Monthly Archives: September 2011

Tramway & Scottish Ballet

Posted on 30 September, 2011

After visiting the three Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings on Saturday 10th September (see previous post), we made our way over to the Tramway.

There were a few different activities taking place in The Hidden Gardens that day as part of ‘Doors Open Days‘.

We had a stroll around the gardens, which are so pretty and tranquil, before heading back inside the Tramway to the Scottish Ballet headquarters.

We had booked places on the tour around the ballet headquarters.  I was really excited about this tour, and from the moment we stepped inside it was jaw-droppingly amazing!

Inside the wardrobe department . . . I couldn’t help myself from squeeeing just a little at the sight of all those tutus!  They make all the costumes here and also make any repairs or alterations required.

We then got a peek inside the shoe cupboard before heading into the costume store room.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to pick out costumes and try them on?  I could’ve spent the whole day in there looking through them all.  Next, we got to look inside one of the practice areas and also see the balcony were the dancers can relax between rehearsals.

Then onto one of the dance studios.  Now if I remember correctly, this is the biggest dedicated dance studio in Europe and allows the full company of dancers to rehearse in here all at the one time.  I loved the piles of tutus lying just outside.

Each dancer has their own area along the bar and their shoes were still hanging there.

There’s a health and fitness centre on the premises too.  Now, this apparatus may look like a torture device to the untrained eye, but it is actually used to stretch and build the dancer’s muscles.

What an amazing purpose-built dance area.  If you haven’t been to see it . . . you should!  And if you haven’t been to a performance by The Scottish Ballet, get along to their production of ‘The Sleeping Beauty‘ at the Theatre Royal later this year.

If you would like to see a visual tour of the Scottish ballet headquarters at the Tramway, watch this walkthrough video.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Buildings

Posted on 29 September, 2011

On Saturday 17th September (3rd weekend of Doors Open Days), I went with my family to visit some of the buildings opened free of charge in the Glasgow area.  The first three places we went to were all designed by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  I’ve been looking at a lot of his designs lately, looking for inspiration for the The Glasgow School of Yarn’s Design Competition organised by The Yarn Cake as part of their 1st birthday celebrations.

The first building we visited was the Glasgow School of Art.

Unfortunately they don’t allow any photography inside the building as it’s a working school of art, but I can assure you that it is amazing inside and would recommend visiting.

On our way to the next Mackintosh building, we strolled through the Botanic Gardens.

I love Kibble Palace . . . I’ve spent many a glorious afternoon knitting here with the Glasgow PicKnitters.  Passing through the Botanics gave me the chance to try out my Bronica medium format film camera.  I bought this camera five years ago and this is the first time I’ve ran a roll of film through it.  It’s been an expensive paperweight up till now!

I’ve still to develop the roll of film . . . fingers crossed there’s something exposed on it.

Onto the next location after my quick photo stop . . . The Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Museum.  This is a reproduction of the house once owned by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh.  Their house was demolished in the early 1960s but the original fixtures were preserved and reassembled here.  The interiors have been furnished with the furniture once owned by Mackintoshes.

Again, no photography allowed inside this building, but take a look at The Mackintosh House website as it has information and some photos of the inside off the house.

The third Mackintosh building we visited that day was The Mackintosh Church.

It doesn’t look that impressive from the outside, but when we walk inside the first thing I noticed were the beautiful stained glass windows.

The pulpit was exquisite and had some very intricate carvings.

There’s lots of little Mackintosh features to be found all over the interior.

I loved these windows along the side of the pews.

The few from the upstairs galleries was beautiful.  I thought those little pink/red coloured windows under the upstairs seated gallery were just delightful.

After visiting this church, I’m even more excited about The Glasgow School of Yarn event that will be taking place here in a few weeks time.  What a wonderful location for this two day knitting event.

