Sunday, 24 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19: 6 More knitting, more birds

Tues Sept 24 Day 9

It was an unseasonably warm night and at 6.00 the van was showing it was 12 C outside. I was hoping this mildness indicated little or no wind and I could photograph my Dunella Shawl. My aim was to try and complete my practice piece mini hap. 

We had a leisurely start and planned to arrive in Haroldswick for 11.00 when Victoria’s Tea Rooms opens this time of year. We were there  ready and waiting. There was another couple and I assumed (wrongly) they were early wool weekers like us. However, they knew nothing about Wool Week and had arranged their own holiday. They were determined to get to Unst and caught the early bus and ferries up and had been dropped in Haroldswick and it was 5 hours before the next bus back. Once we got into  the teashop I managed to find an Unst leaflet and indicate some things they could do in the area. I think they were going to stretch their coffee out a bit as a start. 

I was pleased to be able to get soya cappuccino and the view was just as good as we remembered. We decided we would book lunch for Friday when I would definitely be back in the village as I would be spinning with the spinning and knitting ladies  at their  ‘Have a go with a wheel and knitting belt’ afternoon. 

Then it was on to the Heritage Centre and this time my guess that the lady who came in was a wool weeker was correct, in fact it was Jane of iG ‘Ithought I knew how’ and we had previously been in touch so I knew she was visiting Yell and Unst during the week before Wool Week. It was good to chat in person and not surprisingly we saw each other a few times during the week. 

Besides the usual exquisite lace knitting in the Museum section , the local ladies had mounted a display of patterns they (mainly Hazel Laurenson) had devised. These were for sale with examples of the actual knitting. These include a ‘new’ (as in not seen by me) little mat involving the knitting techniques of a bigger piece and another traditional Unst shawl/ scarf, this one being called the Norwick Shawl. I decided I would buy these. Mental note to need to get on knitting these or your eyes will give up before you make the set! 

I also bought some super cards showing the fine lace to send special people who I knew would really appreciate them. 

We both voted for lunch at Norwick beach again. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would rather look at as I knitted after lunch and M was more than happy to use it as a base for birding after he had eaten. 

The knitting went well and all I was left with was grafting the middle border to wedge 1. The middle piece is worked from the inner edge of wedge 4 and wedge 2 and 3 are added as the centre is being knitted. This  just leaves  the

 inner edge of border 1 to be grafted to the stitches remaining from the centre border.  It has been a great learning piece and has helped to hone  my eye in as I look at other Shawls.  However as a way of completing a shawl I am not convinced it is for me, I had failed despite counting everything I thought  to get the joins of the wedges at the corners of the centre. Also there are too many opportunities  for loose stitches this way and I noticed the ‘square’ in the middle is rectangular. (More about this later). Perhaps blocking would  improve the look of it. At the moment this shawl does not suit my perfectionist streak. I am not happy with it, but I have posted it here as my comments may also help someone else Next time it needs to be much bigger but as I said before a great learning piece. 

The now completed mini hap 

We went home via Skiboul stores, the majority of the shop is a grocery store with chiller and freezer cabinets, veg and fruit and the bakery. So having chosen a quiche - to help with lunches, Danish pastries for afternoon tea and a trifle for ‘pudding’ with dinner - we were set up. (We don’t normally do pudding with dinner but feel we use more energy living in the van, compared to being at home - well that is the excuse. ) The bonus was we saw 2 red-breasted mergansers in the water in front of the shop. 

Dinner was great, Donald joined us so we could swap bird notes, although this was very one sided. Donald is a serious and knowledgeable birder who was staying at the hostel. 

Another great day with the promise of an even more interesting Wednesday. 

Needless to say it was not still enough at any time during the day to photograph the Dunella shawl. 

Monday, 18 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19:5 Checking up on Unst after a year’s absence

Monday 23 Sept: Day 8 

It was a grey morning but we were very snug due to the  van’s central heating.(1)

Today we planned to visit some of the shops in Unst. Given that the population in the 2011 Census was 632 there is a good range of shops. 

