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When I go on a trip anywhere I love to find recommendations from people whose interests I share.

So in that spirit here a few of my favourite places from our trip to some of the Hebridean islands (see previous post)

My favourite yarn shop was the very inspiring Shilasdair yarns – also known as Isle of Skye Natural Dye Company – on Skye.

And as the name suggests everything is coloured with natural dyes gathered from the landscape of Skye.

The whole set up of yoga, b&b, workshops and retreats is very enticing. You can read the evolution of the company here. And yes, I did bring home some sock yarn in a beautiful caramel shade from some Ling Heather.

I also really loved visiting

also on Skye and in particular, liked the work of Julie Whatley (below)

I brought home a lovely cup with an abstract design on in shades of blue and I am enjoying drinking from it and remembering the sky and seascape of Skye.

Also on Skye was Dunvegan Castle which was full of gorgeous colour and pattern.

It’s beautifully kept and from the moment I walked in and saw that super stormy blue colour on the walls, I knew there’d be some treats ahead for the ‘colour-loving designer’.

I find stately homes often provide lovely colour palette references and patterns to inspire.

The old wallpaper in this room was delightful and set off with lovely vintage textiles and paintings.

The staff here were fun and knowledgable too and filled us with stories of the mis-matched marriage that offended the parents and ended up with the daughter down in the dungeon.

Other places on Skye that we loved but didn’t photograph were:

Lenz Ceramics – well worth the wiggly drive to find it,

and

Maggie Zerafa – a beautiful and fascinating process to her ceramics.

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On the Isle of Harris we visited Talla na Marra for a night (where we also hooked up in the motorhome) This is some work from Marigold Williams of the Isle of Harris studio.

Talla na Marra which is part cafe, arts center and community enterprise – there is a cluster of artists studios, designer / makers, painters and chocolatiers.

This little studio set up caught my eye – imagine that being your working view.

We also really enjoyed wending our way down the coast and finding clusters of galleries and home studio artists – the road from Goosebay to Rodel was good for this.

Mission House Studio was one of a cluster of nice galleries to pop into. The ceramics were gorgeous but I also loved being able to nosey around in the artist work area.

The Harris Tweed museum was worth the visit to just to look through this beautiful book by Ian Lawson.

His photographs marrying the landscape and nature of the island and how it translates into the colours and patterns of the tweeds was just beyond beautiful.

Holmasaig gallery was a super home studio showing the very varied work of Margarita Williams.

And then further up in Lewis is the wonderful Blue Pig studio – we got such a warm welcome (and coffee and rock buns) that I hardly took a photo. Jane runs a lovely gallery from her workspace and is generous and welcoming so do go.

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Well if you happen across this and it helps you on your trip, do let me know. But I hope it’s provided some armchair travel for everyone 🙂

I’m currently hard at work producing my own artistic responses to this wonderful trip, so I’ll be back with all that soon.

I am just now finding time to leave a post here about the most wonderful trip we took for 3 weeks of April to some of the Hebridean islands.

Loch Lomond, Scotland

It was the most beautiful, relaxing and inspiring holiday we’ve had in many years.

We hired a motor home from a firm in Glasgow and drove up to Loch Lomond for a night en route to the ferry at Oban.

Loch Lomond, Scotland

When we awoke on the first day and saw the sunrise over Loch Lomond we knew we were in Scotland – there’s a special light, the skies are large and there’s usually a body of water amplifying it’s beauty.

Our itinerary

Our first island of the Hebridean chain was Barra – we only stayed one night as the ferry crossing from Oban is 4+hrs and we were keen to get going. But we’d do it differently with hind-sight and explore it.

Isle of Barra near Airport beach

This was our first taste of the awesome beaches we would find – this one completely made of shells. I was in beach-combing heaven.

We moved onto Eriskay next after a short 25 min ferry transfer and cut our teeth on a few nights rough camping in the motorhome. It was our first time in one – it took a few days to orchestrate the dance needed to both move around but never be in the same place. But we settled in well and got to like the simple life a lot.

Lottie came too and it took her longer to like the van especially when it moved to the sound of clanking objects. Once she realised the payoff to moving was a new place to run about and smell rabbits, she knuckled down and endured!

The peaty landscape of North Uist en route to Lochmaddy.

