Friday, 11 September 2009

day tripping

Never mind kittens for now. Back to lovely Mull. After our day of bird and beastie excitement, we went sightseeing.

First we visited Ardalanish Organic Weavers Mill, where the gloriously-named Aeneas Mackay showed us round the salvaged looms and talked with passion about the mill, the natural dyes extracted from lichen, bracken, madder, weld and other plants, and about the Hebridean sheep whose fleece was used to produce beautiful organic and/or ethical tweeds.

Too much information to impart here, but he left us stunned by the vision and enterprise that had transformed an ordinary farm into an extraordinary venture. We asked him to tell us about the whole process. He began: "First get a sheep...."

And of course, someone had to buy a length of tweed woven from the handsome Hebridean sheep. Just to support the enterprise, you understand. I have no idea what I'll do with it, but it just called to me, "Baaaa-uy me!" And my friend Annie tells me that impulse-bought tweed stores nicely for decades....

After a fleeting and scary visit to an incredibly grumpy social-skills-free silversmith (maybe just having a bad day, but otherwise striking us as quite mysterious that the public should be signposted in to the workshop; we left feeling that we were deeply unwelcome), on to the little ferry across to Iona. A party of elderly but very jolly Germans were being ordered into tidy lines by their guide, who was sporting a black kilt. (Maybe if it's not tartan, it's really only a man-skirt? One of you Scots might tell us.)

I risk sounding even more crass than usual at this point, but the Iona Heritage Centre's tearooms had the best home made cakes that we have encountered in a long time.

Iona was interesting, with its ruined nunnery, tiny serene chapel of St Oran, and the imposing Abbey. I can tell I'm middle-aged; my first thought was how cold and wind-blasted those early Christian monks and nuns must have been in winter.

The simple grave marker for the much-mourned John Smith was clearly a place of pilgrimage for Scottish visitors. There was also a shop full of the inevitable tourist tat with a religious slant.

And then back onto the ferry and home to our comfy B & B for a quiet hour before our usual stroll down to the Argyll Arms for dinner. The weather was beginning to change; a rainy, windy weekend was forecast, but tomorrow we would be on our way home. Via another castle.


Linda said...

Wonderful outings! Iona would be on my list too if I ever went that far north.

Anonymous said...

How attractive it all looks from here on a sunny autumn day in the West Country, (but I too have had time up there and appreciated the wild, wonderful rugged openness of it all.) As a footnote, your purchase of the tweed reminded me: did I not find your blog long ago, when I googled on the subject of sewing, (my second passion, cats first)? I vaguely remember a new sewing machine? Is it hiding somewhere? OllieV

rachel said...

Oh dear....yes, I'm still scared of my sewing machine. I could do with a nice, experienced, gentle tutor, who will by some miracle turn me into a woman who can make pretty quilts, useful aprons, delightful cushions, maybe even some delicate hand-embroidered pillowcases.

Cats aren't half so complicated.

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