These are: 

Skiboul Stores (and bakery and small self service cafe and petrol station) 

Henderson’s - probably the largest and more varied of the three general shops, selling nearly anything we have ever wanted. 

(There is another great store and cafe - The Final Checkout - which is also a petrol station and where last year I bought sandpaper needed for my spinning wheel! ( Discussion of visiting this later along with the other ‘shops’ in Unst).

We would also visit the Heritage Centre which has a shop related to items in the Museum. 

I also had a plan to take a photo of my Dunella Shawl (post of 14April19) through  a window of an abandoned croft. However the shawl is very fine weighing just over 25g and today the wind, although light by Shetland comparisons, would be too much and blow the shawl horizontal. However I had a fallback plan for this photography too. 

The day started with a wonderful surprise, I was now the proud and very grateful owner of an Unst Shetland fleece. I was over the moon. I am going to knit a wool week 19 hat for the donor of this. However, from my previous ‘knitting a hat for another person’ I was definitely going to get the head measurement first. (Post of 29May19). M provided his hat, to be tried on, and I feel confident I can knit one now to fit. 

M’s INR was not stable when we left home so we needed to go to the Health Centre to arrange a blood test.(2) This involved registering as a temporary resident and making an appointment. He noted the ease of doing this and the fact that the waiting room was empty, unlike at home. 

Next it was on to Henderson’s, which is a great shop, and a real joy to spend time looking around. Besides the fan heater, for which we had a choice of two, we bought a couple of sharp knives, we seem to need 4 when we are away  and only had 2 with us,  and a lovely little bamboo and silicon spatula for getting the last bit of froth from the coffee machine froth maker. Then to Skiboul Stores where we got a homemade pie for lunch. 

Next we drove up to Haroldswick and could not go through the village without going into the Heritage Centre. I bought a great locally authored booklet on the History of Unst, looked at the patterns which were newly available so I could decide which I would buy. 

I was pleased to see Frances so we could chat about what had happened to us both during the year. I was very glad to hear that  the Heritage Centre had been very busy. It is hard work for the small band of volunteers that keep it going. They were trying to build up energy for the numbers that they knew would come up during wool week. 

Norwick beach, one of our favourites was designated lunch spot . 

Before we left home I looked in Sarah Don’s book, ‘The Art of Shetland Lace’ which I have had for an age. As I look at more lace I see more and more. I liked some of the ‘patterns’ as they would be called in Shetland, but I am more likely to call them motifs. I decide it would be a good discipline if I turned the text of of how she describes them into charts. I had brought plenty of graph paper with me for the job and this afternoon sitting with a cup of tea in the snug of the van seemed like a very good place to get started on it. I knew I was going to get my knitting fix later. I did not finish but had made a good start and could already see how much help this was being to me. 

Stage one of charting a tree and wave

M walked up the road away from the beach to Valyie, one of his favourite  birdwatching spots in Unst. 

After an early dinner I was in for a lovely treat. I had been invited to the knitting group that meets at the Youth Hostel on Monday evenings.  I took my sample lace shawl. I had knitted the lace edging and had picked up stitches and knitted one of the wedges which I worked out had to have loops on both ends of the wedge. I would attempt to knit and join on the second wedge during the evening. It was rather a silly thought as it needed full concentration and although there were brief periods of silence, there was knitting chat too. It was lovely to meet the ladies again and talk about their latest and current knitting. One lady was also a machine knitter but always hand knitted her Fair isle yokes. This is my feeling too, I can’t imagine wanting too, or actually knitting the yoke on the machine- who wants seams in a yoke? 

The Youth Hostel works on a tight budget, so does the Community Hall at Uyeasound and from the meeting I understood that voluntary organisations were able to bid for a grant and that the whole community were invited to a meeting the Thursday of Wool Week to vote for who was to get the money. I was happy to write a couple of lines about why I thought the Youth Hostel was a deserving case (3)

I did manage to do a couple of the wedges with the joining on but I wasn’t really liking the look of this method much in this yarn with this pattern but I would finish it. 

