Islay woollery

Wool from IslayJust got back from a beautiful week in remote Islay (Inner Hebrides). It’s well known for its bird communities which is why we went. Nah not really, although I am partial to a bit of wildlife bothering. We’d heard of it because of the famous single-malt whisky distilleries and we managed to drink our way through all of them. In between I also managed to squeeze in a visit to the ramshackle Islay Woollen Mill which was completely and beautifully devoid of visitors so I was given a quick tour by Gordon, the owner, and his 3 dogs (including a border terrier called Peanut).

It was of those memorable lost afternoons, wandering around chatting to Gordon about his Victorian looms and ancient machinery which is amazingly still in use (“just needs a daily oiling and a spare part or two from time to time”). He and his wife Sheila create their own designs and still take enormous pride in it, particularly when commissioned by famous clients – their designs have cropped up in the films Braveheart, Rob Roy, Far & Away and Forrest Gump. While I was there, Chanel phoned to confirm their latest order, and Gordon told me about the time the Queen turned up unannounced to say hello as she’s a big fan!

I helped him load some pictures onto his website and, on top of the gorgeous skirt lengths I bought, I was given a lovely scarf for my troubles too. Well worth a visit if you ever find yourself up in those parts. Whisky wasn’t bad either.

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