Over the sea to …..Harris!

I first visited the Isle of Harris in The Outer Hebrides in the 1980’s but it wasn’t until I revisited them 12 years ago that I truly fell in love with this Scottish Island. Over the years I have visited many islands in Scotland and around the world but Harris is one I find myself being drawn to again and again. Luckily, my husband shares this love so I regularly manage to get a Harris ‘fix’.

What makes it special?

I suppose one thing is its beautiful beaches. Even on the dullest, rainiest day the sand has a magical luminescence that just never fails to lift my spirits.

Traigh MheileinThe colour of the water is absolutely amazing and definitely makes one think of much warmer climes!

Harris beach.

 

 

Another is the people who live up to their Gaelic saying:

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– ‘a hundred thousand welcomes’ although to be honest this applies to my experiences of the inhabitants of other islands too.

Added to this is their trust in humanity. Sadly, something that was very evident in my town during my childhood, but nowadays not very apparent. Coming across ‘honesty’ shops lifted my spirits to think that someone had such faith in their fellow humans to be honest and pay for the goods they wished to take.

This lovely food shop had crabs, lobsters, scallops, salmon as well as newly baked bread, rolls, cakes and quiche. Such a joy to find.

Food Honesty Shop at Northton.

Food Honesty Shop at Northton.

and further along the road this little honesty shop stuffed full with all kinds of handmade items including Harris Tweed bags and jackets.

A cornucopia of handmade goods.

A cornucopia of handmade goods.

Even using a camping place is left to your conscience whether you pay or not….

Camping fees on trust.

Camping fees on trust.

As a lover of textiles a visit to Harris is always a great opportunity to add a few pieces of the world famous Harris Tweed to my fabric stash!

Beautiful, Harris Tweed.

Beautiful, Harris Tweed.

I suppose,though, when you have a liking for a place it’s more than a few ‘concrete’ reasons but more a feeling of ‘belonging’ or ‘feeling at home’ that makes it a place that you want to return too. For me, Harris is definitely one of those places and one that I can imagine I will continue to visit for a very long time.

If you’re reading this I would love to hear what your special island/place is:)

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Harris Artisans

Many years ago, when I first visited the Outer Hebrides there was very little in the way of art and craft items for sale. Possibly, there just wasn’t the tourist trade and anything made was very much for personal use and most people made their own knitwear and tweed items. Since then there has been a growing community of art and crafts in the islands and especially on Harris. Many of these talented people have settled there from mainland UK and have very much embraced the local way of life. Visiting in the summer when the days are long and the sun is shining it seems a very desirable option, but knowing how long and dark the winter months can be when the Atlantic gales are battering all in its way I’m not so sure I would last very long.
This summer, I visited a few new (to me) artisans and enjoyed some lovely chats about their work and general life in a remote area of UK. A shed definitely seems to be an essential addition and a great asset for a personal place to work. 3 sheds I fell in love with were-
The Scalpay Linen shed which smelt so good with all the wool that was being worked as well as the linen.

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The weaving loom.

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Hand spun art wool.
The food shed at Northton where you can be tempted by home baked bread, scones, cakes as well as fresh caught shellfish.

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All the purchases here are made on trust- loved the box which asks you to roll pound notes up tight to feed into the hole on the top!

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And thirdly this cheekily called ‘Northton Trading Co’ shed with an eclectic mix of items. Again, trust is an essential part of its success as you are asked to ring the bell if you want to buy anything!

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Handbags for sale.

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An inside view.
How heartening it was to think that there are still areas where people can live in harmony without taking advantage of each other so readily and that they extend this trust to us,the visitors, who come from very different backgrounds.
And how do they survive? I’m not too sure. I know that for some the Internet is a vital link for selling their goods, and perhaps for others, who have partners with regular paid jobs, the financial reward isn’t the ultimate goal. Whatever, I know I met some very happy, contented people living on the Island of Harris this summer and hope when I return next time they will still be there …and their sheds of course!

Finally ….a sock!

Monday is craft morning here on the compound and as I was on holiday I could go and meet up with some of the other crafters on the compound. Dilemma though- what token craft project to take to look like I was serious and not just there to drink coffee and chat! Searching around in a couple of cupboards I found the sock I had started nearly 2 years ago -or was it even longer! – As a preent for my sister-in-law. A couple of hours later, after a coffee and a lot of chat I returned home without even knitting a stitch!
Later in the afternoon I decided it was time to ‘put this sock to bed’ and got those needles ‘click- clacking’! Eh voila after a couple of hours I was finished!

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… And now for the other one…..hopefully it won’t take 2 years to complete and my sister-in-law may get her socks before next winter:)