One of the things we planned to do was take a two-day trip to Tarbert which requires about an hour and a half drive north to Berneray (past the airport at Benbecula where we started), a one hour ferry ride to Leverburgh, and then another half hour or so drive to Tarbert.
After careful directions and map annotations from Jonathan, and only one stop to ask directions, we made it to the ferry with 15 minutes to spare. Here comes the ferry!
The captain has to negotiate a series of buoys to keep us safe crossing the Sound of Harris.
Debarking the ferry we started our drive up the western coast of Harris, the island north of the Uists where we were staying. Just beautiful.
We have seen Scottish Blackface and Hebridean Sheep but here is a Cheviot for you.
We apparently began our trip at rush hour.
Ah….now it’s thinning out.
And then there was the little one who needed his mid-morning snack…
I think we can begin moving again…
We stop at an art cafe – a number of these around the islands which have artwork for sale and also provide coffee and tea. This one had beautiful paintings, note cards and other works for local artists and very good scones!
One of the reasons to come to Tarbert was to visit an independent weaver (that is one not working directly for the mills but gets their work examined and approved as Harris Tweed thus able to use the orb stamp indicating a woven good produced in the Outer Hebrides from Scottish wool). I was able to connect with Joanne at Urgha Loom Shed before our trip and arrange a visit. We drove toward Scalpay and turned off toward Urgha and then down a very steep hill which ended at the water – and her beautiful little shed studio.
The central attraction inside is her beautiful Hattersley loom – the traditional loom for producing Harris Tweed. From my reading, the “Hattersley domestic semi-automatic treadle powered loom” was developed for WW I servicemen who had lost a hand and could use the looms to make a living. They caught on on Lewis and Harris because they can create intricate patterns and produce cloth quickly – up to four meters per hour.
The shuttles come in from the side.
And the power is provided by the weaver’s pedaling.
The weft in the bobbins is held on pirns for which Joanne has a winder that was really fun to watch!
Joanne’s studio is a wonderful mix of the old and new, classic and modern. Her inspiration wall was impressive. Thanks so much, Joanne, for letting us visit! If you would like to see some of Joanne’s creations, she has an Etsy site. Check her out at UrghaLoomShed!
Returning to Tarbert we got in some shopping and a nice evening at our hotel. Saturday we headed to the Clo Mor (Big Cloth) exhibition . From harristweedhebrides.com “The three main tenets of Harris Tweed are that it is (a) made from pure virgin wool, (b) hand-woven at the home of the weaver, and (c) the process takes place entirely in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It is these elements, underpinned by a unique Act of Parliament, which gives Harris Tweed its unique, enduring qualities.” This exhibit is at Drinishader, heading down the east side of Harris (more about that in a minute!)
Inside, there are samples of Harris Tweed to handle and exhibits of Harris Tweed fashion.
This Harris Tweed footwear was created by Jaggy Nettle. I would wear these!
The beautiful Harris Tweed colors are created by blending the color into the wool before it is carded. This interesting slip of paper shows one example of how they are blended.
After leaving here, we make the decision to carry on down the east coast to a recommended art cafe. Fortified by cheese, tea and scones we continue on.
Now, comes the tricky part. This whole east coast has curvy, winding roads with ups and downs and “drops” to the water or rocks below. I had to spend a lot of time leaning to the right (remember, we are driving on the “other” side of the road) to keep us on the road (just kidding but it sure felt like it!) and so when Mary would point out things I should photograph, I just held the camera to the left and clicked! In spite of that, I think the following photos give you an idea of the road!
Of course, the sheep are not bothered by this and take it all in stride.
And always get in those all-important naps and snuggles.
We survive the drive and arrive at our ferry terminal in plenty of time to meet the ferry. I think I may have discovered the secret to Mary’s productive knitting, I think she knits while driving (just kidding – but it does pass the time while waiting for ferries!)
Here comes the ferry – we are off “home” to Eriskay after a lovely trip to Tarbert area.