New Lanark World Heritage Site

Posted on 28 September, 2011

New Lanark World Heritage Site in South Lanarkshire was one of the locations taking part in the second weekend of events organised by ‘Doors Open Days‘.  I was really looking forward to visiting here, as I had birthday money put aside specially for this trip.  So, on Saturday 10th September, I set off with my daughter to visit New Lanark (OH had abandoned us that day in favour of the Air Show at RAF Leuchars).

The weather wasn’t very nice that afternoon . . . t’was right dreich on the walk down into the village.

There were a few buildings opened that day to the public free of charge:

  • Village Hall
  • Counting House
  • Museum Stair
  • Turbine House
  • School for Children Scottish Archaeology Month Activities

Unfortunately, we didn’t make it inside any of them.  We spent a fair bit of time in the shop . . . a wee bit over an hour . . . and it wasn’t all spent with me drooling over the yarns! After visiting the shop we decided to walk along to the Scottish Wildlife Trust Centre (where there was more yarn for sale) and then along the path to the Falls of the Clyde.

We walked out of the village and along the river walkway.

I’d forgotten just how much I loved this walk along the side of the river, with its wooden walkway and benches.  On the way we found a very pretty, pink coloured toadstool complete with a few little white spots.

Finally we made it to the viewpoint overlooking the Falls of the Clyde.

The first photo was taken on the day we visited, but the second photo was one that was taken on our last visit when the waterfall was in full spate.  The nearby hydro-electric power station’s water draw off means that the waterfalls are not always in full spate.  Last time we visited was on a ‘Waterfall Day’ which allows visitors to see the falls in their natural state.

When we were heading back along to the village, the sun decided to come out.

Just a few of the buildings we passed as we walked through the village

  • Robert Owen’s School, Film Theatre and Interactive Gallery
  • Water Mill Wheel
  • Looking along past Mill 2 to the New Lanark Mill Hotel and Warehouses
  • The Roof Top Garden on top of Mill 2

One of the highlights of that day has to be the afternoon tea we had in the Coffee Shop.

We felt very posh as we were seated at one of the reserved tables.  It was sooo delicious and didn’t last long!

I couldn’t resist posing with Annie McLeod before heading home.  Those 2 bags are full of yarn . . . oh, and a couple of wooden spools.


14 balls of Cherry Red Chunky New Lanark yarn to knit Sylvi by Mari Muinonen and 3 balls of Flying Flock yarn in a natural grey colour.  The Flying Flock yarn is quite interesting as it’s spun from the fleece of Shetland and Hebridean sheep which are moved around Scotland to help the Scottish Wildlife Trust preserve grassland habitat. The Flying Flock fleece is spun at New Lanark World Heritage Site Mill for The Wool Shed.

Hunterston Castle

Posted on 27 September, 2011

The 3rd (and final) castle that we visited during ‘Doors Open Days‘ in Ayrshire was Hunterston Castle.

Neither myself nor my other half knew that this castle existed until we saw it listed on the Doors Open Days website. Such a beautiful castle built by Hunter, Laird of Hunterston in the 13th century.  It’s a wee gem tucked away in the Ayrshire countryside.

The first room we were shown was the Barrel Vault on the ground floor.

This room is also known as the Dungeon and would have been used to store foods and grain to keep them fresh.  That circle area on the floor is where the well would have been.

Upstairs and into the Main Hall.

As you can see, the castle was very busy that day.  The Main Hall has a large fireplace with the coat of arms above it and also a long table displaying weapons and armour.

That last photo is the sandstone spiral staircase that leads from the ground floor up to Main Hall on the first floor.

Just off the Main Hall (up a few steps) is the Living Room.

This room would have been the Main Room when the castle was originally built.  It has a large fireplace, antler chairs and is that a spinning wheel too?  Those antler chairs were beautifully made and on the table there were some original cups and jugs.

The Living Room also has it’s own toilet . . . Ayrshire’s oldest indoor toilet.  It was quite scary sitting on there, especially when the guide tries to shut the door on you!