We live, at home, in an area where we have no street lights but as I sat there I realised I had to negotiate going across the lawn and finding the correct place to step down to reach the van afterwards. What a relief to see DH waiting for  for me with a torch when I tore myself away from the knitting. 

Another great day. 

  1. Our motorhome is a Wildax, one of it’s many brilliant features is that it is fully insulated to the highest standard. It also uses LPG which we use for cooking and can choose to use for heating and the fridge. This enables us to ‘wild camp’ something we have only done occasionally. I prefer to be on a recognised camp site, partially because I believe strongly in supporting the local communities we visit while enjoying their local scenery. 
  2. He takes warfarin daily as he has had 2 major heart operations and now has a mechanical mitral valve. 
  3. Back at home, this would be decided by the village or town council. Here each group was to have a table at the voting evening and my understanding was that a representative or two of each group was to be there to explain their case and answer any questions members of the community might have. Although, this is quite a burden on each voluntary group it did seem to be a way  of really involving the community in decisions. I am happy to say the Youth  Hostel were successful in being awarded the £500 they had asked for, this will now go towards reflooring one of the public rooms of the  hostel that is in poor condition. By having a successful hostel, there is somewhere for people to stay, at low cost, on the island which has to help bring in more money to the local economy. Uyeasound Hall was also was successful in its bid. 

Friday, 15 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19: 4 A rest day in Unst

Sun  Sept 22 Day 7 

We had come up to Unst for a week’s relaxation before wool week. We love the people, the landscape, the knitting and the birds, particularly at this time of year when there might just be some early migrants as well. Today was deemed a real rest day as we had been travelling and busy for 6 days. 

Another view from the van

We woke to a blustery and grey morning but the temperature outside was 10 and inside the van first thing it was 13, much warmer than it had been in Perth. 

We had a good start with birds, spotting a redshank, ringed plover and turnstone on the beach right by us. 

The hostel was very much as it was last year but with an important new addition. There is a new ‘cleaner/ essential job man’ (but that does not do justice to his impact), who is also a crofter  with lots of Shetland Sheep. The downside is that the fleece had gone off to Jamieson and Smith already. He is a delight to talk to and this is an extra treat for our time in Unst. 

M stayed chatting in the hostel and I walked down to the van to make a coffee using our new mini  Nespresso machine, it was delightful. I had turned the fan heater on and at the same times flames shot out from the wire at the back. Having removed the plug  and dealt with the flames I was quite shaky! We were going to buy a new fan heater anyway, hopefully tomorrow.

It was a day to do some laundry and we deemed it a ‘4 peg day’ , that is per item. As I left the linen line the washing was horizontal, as long as it doesn’t rain it would be dry in no time and by lunch time it was much brighter. 

I had planned a knitting afternoon. I wanted to have a look at Hazel and Elizabeth’s DVD (1) I was keen to remind myself what this showed about making a loop at the start of a row, that would then be knitted into later. I wanted to refine what I was doing and realised that the tension of this first stitch would be very important. 4 ways were shown, with 3 being suitable for lace and then ways for joining in lace were given. This was comprehensive and I decided I would join my 4 wedges using different joining methods selected from combinations of these. 

As I started the knitting the wedges in the hap, I realised I had already been inconsistent  as there was a different number of loops on each right edge of the  wedge. As I pulled out the wedge I realised this was as important as the openness of the loop. What a good job I rather like doing samples and trial knits. 

In this  diagram I am showing what I am attempting to do. It is an ‘outside in’ shawl which I am told is the traditional Shetland method. 

When I was knitting M walked up to the main road and back down past the lochs behind the sea. He amassed a list of seventeen birds, including snipe and red breasted merganser but nothing at all that was unusual for Shetland at that time. There will be more about birds in a later post. 

We had brought lamb with us to roast and decided to stick with this even though Uyeasound Hall had a Chinese Night. I had only had one Chinese meal since I had my severe food poisoning 13 years ago and I did not want to risk being ill for our week in Unst. Perhaps next time I will be up to a meal at the hall.

