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.