There’s a second floor to this castle with a Bedroom and New Attic and also the Roof with the Ramparts and Attic, but unfortunately we weren’t allowed up there on Doors Open Day.

The castle has lovely gardens with lots of fruits and vegetables growing.


Those wasps were having a right good feast on those peaches.  I never noticed that one of them had been watching me as I was taking photos of the raspberries.

The hydrangeas were so pretty.  I must get some of these for my own garden next Summer.

I’m not sure how often Hunterston Castle is open to the public, but it is well worth a visit.

More info about Hunterston Castle can be found on these websites:


Earth & Sky . . . A Mystery KAL

Posted on 21 September, 2011

During the month of August, I took part in the Stephen West Mystery Shawl KAL.  I always find the start of a mystery KAL a wee bit daunting . . . I’m never quite sure whether I’ll like the fully revealed pattern and I’m also never quite sure if I should be using my favourite yarn just incase I do end up frogging the project.

I wanted to use Jasper, a sport/DK weight yarn from Old Maiden Aunt as one of the three colours needed for this shawl.  I’m totally smitten with this Jasper colour just now and as I had 1.5 skeins left over from my Crow Waltz Shawl, it really was crying out to be used in this mystery KAL.

I had to find another two colours to match, and in the end I chose Old Maiden Aunt sport/DK weight yarn again in colours Dreich and Hebridean to tie in with the grey/blues and browns in Jasper.  I was a wee bit concerned at this point, as I had used a red/brown colour along with the Jasper for my Crow Waltz Shawl and I didn’t want the the two shawls to be too similar to one another.

Not only did these colours look good together, but I also thought the colours were nicely matched to the name of the shawl too . . . Earth & Sky.

1st August and Mr West released the first clue in his mystery KAL, and after a very short time knitting the clue was finished and I had this little nugget.

Even though I was happy with this little nugget, I had to wait for Clue #2 to be released, to make sure I liked the pattern and also to see how the colours would look together.

I knew at this point that I was going to love this shawl.  Clue #3 was the biggest section to knit and as I was knitting the largest size, there was a lot of knitting that week.  By the time I had finished, Clue #4 (final clue) had been released and I was able to carry on and knit the border on too.  I didn’t even wait to block it before running into the garden to get pics of my finished shawl that I could share on Ravelry.

However, I did get it blocked and while I was at Portencross Castle with my OH, he took a couple of pics of me wearing my beautiful shawl.


I just love this shawl to bits . . . it checks all the important boxes for me

  • big enough to wrap right around me (I do love a big, snuggly shawl)
  • love the pattern and the placing of the colours
  • and I just adore the yarn . . . 80% superfine alpaca & 20% silk . . . yum yummm!

This is the first Stephen West pattern that I’ve knitted and it certainly won’t be the last!  I can’t wait to meet him at The Yarn Cake workshop that I’m taking part in next month x

PS. The Crow Waltz Shawl that I mentioned earlier does have similar colours, but that’s where the similarities end!  And to think I had wasted time worrying about about that, eh?!

Crow Waltz Shawl by Juju at Loop

Portencross Castle

Posted on 21 September, 2011

Sunday 4th September was the 2nd day of ‘Doors Open Days‘ in Ayrshire and one of the places we visited that day was Portencross Castle.

Portencross Castle overlooks the Firth of Clyde near West Kilbride.  Portencross has been inhabited for thousands of years.  Evidence of an Iron Age settlement (800 BC to 100 BC) has been discovered during an archaeological dig just behind the castle.

Lots more info about the castle can be found on the Portencross Castle website.  This is one of my favourite quotes taken from there:

It is said that Portencross Castle was the last resting place of the great kings of Scotland. Legend has it that they were transported via the castle on their way to Iona, for burial. They lay in state at Portencross Castle for a short time.

