Over the Sea to Skye: the Highlands!

Welcome back to the second post! I hope you enjoyed reading the first post about our Over the Sea to Skye trip last month. After our fabulous time in the lowlands, it was time to travel up to the Highlands! I will admit that quite a few of us were hoping to see Jaime Fraser wander down from the mountains, but alas, just lots of lovely sheep! 

Knockando Woolmill

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Our first stop on our trip through the Highlands was at the Knockando Woolmill. There was lots of deliberation on how to pronounce the name of this fabulous mill. The workers and locals said "Knock-CAN-du," yet the farther north we got, the pronunciation was split up like "knock-an-du." I think we'll stick with how the locals say it! 

We were fortunate enough to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of their older mill equipment, like their fabulous old spinners and looms! The older weaving equipment is still used to weave high-end tartans for the older Scottish clans that still run estates! 

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Knockando still gets wool from local farmers in the area that come in big bales to the woolmill. They are stored in this fabulous building! 

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But not everything is done the old-fashioned way, they do have high-tech looms which run automatically, and create stunning tartans in a matter of minutes. 

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It was so lovely getting to explore the mill grounds, as well as the gift shop! I may or may not have left with a BEAUTIFUL wool blanket to love for generations...

Cardhu Distillery

Our next stop was the Cardhu Distillery, where we met the kindest Highland Coos and got to see the whisky distillery process. Cardhu was originally founded by a woman in 1811, and while they still make some of their own branded scotch, most of what is distilled there goes into Johnnie Walker whisky. 

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Afterwards we drove to our hotel in Grantown-on-Spey and enjoyed a lovely trunk show with Julie from Black Isle Yarns. Her yarn is absolutely lush and I cannot wait to knit up something fantastic with the skein of naturally-dyed local wool I got from her! 

Over the Sea to Skye

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Finally, we went over the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Around every corner, there was another beautiful scene to be seen. I have never experienced such lovely views in my time travelling in the U.K. You also cannot begin to imagine how LOVELY and high the mountains are. I know it is called the Highlands, but we have nothing like it in Pennsylvania, so it was incredibly impressive. 

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We took a Dorset Button workshop with Tania of TJ Frog. It was such a fun class, complete with the best tea and scones from the Skye Baking Company.  I am already planning my next sweater, complete with Dorset buttons to commemorate the trip!

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Whilst we were in Skye, we also got to visit Island at the Edge croft. Yasmin is a shepherdess and handknitter who has groups come to her farm. She raises Hebredian and black Cheviot (Chee-viot, not Shev-iot) sheep. We learnt about knitting with long pins (double pointed needles that were at least 12" long), and also had a demonstration on spinning and preparing fibers. Mum fell in love with one of the rams on the farm, so it is probably a good thing you can't import livestock nowadays, otherwise we would have had a new addition! 

That evening we ate at SKYE Restaurant which was in a lovely old building on the tip of the Trotternish Peninsula, which held the most incredible views. Afterwards we briefly stopped to snap some photos of The Old Man of Storr. 

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While we were on Skye, we got to take a felting workshop with Ann Salter of Dragonfly Studios. We made the loveliest brooches with a really fun wet-felting method! Even though I had wet-felted in the past, I had never done a technique like this. It was a ton of fun, and made me really want to start wet-felting again. Not to mention that Ann and her daughter were fabulous instructors.

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We took a quick trip to Dunvegan Castle and Eilean Donan Castle, too. It was nice to be able to visit some historical sites and see how the castles have been maintained and updated over time. 

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Along with the castles, we went to the Highland Folk Museum where parts of Outlander had been filmed! We got a behind-the-scenes look at the textile archive at the Folk Museum. It was amazing to see all of the textiles laid out. With gloves on, we were allowed to handle and inspect all of these beautiful artifacts, although I was so busy looking at everything I forgot to snap photos! 

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Back to the Lowlands

While our time on Skye was nothing short of spectacular, it was time to head back over the sea, down through the Highlands and back to the Lowlands for our last days. We did have a quick overnight stop in Pitlochry before making our way down to St. Andrews for our final class with Karie Westermann. 

Our course was Knitting the Landscape - a perfect conclusion to a whirlwind trip! It was fantastic getting to listen to everyone recount memories of the trip as they had seen it. Then Karie would challenge each person to put that into knitting a swatch. But at the same time, being traditional was not the goal, it was about using textures, and color changes, and other techniques to evoke the feeling of the memory without just making a faire isle picture of that memory. It truly flexed our knitting brains, and was a fantastic way to end the trip. Not to mention, we had the class in a classroom at St. Andrew's which was beyond stunning! 


So I hope that you all have enjoyed the photos and little quips about our time in Scotland. Look out for our next trip abroad in 2020! We hope that you will join us!

Best,
Irina