(1) 50 tips from Shetland  Knitters : Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston. 2 DVDs with over 3 hours of great advice. For many techniques more than one way is shown. These are based on many years of experience perfected by generations of Shetlanders. In my mind it is brilliant and is my go to guide. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19: 3 Lerwick to Unst

Sat 21 Sept : Day 6 

It was a very pleasant calm crossing. We are by nature early risers so going to breakfast for 6.30 was no hardship. We enjoyed eating breakfast, which included some lovely fresh autumnal fruits, as we looked out over the Shetland coastline. The lounge became busy and we invited two ladies to join us at our table. This became an opportunity to talk Shetland Knitting as one, on her way home to Tronda, was wearing a gorgeous all over Fair Isle cardigan which was knitted by a friend many years ago (although it looked as though it was newly knitted!). This is one of the nice things about Shetland, talking to anyone about knitting, and it was a great start to what would become a lovely day. 

As usual we popped down to Tesco to pick up some provisions to get us over the weekend in Unst. We used the opportunity to check emails- I carry a 4G mobile WiFi but not surprisingly even that struggles on the ferry! However, we could not find Michael’s ipad and realised we had to return to the ferry to see if in the fuss with my finger last night we had left it in the cabin somewhere. (1) 

The iPad was found and I gave a sigh of relief, knowing how much we have come to use these for so many varied tasks. 

We returned to the middle of Lerwick and parked on the quay, it was time for a real treat- a visit to the Shetland Bookshop where I had promised myself a copy of volume 2 of the Shetland Guild of Weavers, Spinners, Knitters and Dyers latest book of Fair Isle Knits. On a brief glance this one looked fascinating as the first section described  the setting up and history of the guild and a question and answer session with some of the members of the guild on knitting techniques with the second section containing a wide variety of Fair Isle patterns. Just as volume one it was well illustrated. Michael  bought Thin Air from the Shetland  series by Anne Cleeves, this will complete his set. I wondered how many days this would last him! 

We needed a coffee and made for the Dowry, which was busy but we did manage to move to a favourite window seat overlooking the quay. 

You will notice I have not mentioned the burnt finger. I had no pain when I woke up and decided I did not need to bother A and E as it must be a lot better. My plan was to visit Boots and hopefully buy a finger bandage or two ! This we did after coffee and then I would force myself to look at the damage I had done. It didn’t look infected, our make do dressing had worked, so I now just had to hope it would recover enough to enable me to knit and  spin in a day or so.

We had more shopping to do in Lerwick, a visit to Jamieson’s was needed. I really liked the Spindrift grey (granite) that I had knitted the yoked jumper in (post of 19Sept19). I thought if I ordered a cone I could pick it up and take it back with me, saving postage. Unfortunately this would normally be the case but Shetland Wool Week would be far from normal conditions. I understood this and ordered one nevertheless and as I was in the UK, if it was not ready in a fortnight and 3 days it would be posted on for no additional cost. I thought this was a generous offer. Whilst there I saw a book that had some nice contemporary designs and when you see a good book, imo, you need to get it ! Hence I became the proud owner of this. 

I had also seen another book in the Shetland Times bookshop and after consulting my library list (I have over 1000 textile related books), it was not in my library so I was back to the bookshop to get that. We also decided to purchase the excellent Shetland Geology book as this is something we are both interested in. I went in on my own and had an interesting conversation with the lady serving me who told me they had just had a man in the shop wearing a striking wool week hat - yes it turned out to be DH. I felt obliged to show her a photo of my more refined hat, so then we chatted about natural dyeing too.

So our final collection from the bookshop was this:

Needless to say M thought I had got lost and was getting anxious we would not have time to get lunch before the ferry to Yell. We popped into Harry’s and managed to get a new step for the van, but the fan heater would have to wait until we were in Unst. (2) 

We made it to the ferry and quickly made lunch enjoying the view over the beautifully blue sea. 

