement dates back over 4200 years.
On arrival at the airport in Kirkwall, we’ll be met by our coach for the short drive to our hotel. After checking into your room, there will be time to explore Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney. The most stunning sight is the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral, founded in 1137 and reputed to be one of the finest medieval cathedrals in Scotland.
Monday, July 11th
Your morning is free and the shops will be open. Don’t miss the extensive collections of the Orkney Library and Archive, the oldest public library in Scotland, founded in 1683. It is now in a new purpose-built building and is a good place to go to check your email. If you’re shopping, you will probably want to buy some of the distinctive North Ronaldsay yarn or some beautifully designed local jewellery.
This is our afternoon to explore mainland Orkney. We’ll visit the archaeological sites of Skara Brae, a Stone Age village dating from 3,000 B.C. and Maeshow, reputed to be the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe and built before 2700 B.C. Skara Brae was discovered in 1850 after a violent storm blew away the sand that had covered it for 4000 years. It is a remarkable monument with eight dwellings showing original stone furniture, fireplaces and beds.
We’ll also take an excursion to the islands south of the mainland, Burray and South Ronaldsay. These islands are now linked by the Churchill Barriers, and our driver will explain the historical importance of this area, as we view the harbour at Scapa Flow and visit the Italian Chapel. We’ll also go to the tiny village of St. Margaret’s Hope (known by Orcadians as ‘the Hope’) where an interesting craft store, The Workshop, is located.
Tuesday, July 12th
There are two options for today, plus the flight to North Ronaldsay (see Monday, July 11th):
- For those who are staying on the mainland, we’ll visit more sites on Orkney. Stromness is the second largest town on Orkney and former port of call for Hudson Bay Company ships during the 18th and 19th centuries. The ships docked here to hire factors for their northern outposts and to take on fresh water at Login’s Well. This was their last port before the long journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Stromness has a very interesting small museum and several art galleries. We’ll be able to visit the recently reopened Pier Arts Centre. The gallery collection traces the history of British modern art and displays works by noted artists, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson.
- Kirbister Museum to see how Orcadian ancestors lived, with Orkney’s last peat-fired central hearth and Victorian gardens, and Corrigall Farm Museum, with its traditional ‘but and ben’ design. Both these sites have been preserved to show how life used to be on Orkney.
- As long as air seats are available, you can visit the outlying island of
North Ronaldsay. You will have a memorable visit to see the primitive breed of
sheep of the same name. The sheep live exclusively outside dykes on the seashore
and feed on kelp. The soft yarn from their fleece is in high demand and comes in
five natural colours — from a dark brown to a light tan/grey. A visit has been
organized to see the mill called ‘Yarn from North Ronaldsay’, which processes
the yarn and you’ll have the opportunity to speak with manager Jane Donnelly.
After dinner at the hotel, if your tastes run to single malt scotch, be sure to try one of the hotel’s selections from nearby Highland Park, the most northerly distillery in the U.K.
Wednesday, July 13th
After breakfast this morning, our coach will be waiting to take us back to Kirkwall’s modern airport and our trip to the islands of Lewis and Harris.
Ceud Mille Fáilte - A Hundred Thousand Welcomes to the Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles. The Caberfeidh is our hotel for the next four nights.
Joan Morrison, our popular Blue Badge guide from previous tours, will accompany us and enrich our travels by providing interesting commentary on the Hebrides and their strong Gaelic traditions.
We are fortunate that the Hebridean Celtic Festival coincides with our stay. Their website, http://www.hebceltfest.com/, gives you an idea of the many performances and activities taking place. Our hotel is within easy walking distance of the main venue, on the grounds of Lews Castle.
Thursday, July 14th
This is our day to explore Lewis:
- Calanais Standing Stones, a Neolithic prehistoric site of lunar significance, older than Stonehenge and the most visited site in the Western Isles.
- Borgh Pottery (pronounced Borve) and its selection of quality items made by local craftspeople.
- Morven Gallery, which features paintings by local artists and sometimes has a selection of Alice Starmore’s sweaters and designs.
- The Butt of Lewis is the most northerly point in the Hebrides and is a wonderful place for stunning photos.
- Gearrannan Village, set on a beautiful coastal location, with a restored
collection of traditional thatched blackhouses.
Friday, July 15th
After breakfast, we’ll leave for our day on the Isle of Harris, not a separate island but connected by a narrow peninsula with Lewis.
Our visits today on Harris:
- Traditional Harris tweed weaver, Katy Campbell, works from a weaving shed next to her house, using a foot-operated loom. Her tweeds carry the ‘Sign of the Orb’ trademark, proof of the true Harris tweed and a certificate of quality. British law stipulated the trademark could only be applied to:
spun, dyed and finished in the Outer Hebrides and handwoven
by the islanders at their own homes in the Islands of Lewis,
Harris, Uist, Barra and their several purtenances and all
known as the Outer Hebrides."
- Katy will give us a demonstration and you will be able to purchase lengths of her woven goods and yarn.
- Chris and Bill Lawson founders of the visitor centre called Seallam! This is
home to the exhibition Co Leis Thus? Gaelic for ‘Who do you belong to?’, a
common phrase in the Hebrides. The Lawsons are welcoming and informative hosts,
and have written books about the genealogy and history of the Hebrides. We’ll
have a light lunch at the centre while we listen to Bill and his exhaustive
knowledge of Scottish family history.
If your forebears have emigrated from this area of Scotland and you wish to
learn more about them, it would be a good idea to contact Bill before our
arrival. Then he can make a head start on the research required.
- St. Clement’s Church at Rodel. The building was first constructed in the early 1500’s and is a legacy of Clan MacLeod’s ownership of Harris.
- Weaving shed of another talented weaver, Donald John MacKay, designer of the
Isle of Skye tartan. Donald John’s studio overlooks beautiful Luskentyre Beach.
Saturday, July 16th
Your day is free to explore Stornoway—be sure to visit their museum that overlooks the harbour. In the late afternoon, we’ll visit the control room of the Coast Guard Station, responsible for marine rescues over a wide area of the surrounding North Atlantic Ocean.
Sunday, July 17th
Our last day on Lewis. Before we leave the hotel for the airport, there will be time to attend a church service or take a stroll in the town.
We’ll take our flight to Glasgow and check into our airport hotel.
Monday, July 18th
Our tour ends after breakfast at the hotel.
If you have time before your flight home, you can take a taxi to the nearby Paisley Museum & Art Gallery. The museum was opened in 1872 and is in a building that was the first municipal museum in Scotland. One of the initial donors was Peter Coats, of the thread firm J. & P. Coats. Their extensive collection of Paisley shawls is not to be missed.
Safe journey home!
Price: $6585.00 CAD/USD
Download a Registration Form in PDF Format.