The first room that we went into had a lot of information on display about the castle and its history.  There was also a video clip from the 2004 BBC TV programme ‘Restoration’ which had featured Portencross Castle.  I remember watching that programme on the TV at the time, but would never have guessed it was that long ago!  I also remember recording it on a VHS video recorder . . . now that was a while back!!

These two pictures were taken in the first room and show part of the stem of ‘The Lady Margaret’, which was a three masted sailing vessel built in Glasgow and wrecked in Ardneil Bay, Portencross in 1770.

On the way upstairs we felt something tickling our heads and looked up to find some dangling toy spiders, which we found more of hanging next to windows in other parts of the castle too.

On the 1st floor, the first room that we went into was the Banqueting Hall.  This was a large room with high, vaulted ceilings, a large fireplace and also a guardrobe and window seat.

Straight across the hallway from the Banqueting Hall was the East Wing of the castle and looking up you could see remains of former bedrooms, fireplaces and areas where the crossbeams would have been supported.

We had to wait in the East Wing for about 15 minutes before we were allowed up onto the roof.  The numbers at any one time allowed up there are limited, but it was well worth the wait . . . the view was stunning!

I even had a little bit of a Geography lesson up there on the rooftop . . . I finally found out the names of the different peaks of Arran and I now know exactly where Goatfell is too!

This is me, looking very pleased to be at the top of the castle standing in front of ‘The Moffat View’.

Ailsa Craig (also known as Paddy’s Milestone) was just visible on the horizon . . . to the right and slightly above the wee boat.

We could see the Isle of Cumbrae across the water and also along the coast towards Hunterston.

This coastal walk along to Hunterston is a favourite of ours, and we’ve walked along there many a time looking at the castle and wondering what it looked like on the inside.  I never actually thought it would be as big inside.  I’m looking forward to visiting it again in the future and seeing what restoration work Friends of Portencross Castle do next.


Old Rowallan Castle

Posted on 20 September, 2011

September is the month for ‘Doors Open Days’ in Scotland, and over the last few weekends I’ve managed to visit a few of the places open free to the public with my family.

The first weekend in September (Sat 3rd & Sun 4th) saw a lot of buildings in Ayrshire opening their doors free of charge . . . one of them being Old Rowallan Castle.

Old Rowallan Castle is tucked away in the East Ayrshire countryside and is currently in the care of Historic Scotland.  Entrance to the castle is by pre-booked tour only!  Admission times and prices can be found on the Historic Scotland website.

On the day of our tour (Sat 3rd Sep) a group of approx 20 people met in the Visitor Centre in Dean Castle Park.  We were given a quick safety briefing along with a cup of coffee before being taken by bus to Old Rowallan Castle.  The bus dropped us off at the gatehouse and after a small walk through the grounds we arrived at the castle.

After walking along the driveway and up the front steps, we were standing in the courtyard.  Such a beautiful, peaceful place with a lovely old tree.

The castle has a small exhibit displaying a few archaeological finds, which include coins, bottles, pottery and also a 4,000 year old burial vessel.

We then moved into the main Dining/Banqueting Room. The fireplace was added later in the castles history . . . the original fireplace went all the way up to the ceiling. A lot of the oak paneling is still the original paneling and that door on the right was made from Russian oak.  This room has big windows which would let in a lot of natural light.

This was the Withdrawing Room . . . this was my favourite room inside the castle. I can picture myself sitting by those windows, knitting away quite happily.

Next two pics are from inside one of the bedrooms . . . this may be Ayrshire’s first fitted bedroom! The archway in the middle would have housed the bed with cupboards on either side for storing clothes and personal items.

Inside the Ladies Room . . . a lot lighter and brighter in here . . . ideal for embroidering.

This was our guide Adrian, telling us about the fireplace behind him in the kitchen. Now if I remember correctly, it was a fireplace and then a doorway out to the garden and then filled in again.

Another picture of inside the kitchen.

Tour over, and as we walked back down to the gatehouse I found these wee mushrooms (or are they toadstools?) growing by the side of the road.