After some discussion we decided to leave looking at the exhibition at Burravoe until later and drive straight through Yell to Unst. 

The view from the ferry  to Unst was as good as ever, the weather was lovely although it was colder than further south and the sea was getting a bit wavy! 

We arrived at our stop for the week which looked just as beautiful as when we left it last year. 

We parked the van and were followed in by another van and to our surprise if was driven by Kate, who lives within striking distance of home. Needless to say we had not seen each other since SWW last year. We had much to catch up on and were pleased we were both in the same Advanced Lace Knitting class on the Monday during wool week. 

I settled down and experimented with joining by knitting on, working inwards a couple of wedges for the mini lace shawl I was going to re-do.

It had been a very happy day. 



  1. You can stay on  the ferry from Aberdeen having a leisurely breakfast until 9.30, or if you are the driver, take the vehicle off and return to the ferry for this. We made it with 10 minutes to spare. 
  2. The step collapsed at Hoddom and the fan heater needed replacing.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19:2 The journey to Shetland part two

18-20 Sept  Days 3-5 

The next part of the journey saw us travel to Perth. We like this part of the journey, the scenery was improving and the traffic was light compared to the journey north through England. There is an added bonus, Cairn  Lodge or Happendon Services as it is also called has been taken over and fully refurbished by The Westmorland Family that own Westmorland Services in Cumbria, going north on the M6. We decided on  coffee and croissant. This was the best croissant I have had for ages, officially it was an almond croissant but the top was coated with marmalade to keep the almonds on. Croissant first prize for the holiday so far. 

We also choose ‘wraps’ from the farm shop to eat later. Finding a stop for lunch was not easy. We wanted somewhere to have a bit of a rest, rather than a roadside service station. In the end we followed a picnic site sign (150 yards to this)  and turned into the village of Blackford. It was in fact a very wide street. After searching for the picnic site M went into the village shop and bought a few provisions and asked just where the picnic site was. Much head scratching and the suggestion that it must be the benches in the local park! We were able to park safely on the side of the road and really enjoyed the wraps. 

There used to be a book of places to stop away from a motorway or main road. I guess it dated quickly.   A new one would be useful as I am sure we are not the only people that like to leave the road to have a complete break but I guess it would suffer the same problem. Perhaps  there is a fb group that I don’t know about. (1) 

The next stop was Scone Palace where we would stay for two nights. The following day we decided we would take the train from Perth to Dundee , the V and A looking as if it was close to the station there. There was a one mile uphill walk from the campsite to the bus stop into Perth, the bus was every 2 hours. Therefore, we ordered a taxi and looked forward to a non drive day. 

It was very foggy when we woke up ! The journey had been warm and quite unseasonal for the end of September and the forecast was for hot sun in Dundee. Deciding what to wear and what to carry was challenging, so different from being out all day when we could have everything with us in the van. The taxi was early and got us to Perth station in plenty of time. 

Perth Station 

The train was new, quite busy and had free WiFi, the 20 minute or so journey  was very enjoyable. 

The V and A Building  was just as dramatic as the photos we had seen. 

One of my photos of the outside of the building, I liked the seats too! 

Wow, is the word that springs to mind. We ambled around it taking photos, and for me it was great to see the Discovery next door. (2)

First stop was the cafe, in the huge entrance area. The selection of gluten free cake was excellent, as was the cake ! All the plates, beakers etc were recyclable being made from plants and would be composted. (I cannot now find the name of the firm making these! ) (3) The assistant even asked if I needed the  gluten free cake to come sealed so it  would not get contaminated. Such awareness was brilliant and customer service here got a very good rating from me. 

Not surprisingly she shop was situated next to the cafe and was very enticing. The arty paper clips tried to entice me to buy them but at £14.00 for a small set I thought I ought to keep my money until I got to Shetland (see later, it was a very wise decision). We did support the shop by buying a wet day activity to use with the grandsons. The loos were great too. 