We did have a diesel scare when all the pumps (there are only 3 on the island) were dry. It’s true what they say about island life – it comes when it comes and luckily for us it came the next day but it did make for a nail-biting night.

Isle of Benbecula – North Uist

We also struggled to buy our back-up Calor gas as apparently there was a national shortage – again we struck lucky but after some perseverance. Where you can have contingency, do!

Lochmaddy

The landscape of South and North Uist was very appealing to my artists eye – very peaty and full of rich browns and carmine hues. It’s also threaded through with numerous lochans so there is always a glint of silvery, grey-blue water.

I did paint and draw most days. I had packed (too much) art materials expecting less rain and to be able to work outside. On the occasions that I did, rain or mizzle came in quickly and wet the page.

It was just hard to set up quickly and work fast and I didn’t have an easel and couldn’t put things anywhere to hand – hence this photo of me dropping my new tin of pencils on the ground.

I could set up in the cab if we had parked up with a view and one day it was fine enough to stop for an hour and sit on the ground.

Painting near Armadale, Skye

I found that my iphone had no O2 coverage almost the entire time. Wi-fi and electric hook up was one reason why we booked into campsites every few nights. It made looking things up on the fly difficult- so go prepared.

West beach textures

We then somewhat controversially went off Uist and onto Skye. Honestly I didn’t think about it much when planning – it does add extra cost and time travelling to Skye and back onto Harris again. The plus side was a little bit of bigger island life: with Skye being connected to the mainland now, it felt less cut off from amenities should we need them (which of course we didn’t)

The Quirang, Skye

The North of Skye is breathtakingly beautiful to look at and windy to rough camp in. The Quiraing is a mountain ridge of the Trotternish peninsula. The walk along was it was four seasons of hail, wind, rain and sun in one stretch but totally worth the weather and the nail-biting winding road up to the car park.

Four seasons in one walk!

Skye was the only place where we got a parking ticket or saw other motorhomes with them. It’s worth reading the complete small print of the parking charge info board – slipped in is the phrase ‘vehicle modified for sleeping’ so if you’re scanning for the word ‘motorhome’ like we did, you’ll get caught out too.

The Braes, Skye

We enjoyed stopping whenever we saw the words ‘coffee’ and ‘Gallery’ – some were very homespun and not all were open. The advantage of going in April slightly ahead of season was to avoid the midges and lots of tourists but it did mean that some places weren’t up and running for the summer season. We also like coffee but didn’t find all that many places serving it outside of towns.

Coral beach, Skye

We found loads of lovely places to walk on Skye; my fave being a lovely 30 min walk to a beach made entirely of coral and shells. In one handful you can capture hundreds of beautiful, tiny metalic shells.

Coral beach, Skye

We then ferried back to Tarbet, Harris and camped in the West Harris Trust campsites ; my favourite being the Seilebost School one which was literally a walk over the dunes to Luskentyre beach. This beach has two bays to it and when we arrived the pink and purple shells were glowing in a delicate lilac light as the sun set. Everything you read about this beach is more than true; in fact it would be in this area that I’d choose to live after all I’ve seen so far.

Luskentyre beach, South Harris

South Harris has an interesting landscape which either looks like a moonscape with deep pools of dark peaty brown water or wide open beaches edged with machair that looked Caribbean.

Uig Sands, Lewis

The drive up north to Lewis gave us our first sight of the change in landscape as the central section is numerous broken pieces of land and water and is very flat and somewhat bleak. We headed to Uig sands which is beautiful and gave us the last taste of what we were used to.

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village

We enjoyed seeing the Callanish stones and the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village and discovering Borrowdale, or more accurately The Blue Pig studio where we were met with such a warm welcome (and fresh coffee and rock cakes) that we felt like part of the community that had gathered to celebrate together.

Seilebost, Harris

Our remaining time was impinged by the quietness of Easter Sunday followed by a bank holiday and also the most rain we’d had for the whole trip. It’s here that a motor home comes into it’s own – you can get togged up (take nylon everything) go out and get wet but come back in and dry your clothes while making a cuppa and reading a book.

Clachan Sands, Isle of Benbecula – North Uist

My recommendations in summary:

Barra – The small shell beach en route to the Airport beach (just where the ‘do not stop’ signs begin)

North Uist – West Beach and Clachan Sands, both on the Isle of Berneray, North Uist.

