A trip to Edinburgh and the Yarn Festival

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Last week I was lucky enough to take a trip up to Edinburgh to visit a dear friend and to go to the Yarn Festival. It was a terrific few days and I was glad to get reacquainted with a city that I hadn’t visited for a very long time. It really is a splendid place …. it has everything - a castle, a palace, a university, Georgian squares, Victorian monuments, a harbour, a beach and is surrounded by highlands.

On the first afternoon we visited the Nation Museum of Scotland. It is one of those impressive victorian structures with equally impressive modern additions and houses a varied and eclectic collection of artefacts. There was a hall of costumes which is always a favourite with me and also a really wonderful exhibition of embroidered samplers. Unfortunately photos were not allowed, but the embroideries were absolutely beautiful, especially considering most of the them were from the 18th century and stitched by children.

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We also wandered by the famous cafe where J K Rowling wrote the beginnings of Harry Potter.

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The next day we headed off to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. Decommissioned in 1997, due largely to the huge cost involved in running it, it now has a permanent home at the water’s edge of the city. Of course I remember seeing Britannia on news bulletins and it carried the Queen and her family on royal engagements around the world and on family holidays too from the beginning of her reign in 1953. It seems she was very sad to see it go and once you step on board you can understand why. It has the most comfortable and relaxed atmosphere in the Royal quarters.

The sitting room on Britannia

The sitting room on Britannia

The Queen’s office on board

The Queen’s office on board

An embroidered panel especially made for the Queen’s bedroom (loved this!)

An embroidered panel especially made for the Queen’s bedroom (loved this!)

The dining room which hosted many famous guests including Churchill, Mandela, Sinatra and Clinton

The dining room which hosted many famous guests including Churchill, Mandela, Sinatra and Clinton

Main staircase, Britannia

Main staircase, Britannia

It was absolutely charming - airy and spacious, decorated in country house style rather than palatial and yet, the hierarchy on board was astonishing. A huge staff attended to the ship and it’s royal occupants and their quarters were somewhat less airy and spacious.

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Uniforms, ritual, regimented routines and etiquette ruled the decks and it must certainly have been a ship of contrasts. It was so elegant though, you cannot help but be enticed by it’s charm.

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Our afternoon was spent exploring the art galleries of the city - there is quite a choice. My two favourite paintings were these. I have come late to finding an interest in ‘Art’ and have no pretensions to understanding it really. I love the language art critics use to describe paintings and their hidden meanings but in the end, I like a painting just because it is pretty and these two are.

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On Thursday we headed to the Yarn Festival. I am not a great knitter. Like most people I learned from my mum as a youngster and made a few simple things. I did knit a little for my children when they were small, but fleece and hoodies soon took the place of hand knitted jumpers and it all got lost somewhere. Recently, spurred on the the gorgeous images on instagram of organic wool and modern patterns, I have picked up my needles again, but I work at a slow pace and am still very much learning the new ways of doing things.

The yarn festival was quite a surprise to me. First of all it was very much about knitting and only knitting. Secondly it was smaller than the knitting and stitching shows that I am used to, but it was packed to the rafters with amazing hand dyed yarns in a cacophony of colours and it was packed too, with knitters from all over the world. A large contingency of shoppers from Iceland, ladies from Canada and the US and I heard french and dutch and german to name but a few. Of course all these people were wearing amazing hand knitted garments and shawls and it was very inspirational. It was also crowded and hot and a little bit crazy. It was impossible to take pictures, it was too dark and busy, but it was not impossible to be tempted and I came away with a couple of projects of course.

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On the final morning, we popped into the Dovecote tapestry studios and it was an unexpected delight. Although they were established a century ago, they were recently rehoused in this amazing space - an old swimming pool now converted to house the large frame looms. It was so worth visiting to see how this ancient craft is preserved and taught and used for modern design.

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Some of the carpets woven here were incredibly beautiful and take thousands of hours to make.

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There is an enormous amount to see and do in Edinburgh - it is a fantastic destination for a few days away and all the better if you can take the train.

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Happy Mother’s Day to Mum’s everywhere. Hope you have a relaxing day…..

I’ll be back next week with my version of the Book Nerd Quilt … it’s a cracker!