Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Trip To Inverary and The Crinan Canal

Rob, Brock and I had a night away staying at The Argyle Hotel in Inverary.

We stopped off at Tarbet for a walk next to Loch Lomond on the way up.
[Please click on any photo to see a larger version.]

We ate lunch at The Village Inn in Arrochar. There used to be a brilliant chef there, maybe 10 - 15 years ago and we ate and stayed there on a number of occasions. Those days are sadly long gone, and it is now more standard pub fare that is offered. Rob and I shared the Mediterranean-style 'sharing platter' priced at £12. I had brought my own gluten free bread along, and just as well, as it was a very meagre selection of tiny pots of hummus, olives (6), sun dried tomatoes (3 halves), feta stuffed pepperdew chillies (2), roasted veg (a small amount of rather tough red onion, and pepper), olive oil/balsamic vinegar and 2 - 3 pieces of standard sliced bread. All quite tasty, but a snack rather than a meal. However, the staff are friendly and the pub has a nice position next to the loch and it has a good atmosphere and pleasant interior decor.

We drove on to Inverary and had a wander round the attractive town and shops before booking in at The Argyle Hotel. We did a bit of Christmas shopping in The Stable Gallery, where you can find hundreds of cards, prints, calendars, mugs and gifts. There are lots of nice, little shops and places to eat. The views over the Loch are stunning, making it a lovely place to stay for a day or two.

[Boats by the harbour in Inverary]

We ate dinner at the Ban-diuc Indian Restaurant. The interior is very nice, with huge, historial paintings on the wall, and smart tables and chairs with modern cutlery and white crockery. Very stylish! We had the usual appetiser of poppadoms and pickles. I had channa masala (spiced chickpeas) to start and Rob had vegetable samosas. Both starters were excellent - very tasty, hot and freshly prepared. Our main courses were slightly less successful. We chose: vegetable dhansak (medium sweet and sour curry with split peas in this case, (normally lentils)), vegetable garlic chilli (hot dish with whole green chillies) and a side dish of aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower), with plain boiled rice and pilau rice. The rice was very good, but although very tasty in themselves, the three curries were so similar in look and taste that we wished we had picked something with more variety. There was plenty of food and we were sorry to leave about a third of it, but we were just too full to finish it. The bill came to around £50 with three drinks. The waiter was very good: friendly and attentive; and I would recommend the restaurant.

Rob had found a good deal on the hotel - £60 bed and breakfast, including a room with loch view + £10 for Brock. The room was small but reasonably comfortable, although there was nowhere to sit, apart from the bed. The bathroom had a shower, but no bath. The room was very warm, we had to turn off all the heating and open the window at one point. The decor was a bit tatty in the stairway and room, but clean enough. The bed was comfortable, but there was quite a lot of noise from other rooms and from the road outside. The breakfast was great with a large choice with cereals, porridge, continental breakfast, cooked breakfast, meats and cheeses, fruit and yoghurts etc. We had a cooked breakfast with a selection of vegetarian items such as mushrooms, tomato, potato scone, eggs, baked beans and toast. I produced a gluten free ciabatta, which the waitress kindly toasted for me. The coffee was a bit ropey (stewed filter coffee), but otherwise it was very good: well cooked and nicely presented. The staff were all friendly and helpful. It was great for Brock, because we only had to step outside for several possible walks to take him on and plenty of green areas.

[Crinan Basin]
On Tuesday, we headed further north to the village of Crinan and Crinan Basin, start (or end?) of the Crinan Canal. The Canal splits Argyll from Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne through 15 locks, over about nine miles, to Crinan, giving access to the west coast Crinan Basin. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, which was warm and mild with hazy sunshine.

We walked for about two miles along beside the canal (and back again), with the open sea on one side and the canal on the other. The views are amazing, with views of Duntrune Castle, and remote houses, boats, wild birds, mud flats, locks, quaint canal-side cottages, trees and woodlands. It was very quiet at this time of year, with just two cyclists and two other walkers passing us.

 [Crinan Lock and view out to sea]
 [Brock kneeling down rather than sitting, for some reason!]
 [Home and studio of artist Fraser MacIver]
 [Silver birch trees]
 [Mudflats and bridge]
 [Remote house on the tip of a peninsula]

We had lunch at The Stag Hotel in Lochgilphead. I had a jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw and Rob had macaroni cheese with chips. The portions were very generous and although it was nothing special, it was good for the price.

It was a nice break and a lovely area to visit. I'm sure we will be back in the future.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Work In Progress: Stripy Scrap Quilt

After looking at my collection of small fabric scraps left over from other projects, I decided to make a quilt using as many of them as I could.

Scraps sorted into piles of dark, medium and light tones.

The 'rules' were that they would all be made into stripes and sewn into squares 5 1/2 inches across (to give a 5" finished square). The width of the strip depends on the size of the scrap, with some pieces being joined to form larger pieces. Stripes vary between 3/4 inch and 2 inches in width before being sewn together. I tried to make a variety of light and dark combinations so that I have something to play with when I join them into a quilt. Each square has a coherent colour combination within itself, but some of the resulting squares clash pleasingly with others. I haven't decided yet whether to make one large quilt or a number of smaller ones. I will wait until I have a large enough number of finished squares to arrange into a pattern.

Photo collage of some of the 5 1/2" squares

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Eco Folksy Front Page

My 'Eco Folksy' Pinterest Board, featuring items made from recycled, re-purposed or environmentally friendly raw materials, is on the Folksy front page today! Just click on the top link above to go to the main board. From there you can click on the pictures to go to the original items. There are 19 pins on the board.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Gees Bend Quilters

Some of the most influential and inspiring quilters for me, are the ladies from the Gees Bend community. The women are African-American and live in an isolated hamlet in Alabama, USA.

This is one of my favourites, and shows a central striped motif made from corduroy, surrounded by strips of denim jeans and work clothing.

Their work is free from following strict rules, and the colour placement is stunning. Despite often very hard working lives with little money to spare, they produced works of art which have now been acclaimed and shown in art galleries. Many of the quilts used old work clothes or offcuts of corduroy from a factory where some of the ladies worked.

If you would like to read more about these remarkable women, I recommend a book called "The Quilts of Gee's Bend: Masterpieces From A Lost Place" by William Arnett. It seems to be out of print now, but you can still find copies on starting at £28.

My attempt at a small wall hanging inspired by the third quilt shown above:-

Black & White Stripes #2

Also available as a printed art card, priced at £2 each.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Holiday in Fife September 2013

Rob, Brock and I had a lovely week in Fife recently. We stayed at St Monans in the East Neuk.

Two half days were spent walking on the Fife Coastal Path between Cellardyke and St Monans; and St Monans and Elie.

We visited all of the small and picturesque fishing villages: Crail, Pittenweem, Elie, Anstruther; and also enjoyed visits to St Andrews, and Dundee.

Here are a few of the highlights of the visit. [Please click on any photo to see a larger version.]

 St Monans harbour

 St Andrews harbour

Ruin on the coast between St Monans and Elie

 McManus Art Gallery, Dundee

Brock at Camperdown Park, Dundee

 Pittenweem Harbour

Beautiful stonework, Pittenweem Harbour

 Autumn Colour at Cambo Gardens

 The Bass Rock
 Brock on the beach at Leven


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