Inside the V and A Dundee 

We looked round the Scottish Exhibition, but I was completely underwhelmed. Examples of particular interest to me were:  

  • Paisley Shawls and  their similarities and differences from Norwich Shawls (4)
  • a Shetland lace shawl but  it was virtually impossible to see the detail of construction and I knew I would see finer in Shetland 
  • A fair isle jumper, that in my mind was simple and again there would be many finer examples in Shetland
  • The Macintosh Room, was very dark and just that- a room that was unfurnished. 

When we had lunch ( excellent restaurant, excellent view, excellent food)  I looked up reviews of this V and A. I have to say I agree with the review in the Guardian which to me says that the building is great, but the inside is a disappointment. Perhaps more will be added as it’s use develops I do hope so. 

Our lunch view 

I loved seeing  the building and the cleverness of the design, our coffee and lunch could not be faulted but surely it should be more than a nice place to dine. 

After this we popped into the Discovery Centre deciding we would leave going round the ship for another visit to Dundee. Before we got too exhausted,  on our day ‘off travelling’ we took the train back, phoned the taxi that came promptly and arrived back after a good day out. 

More tea and cake and by then too hot and sunny to sit out.  I uploaded the blog post about the fair isle jumper and have been stunned by the lovely response to it from hundreds of people. Early to bed and tomorrow an easy day before boarding the ferry. Fingers crossed the weather would stay good and give us a calm crossing. 

Friday morning meant ‘pack my rucksack for staying in the cabin overnight’ or rather what could I not do without! I abandoned taking a drop spindle and opted instead to take the micro lace shawl that I was trying to finish. We had an easy drive initially and then decided to go to Crathes where we would get a bite of lunch. The drive in to the estate is superb with a very photogenic lake on the right which always seems to have great reflections. I avoided taking another photo this year. We had a simple lunch and did last minute packing and putting away in preparation for the ferry.  It was a very hot sunny day and really too sunny for great photos. 

It was incident free getting  to the ferry other than traffic, after all it was Friday late afternoon. The sea looked very calm and the ferry did not look as if it would be very busy. We do treat ourselves to a good cabin which includes the lounge. When we got on board we decided to eat straight away. The restaurant and lounge however, were much  busier than we have seen them even in summer.

A view from our table for dinner 

We saw one lady knitting but she left the lounge while we were eating. It was abnormal- no one that I knew and no knitting in the lounge! We decided to get an early night however  this was not to be. 

I poured boiling water over my left index finger. How was I going to knit and spin? I had a week to recover. I have suffered severe pain in my life but the pain from this burn was unbearable. Every time I tried to remove my finger from the cold water I it was awful. I thought I would have to seek medical help. However, we checked the Red Cross app, cobbled together a dressing from an antiseptic wipe) and covered it with a plastic bag, I took painkillers which on top of the gin ensured I went to sleep eventually, thinking how could I come to Shetland and manage without knitting or spinning ? I was expecting to have to go to A and E tomorrow. This trip had already had more incidents than we wanted. But tomorrow we would be in Shetland. 

  1. I have found an Alistair Sawday book ‘ The extra mile’ which looks promising. Has anyone used it? 
  2. Michael has  fond memories of the Discovery as he walked past it everyday on The  Embankment on his way to King’s College when he was a student there. He also had been to the Discovery before in Dundee when I had taken a course with Jeannette Sendler of Big Cat Studio in Newburgh. Her calendar of Textile courses can be found She has a number visiting international experts as tutors. 
  3. might be vegware, I am trying to find out from the V and A but they tell me it will take 21 days to reply to my query! However, they got back to me in a few days and have confirmed  the name of the firm.
  4. I only carried my camera as we travelled by train and a filter to cut down the glare from the glass. Using it meant I needed the tripod to allow a slower shutter speed....which would have given a blurred image. So apologies for the disturbing marks. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19;1. The journey to Shetland part one

16 - 18  Sept: Days 1-2 


We were glad to be starting the journey to Shetland which would take in the 10th Shetland Wool Week. This would be our 5th Wool Week and our 8th trip to Shetland. We left on Monday 16th Sept and planned to cross from Aberdeen on Friday 20th. (1)

I will split the journey into two posts as we stopped to visit the V and A in Dundee and that is worth a post in itself. 