Mushrooms and toadstools seem to be popping up everywhere just now!  My PicKnitting friends have also noticed their increasing numbers this year.

It was a real treat to get inside Old Rowallan Castle!  I’ve driven past it a few times (when I worked for a local newspaper) while I was on my way to the hotel and golf club situated in the same location, and have always wondered what it looked like on the inside.

I really enjoyed this tour . . . it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  If you live close-by or are visiting the area, you really should get along for a visit.

Feeling Rather Pleased With Myself

Posted on 4 September, 2011

I recently published my first two knitting patterns through Ravelry . . . I say recently, but I really mean within the last few months! I’m still struggling to get my head around the fact that we’re in September already.

The first pattern that I published was my Forget-Me-Not Shawl:

I knitted this shawl with Artesano 100% Alpaca 4Ply that I received from The Knitter magazine, after they published a picture of my daughter wearing a horse riding jacket that I had knitted from a previous issue. The yarn was in a shade called Forget Me Not, and I knew right away that I wanted to knit a shawl in memory of my grandfather.

Here is some background info that I published along with the shawl pattern
My grandfather passed away in 2009 after suffering from dementia and memory problems for several years. While he was still alive, I designed and produced a charity Christmas card for Alzheimer’s Scotland, which raised over £1,000 for the charity. Along with the thank you note that I received from them was a small packet of Forget-Me-Not seeds.

Since then, I have tried to grow my own Forget-Me-Nots. I wasn’t having much luck growing them until earlier this summer, when the first little blue flower appeared in my garden. This flower inspired me to create this pattern.

Before I designed this shawl, I took part in a knitting design class at the City of Glasgow College. The course was called Knitwear and Knitted Textile Design and was well worth every penny. Not only did I learn loads, but the the class was filled with the nicest and most inspirational bunch of knitters that you could ever come across. Classes are due to start again on the 8th September 2011, so if you are interested in taking part, follow the link above and get yourself on this course! I was really sad when this ten week course came to an end, but I do still keep in touch with most of the class through the Glasgow PicKnitters. There’s a short video on the Glasgow PicKnitters site letting everyone know who we are and what we do. Johanna Flanagan, the founder member talking at the start, also teaches the knitting classes at the college.

I’m sidetracking here . . . back to my shawl.

I was delighted with this shawl when I unpinned it from the blocking board . . . it was big enough to wrap right around me, it had beautiful little beads that just added a touch of bling to the finished shawl, I loved the Alpaca yarn, I loved the colour and most importantly, the design was all my own too! I published my shawl pattern at the end of June, and it was really exciting watching Ravelry members add it to their favorites and their queues.

As I had only used 4 of the 5 balls of yarn that I received from The Knitter for my shawl, I designed a matching beret with my last ball. I called this design my Forget-Me-Not Beret:

I’m a big fan of berets and have knitted quite a few of them, so designing and knitting my own beret was just lovely. I know I’ll wear this beret loads . . . I’ll probably wear it done by the end of this coming Winter.

I love that last pic of me sitting on my iPhone, trying my best to look relaxed and not bothered at all by that camera pointing at me! My hands were shaking so much, I was sure it would show in the photos. I published my beret pattern in July, again through Ravelry. Both the shawl and the beret patterns have sold really well . . . way better than I ever imagined they would. It’s such a buzz seeing your design appear on Ravelry knitted by someone else . . . the different yarn choices, the colours . . . it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

I’m currently working on some top-secret (lol) design projects just now for the Glasgow School of Yarn Design Competition. This is just one of many events organised by The Yarn Cake in Glasgow to celebrate their 1st birthday. There’s going to be a design competition, workshops (I’m going to one of the Stephen West ones . . . squeee!), a market place to buy all things yarny and also lots of yummy cake!! If you’re in the Glasgow area on the 21st/22nd October, you really should pop along.

Right, I really must get off the computer . . . I have a couple of castles to visit today!