Look out for the food van at Eriskay ferry terminal.

Barra – The small shell beach en route to the Airport beach (just where the ‘do not stop’ signs begin)

The North coast of Sky – the Quiraing.

The south side of Skye from The Braes through to Armadale.

Skye- Coral beach,

Harris – Luskentyre and Uig sands ( there’s also a camping spot here)

A great website

As I use my blog as a diary and also as a reminder, I’m taking the liberty of playing with chronology!

We took this break in Shropshire 2 months ago back in October but I never managed to write this in a timely fashion.

And I wanted to remember many of the good things about it and not the dark and winding lane we had to endure for 15 mins before we got anywhere from the house nor the brief visit from a rat in the floorboard cavity!

But this photo pretty much sums the rest up 🙂

The surrounding landscape was beautiful and made all the more so by moody, rainy weather some days.

And being surrounded by nature (and having slow days) makes me want to draw and paint which feels like a luxury.

As does breakfasts like these.

Lottie is getting on now (11+) and each holiday usually brings a limp or broken nail but she is undaunted by the repairs to her cruciate ligaments or her arthritis and so it’s a joy to see her dashing about the country while we’re enjoying it too.

Just back from a lovely break surrounded by nature in West Wales.

We enjoyed lots of slow time – I love how waiting 10 mins for a kettle to boil on a gas stove really stops you in your tracks and makes you breathe.

We walked a lot – fields, beaches and nature reserves. Lottie enjoyed these to the utmost.

It was just an all round great embrace with nature, a change of pace and place.

Last week, we originally we had a weeks camping planned in Wales but they cancelled us at the last minute (campsite was a mud-slide) so we condensed our holiday into the only two days that Port Merion could accommodate us.

But what a lovely two days it was! 

Port Merion is is a village built in the style of an Italian village but in North Wales. It was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975.

It’s quirky, pretty, tucked away from the rest of the world and you can stay in the houses you see or the hotels. 

There is love and attention to architectural detail everywhere and that is matched by the abundant natural habitat and views – it’s an all round winner in my opinion. 

It’s one of my all time favourite places to visit.

We did all the walks – (coastal, woodland and ‘the other one’) marvelling at wild Bee-Orchids, the range of colour and type of naturally growing Hydrangeas and the size of the sea (high after a stormy night) and size of the sky (BIG skies).

You can read a fuller history here if you’re interested.

Our trip to Southern Asia earlier this year (here, here, here and here) was rich in visual and cultural inspiration.

I’ve honestly felt a little overwhelmed by how deep and far I could go into this vibrant feast of creative stimulus and output – whether to start with painting or stitch or print. And all the while I’m spinning the other plates of my self-employment as an artist: delivery/teaching and all the admin that it takes to run a small business. It can be distracting and actually difficult to get time to be creative some weeks.

So I just began. One day unceremoniously. Just where I was. No fanfare or special time set aside. I just started. I took off simply by doing a little each day – whatever I had time for.

As I teach screen-printing and mixed media textiles twice a week at MAC, I kicked off this intention by focusing my preparation for these classes on my Asia photos – and I have a lot to choose from as I took nearly 7000! inc duplicates for a better shot – you know? So to make that task less anxiety inducing, I split those into files: Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I currently haven’t got to the end of the 2.243 photos taken in Malaysia!

So if I was demonstrating cutting a screen-print stencil I based it on a motif from of a beautiful textile in the National Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur or if I was making an example of free-machine embroidery for my Mixed Media Textiles class I referenced a drawing I’d done from a beautiful silk kimono.

Sometimes that was a basic quick line drawing, other times I had paints out to use. On some evenings I have doodled in front of the TV on my ipad pro – not that I’m especially proficient but it’s a great way to easily draw and digitalise your handwork.

It’s true what they say about ‘a little and often’ –  gradually my pile of Asia work is coming to life.

Finally on our epic Asia trip was the very lovely Luang Prabang in Laos.

By this time we had clocked up something like 2 train trips, 1 boat trip, 7 flights, one car ride and 9 changes of hotel so staying in one small place for a few days was a very welcome end to such a busy trip.