We took the last of our lovely fragrant roses with us. (However on our return some were still in flower and as I write this at the beginning of November we still have lovely roses in the garden.)

We were more organised that we are on some trips and were only going as far as Clumber Park, a lovely campsite in part of Sherwood Forest for the first night. We were surprised when we found a local road near home closed and had to detour around places we did not know. With the hindsight we now have this was just one of the ‘hiccups that happen’ on this trip. Fortunately with M map reading  we reached the A11 and the dual carriageway. The diversion signs were incomplete and this was another example of a human brain and road map triumphing over the SatNav ! After that the journey was uneventful and we arrived at about 16.00 having had a couple of decent breaks. 

I was looking forward even more to Wool Week - if that is possible- due to online conversations re spinning fine lace and seaming methods in Shetland shawls and trying to arrange meet-ups with some experts in each. 

I started re knitting  a sample lace shawl from a previous class with Donna Smith so I could have 4 lace shawl border corners to practise a different joining method. (2) The shawl was an ‘outwards in construction’ and after a trial at home before I left I would attempt to join these corners by knitting on as I knitted each border.  More about this later. 

The following day we had a longer journey over to Hoddam Castle in Dumfries and Galloway. It is another lovely stop, well off the motorway and very spacious. However the journey up the A1 was not pleasant, there were lots of heavy lorries and we again pondered whether going up the A1 was a good choice. The alternative is the A14 and M6. However on balance we put up with this stretch to gain the glorious views from the A66 across from Scotch Corner to Penrith. 

We detoured slightly to stop at Bowes Museum, parking was easy and we knew there was a nice cafe. However, we have been increasingly disappointed in the refreshment offering and the service here recently. Today it reached the lowest point and from being loyal customers we are now looking for an alternative stop. Briefly, I felt ignored as I had to wait for general non food chit chat between 3 behind the counter. There was some inviting cake on the counter and I asked which one was gluten free. (3)The first answer, after a long silence was ‘we don’t know’. The second answer without any checking was ‘there isn’t any’. I clearly looked upset and was then told that I could have a packet of biscuits or bread. My reply included the word ‘boring’ although I remained polite. I won’t go into any more detail but let’s just say we did not receive good customer service which is such a shame given the wonderful views and location. Perhaps someone reading this has had better service. 

I could see this inspiring a naturally dyed jumper or cardigan. part of a large monkey puzzle tree recently felled at Bowes Castle. 

It was a pleasant drive up the A74 to Hoddam Castle and as an added bonus the new 4G WiFi  worked very well there. I was able to add the post to the blog and IG about our Wool Week hats. The downside was that our fold up step for the van broke. We were pretty confident we would get another in Lerwick. We had reached Scotland and had one more stop before reaching Aberdeen. 


  1. For those of you who do not know we travel in a super medium sized motorhome. It just about fits into a space on a supermarket car park but is bigger than our initial VW T5. This one has the luxury  of  top of the range insulation, central heating and a wonderful  bathroom with a great shower plus room for a spinning wheel and other fibre essentials. 
  2. I am a member of the Shetland Fine Lace fb page catering for those of us that like to knit with ‘frog hair’ in what is regarded as Shetland Lace.  It is wonderful to see very fine Shawls and to be able to discuss construction details with the owner. My  attempt at knitting up the corners on an outwards inwards shawl came about as a member posted a shawl she had constructed with knitting on a border onto the next but by working outwards. Social Media has many pluses, not least enabling individuals (who are often geographically isolated) to be inspired by others around the world. 
  3. Following severe food poisoning in 2007 I spent many years being gluten, wheat and dairy free on the advise of consultants and their associated nutritional experts. I was told my digestive system would recover eventually. However no one thought it would take 7 years to virtually recover. I have learnt to live with it now and try and reduce the gluten and lactose in my diet.