Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 8 Harris

Uig Harbour, Isle of Skye
The ferry departs Uig on Skye to transport travelers on a 90 minute sea crossing  to the Outer Hebridean town of Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. 
Coach A took the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, a two and half hour ride.
Of the four ferry rides on the tour, neither group had anything but smooth sailing.
Terry Bloomfield, a current Harris Tweed weaver, generously lets us visit his Tarbert studio each year.
Terry Bloomfield showing a complicated tweed he wove
Rapier action on a Bonas Griffeth loom
Weavers must complete a 12 week weaving course to prove their skill and competency before going to work for the industry. There are currently 100 weavers on the island that supply the industry weaving on Bonas Griffeth double wide looms. The looms are powered with a pedals like a bicycle. Instead of a shuttle, a rapier travelers through the weaving shed carrying weft yarn back and forth.
Observing the loom in action

Thirty years ago, 700 tweed weavers worked on the islands. Today the mills in Shawbost and Carloway provide the warped beams to the  tweed weavers.  1 beam of warp for four, 75 meter tweeds is delivered to his weaving studio. Normally, it  takes 2 weeks to weave off the beam. The fabric is taken back to the mill for finishing and marketing. Much of the tweed is sold to Germany. The exciting news from Terry is that this fall he will teach 6 new students to weave on the doublewidth looms. The only stipulation is that the students must live on Harris. The looms will be supplied for them during the coursework. The students will lease the looms when starting their own tweed weaving studios. Read more about the history of the industry at
Palm trees line the road to Harris Tweed Shop, Tarbert
The late Katie Campbell and family.
The Harris Tweed shop sits right next to the ferry terminal in Tarbert. The whole island was saddened at the death of Katie Campbell in January 2011. Here is a photo of Katie,  her daughter Catherine, and granddaughter I took at her shop in 2009. Katie had woven tweed for over 40 years. She and her sister Marion grew up at the foot of their father who was also a tweed weaver. Grannie had 11 girls who all spun. My mom died young. There were 4 of us girls and Dad bought a Hattersly Loom. We went to sleep to the click clack of the loom. It was lovely. It was safe.--Katie Campbell
Harris Tweed Shop with the orb sign

Catherine keeps her Hattersly loom humming along turning out colorful contemporary and traditionl tweed cloth. Besides yardage for sale, the Campbell's tweed is   sewn into caps, handbags, jackets, teddy bears, seals, etc.
Jim D sporting his new tweed hat
Who let these two on the bus? Wallie W. and Julian H. checking out the merchandise
Jenell P scores with a bag of tweed scraps and Jeanne C. smiles in her new tweed cap
Harris is known for its sandy beaches. Luskentyre and Sielebost show dramatic beauty in all kinds of weather. Today, in sunshine of course.  The white sand sets off the incredible blue colors of the water making it seem like a movie setting for “Paradise Lost.”

Lida C. and Judy L. in classic tourist pose #1, "photo mode"
This wet seaweed on the beach looked just like dyed fleece
Driver/Guide Eddie in the #2 most important job duty, taking group pictures
Coach A Travelers
Gillian Scott-Forrest
At an unlikey gallery, the upstairs of the An Clachan grocery store in Leverburgh on the southern tip of Harris, is displayed a wonderful labour of love. Gillian Scott-Forrest instigated the Millenium Project. A series of hangings was designed, one for each part of the island.

The tweed fabric and the wool yarn used for the pictorial embroidery was hand dyed using plant dyes. Of the 1600 people living on Harris, 90 were involved in the project. The images on each hanging depict both history and current events from each area of the island. Each of the 8 panels are 5 fett by 2 1/2 feet.

Until the project, called the Harris Tapestry, finds a permanent home, you can get your gas, buy your groceries, have breakfast, and learn of the rich history of the people and the island all in one stop.
St. Clements in Rodel
St. Clements Church is a wonderful structure, built in 1520 by Alexander MacLeod. In the 19th century it was being used as a cow barn until Lady Dunmore restored it in 1873. There are 3 crypts in the sanctuary featuring intricate stone carvings. The graveyard surrounding the church holds many MacLeod graves as well as other local families from through the centuries. The accoustics are stunning and I always have to sing in this haunting church.

Alexander MacLeod's tomb features spectacular carvings

Cross fragment in the nave
The three things you can't miss while in the Outer Hebrides are eating the freshest seafood, the prevalence of the Gaelic language still spoken here, and the tweed industry.
Doreen standing next to a sign in Gaelic and English. All signs on Harris and Lewis are written in both languages
Scallops, crabs, mussels, prawns....all fresh off the boat in Harris
Many times corporate decisions hurt smaller enterprises. However, Harris applauds Nike for adding "Harris Tweed Trainers" to their shoe line a few years back.
The Harris tweed trainers worn by one of our B&B hosts
I'll complete our day on Harris with a photo essay on the 2 mile round trip walk I took from Rodel to Borrisdale. This stunning land and seascapes make it easy to see why the Outer Hebrides islands are becoming a very popular vacation destination for many on the mainland of Scotland.

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