Luang Prabang has a lot to offer being rich in Buddhist practice and temples – the most beautifully decorated arts and crafts – mosaics, paintings, handmade paper, the tin/paper stars hanging everywhere were my favourite – too large to being home sadly.The shops are full of locally made arts and crafts too as is the daily night market.

 My favourite discovery in Luang Prabang was the Ock Pop Tok textile center

 I went for a day to learn natural dying  – which I can do but not with such exotic plants and barks as these.

I made a scarf using a resist method and a lump of wood which when boiled produced this lovely red.

In the afternoon I learnt Hmong Batik with the local master craftswoman Grandma Mae. They add indigo dye to the wax so you can see where you’ve batiked – great idea.

 This is the finished piece sitting on the kitchen table reminding us of a fantastic trip.

After 7 nights in Vietnam we took a short hop across to Phnom Penh, Cambodia which is a big sprawling city.

We went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (no photos allowed which is the right, respectful thing)  💔 which was educational, challenging and chilling – the Khmer Rouge (KR) regime put to death nearly two million Cambodians in the late 1970’s – that’s only one generation ago.

Our tuk-tuk driver had simply told us he had no family because his parent were teachers. He said no more because in his world that is self-explanatory – the KR having killed anyone of intellect or education.

I could easily have been one of those rounded up and killed either for being an artist or for wearing glasses (a sign of being an intellectual to the KR) people were killed for no reason at all.


It’s shocking it happened, was allowed to go on and that we still don’t reference it on a world stage to the extend that we can turn up in the country and learn the depth and modern-day reality of it.

There’s a faded sobriety here and it seems fitting while the older generation live through remembering the horrors of the past and the young work to develop the future. It will always have a special place in my heart.

We moved across to Siem Reap so that we could visit the magical Ankor Wat.

Starting at sunrise we toured all the hot spots including Ta Phrom the ‘tomb raider’ one.

These guys came off badly when Thailand invaded and took some away to sell.

Everyone’s had a piece of Cambodia – I wish the loving, peaceful Cambodians all the luck, magic and resources to rebuild their country, their civil rights and their economy and standard of living.  Go visit – they need your tourism and have a lot to offer.

Our next destination was Vietnam and we arrived on the Friday night of Chinese New Year to find it heaving with people and traffic – quite the cultural baptism.

The traffic in Hanoi is unbelievable and it took us a while to perfect our technique of crossing the road – step out slowly not daring to look and keep going till you reach the other side – then breathe! Motorists scoot round you perfectly – the worst thing you can do is hesitate or stop.

It took us a while to realise that the Kumquat trees and blossom trees we were seeing being driven around are in fact the equivalent of our Christmas trees.

Hanoi was very frenetic and busy (a lot to do with CNY) and we were glad of a trip away to the beautiful and peaceful Halong Bay.

Just as picturesque in real life as it is in pictures.

We visited one of the last fishing villages which the government are trying to phase out as the inhabitants (particularly the young) don’t get access to good schooling, health treatments and opportunities. Tourism is a funny thing sometimes when it can help and hinder simultaneously.

We also travelled down to Hoi An a lovely little town of lights and water where the fireworks went off for New Year celebrations and a street party.

The shopping was great in Hanoi – lots of textiles at very cheap prices – and a lot of it modern and not well made but I did happen upon a bag of scraps which turns out to be this exciting collection of Hmong clothing embroidered scraps. Lots of inspiration in these alone.

I loved Vietnam and it’s people and would love to go back again sometime.

Back in January I took the biggest trip of my life – and it began with a rendezvous with my girl in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

We travelled up from KL to Ipoh and then right up to Penang in the North and so we saw the culture, architecture, food and arts change from Islamic influenced to Chinese.

Batik is an art form highly prized as Malaysian as it was a Malaysian artist who first fostered batik as a Fine Art.


There is also a fascinating mix of religions and temples from the brightly coloured festival of Thaipusam at the Batu Caves (top)

to Thai Buddhist temples and  Burmese Buddhist temples with different emphasis on decoration styles.

It was my first time travelling widely in Asia and I was in heaven with the all the pattern and colour.

As a new cultural experience (never been in temples before) everything looked fresh and interesting and I have stacks of inspiration for paintings and patterns.

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