The “leader” was a total slacker and acted more like a customer than a tour leader. The bus was on its last legs – dirty, smelly and held together with duct tape – and the nickel and diming started first thing. After paying thousands of dollars for the trip, they actually made us pay 5 pounds for some scrap yarn for the class, which was in a tiny, one room yarn shop with a workroom that was designed for 12 people tops. There were 19 of us sandwich in there. And speaking of sandwiches, the lunch that was available at the yarn shop was actually mandatory so we had to pay 9 pounds each for a sandwich whether we wanted it or not. The class was over in half the allotted time and since there was no room to comfortably eat, we grabbed out sammies to go and took a cab to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Our mantra had already become “She’s not Philip and that’s OK.” Clearly we would be making the most of a tour that was not a good value but I wasn’t going to let that spoil my trip.
The gardens were gorgeous and the glass houses were wonderful. We took a break at a café and enjoyed some of our sandwiches, giving the rest to a homeless man with a dog later in the day when we were shopping on the main drag. We had fun and bought tons at the Kath Kidston store, which was having a big sale. Nice. Then we hit Wagamama, my fave UK noodle restaurant, for dinner. Very few dinners and few lunches were included in the trip. Sheesh!
After another early morning walk on Tuesday, a bus tour of the city was next up. Well, that was pretty lame. We saw very little of classic Edinburgh but there was lots of driving to the docks of all places, where there was nothing to see. I had mentioned the other yarn shop, that my friend Rene had been to last year, so the tour was cut short to stop there – McAree Brothers. They had more yarn than Kathy’s (the shop our class had been in) and I’m sure sold more in an hour than they had all week. Why the leader didn’t know about this shop is beyond me. Later that day we were back on the bus for a trip to Rosslynn Chapel of DaVinci Code fame, which was interesting. We ate at a restaurant - Holyrood 9A - that was recommended by an online friend in my sock group on Ravelry, dining on haggis balls and yummy burgers.
Our morning walk Wednesday was to a big city park called The Meadows. Gorgeous again with some cool plantings inside tree stumps. Then it was back to the hotel to check out and get back on the bus. I felt like we hadn't been shown much of Edinburgh but were now headed to the cute seaside town of Anstruther for a class with Di Gilpin (famous knitter.) The class was on gansey knitting and was lots of fun. I was on the hunt for an ATM so missed the best fish and chips in Scotland but did enjoy Eileen's leftover chips when we met back at the wharf after finding cash. From there we went to Di’s studio in the country, which was charming and we got to buy some of her signature lamb’s wool. From there we went to Scone Palace, which I foolishly thought was a tea stop but it’s actually a palace. Luckily we did have tea and scones after our tour and then stopped at a little yarn shop in Dundee before checking in at our hotel there. Dundee is a sort of grubby town with minimal dinner options (yet another dinner on our own) so we walked the deserted downtown in search of a restaurant, finally finding a Panera-esque thing full of students. Dinner was fine and then it was back to the hotel to figure out how to repack since we were headed to The Shetlands and had strict weight limits for the flight back. We could leave stuff on the bus but Anne and I were also planning to do laundry so we had to be very strategic with packing to maximize room for yarn and still get all our dirty laundry in. First world problem, I know.
The next day we visited a kilt maker for a fun demo and lecture which made me want to go home and experiment with pleating plaid. The studio was out in the country with beautiful views and she fed us the best meal of the trip (had to pay for that too and it’s telling that a home cooked meal was the trip’s best meal, don’t you think?) It was a lovely day and we ended it on the ferry. I was excited that we’d wake up the next day in the Shetland Islands. The seas were calm so I slept like a rock.
We woke up to hear the shocking results of the Brexit vote and I caught Cameron’s resignation on the TV in the bar after breakfast. Wow! Then it was onto the bus (a brand new Mercedes with a fabulous driver, although his accent was so thick I didn’t understand half of what he said) to head across the island to Jamieson’s – one of the 2 makers of Shetland wool yarn. We had a factory tour and bought some fun yarn before stopping for lunch at a gallery in the middle of nowhere where I scored some pins and had plenty of time to take pics. After a stop at the Shetland Textile Museum, we checked in at our hotel, where we’d be staying for a few days so could settle in. Anne and I asked where the laundromat was and the manager offered to drive us there so we quickly pulled out our dirty laundry and took him up on his offer. They were closing in an hour so we threw in our load then headed out for a walk until it was done. We found an ancient ruin to explore – Clickimin Broch – right across the street. We hiked back to the hotel and had dinner there. It was a fun, full day and I was excited to be in the country. I always like the country better than the city.
Since we’d gotten the laundry done on Friday, that meant we were free to shop on Saturday morning, which we did in downtown Lerwick, finding all kinds of fun stuff. We visited the other Shetland wool manufacturer that afternoon and got tons of cool information on wool grading from the Wool Man, then got to buy more yarn. How fun. Then it was back to the hotel but since there was a chunk of time before dinner, we took a stroll by the water, which was right outside our window and a piece of heaven. After a decent dinner, we had a talk with Ella Gordon – a wonderfully enthusiastic young designer. She brought huge bags of Shetland knits, most of which she’d rescued from thrift shops. Her energy was a balm for the soul and a perfect ending to another blissful day in The Shetlands.
We had a knitting lesson with Hazel Tindal, the world’s fastest knitter, on Sunday morning after breakfast and a walk. I did my first steeking (knitting colorwork in the round then cutting your knitting so it lies flat – Scary!) and pretty much finished the project (a bookmark) in class. That’s a first. After the class, we headed to a local museum for lunch and a tour. After listening to the guide a bit, Anne and I opted to walk back to the hotel via a city garden that was breathtakingly beautiful. We chatted with a woman in the park who was there with her dad and got back to the hotel in time to enjoy tea and knitting on the rocks over-looking the ocean. Perfection!
I've put a few pics here but if you want to see them all (600+ - you've been warned!), check them out here.