As a country bursting with inspiring landscapes and wonderful natural materials, Scotland has a rich heritage in the arts and crafts that goes back centuries. From jewellery and textiles, to pottery and paintings, this national creativity is thriving to this day, with many artisans still using traditional methods to hone their pieces. In fact, you’ll be able to visit many of the workshops and studios to see how they’re made, and even have a go yourself, making Scotland the perfect place for a relaxing, slow-paced crafty holiday this autumn – and beyond.
Where better to start exploring the Scottish craft scene than West Kilbride in Ayrshire & Arran, Scotland’s first accredited Craft Town and winner of a Creative Place Award 2012? Known as ‘The Village’, West Kilbride might be small, but it offers a range of independent retailers and designer shops that complement its major cultural attractions, including The Barony Centre, which regularly has local and national exhibitions, workshops, talks and events. There are nine craft studios dotted along the town’s main street, many of which hold workshops for members of the public.
Indeed, a great way to discover the diversity of local crafts is by following one of Scotland’s many craft trails, which run as far afield as Kirkcudbright, Dumfries & Galloway, known as the Artists’ Town because of its flourishing colony of painters and craftworkers, Orkney and Shetland. Similarly, you can use the Wander Argyll map to explore more than 100 local galleries, artists, shops, heritage sites, museums and more to get a feel for the diverse array of attractions in the Argyll & The Isles.
But wherever you plan to visit in Scotland, you’re sure to experience the fantastic culture, heritage and arts. You’ll find weaving studios, potteries and jewellery makers on the Isle of Skye, and Aberdeenshire is a region full of stories, songs and traditional skills such as straw crafting. Book worms will adore Wigtown in Dumfries & Galloway, the official National Book Town with an annual book festival and a wide range of independent bookshops, while design enthusiasts will want to head to sunny Dundee, the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design. Here, you can explore V&A Dundee – the first V&A in the world outside of London – and the vibrant Dundee Contemporary Arts centre.
Art fans, meanwhile, will be able to indulge their passion in Glasgow where you can soak up the extensive collection at the Gallery of Modern Art, follow the Contemporary Art Trail and discover the work and legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of Scotland’s most celebrated architects and designers, across the city.
Of course, there’s no better way to really learn about a craft than by giving it a go yourself. So, once lockdown lifts, why not take the take the time to truly unwind and get hands-on with a time-honoured art form? Here are a few crafting package getaways you’ll love…
Fair Isle knitting, Shetland
With this relaxing knitting retreat, you’ll have a full week to immerse yourself in Fair Isle, with everything tailored to your needs and wishes. This trip includes transport from Lerwick to Fair Isle and accommodation at Taft Cottage – a traditional croft house located in the heart of Fair Isle with gorgeous views over the south of the island and across the sea. All your meals, knitting materials and courses are also included, plus you’ll be given a tour of the island’s landmarks such as the lighthouse, museum and North Haven Beach. As one of the UK’s most remote inhabited islands, Fair Isle is the perfect space for you to start or finish a project, learn about the knitting tradition of the island or even develop your own designs. Want to start planning your Fair Isle knitting holiday?
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Weaving workshop, Argyll & The Isles
Slow down for a few days and learn the ancient art of tapestry weaving. You’ll be treated to a two-day private workshop with weaving artist Louise Oppenheimer at her bright and airy studio in the beautiful Kilmartin Glen, home to some of the best-preserved Neolithic and Bronze Age sites in Britain. The workshop will introduce you to hand loom weaving on a wooden frame (which will be available to buy at the end) and is suitable for beginners. As part of the break you’ll enjoy three nights at the lovely Dalriada B&B close to Lochgilphead – hosts Jenn and Everett also run a delicatessen shop in the town and can make you a tasty packed lunch for you to enjoy during your workshop breaks, if you like! Want to start planning your weaving workshop holiday in Argyll & The Isles?
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Painting, Scottish Borders
Surrounded by the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders, Paintbox Luxury Art Retreats offer painting holidays at the boutique Over Kirkhope Farm, a cosy but modern working farm nestled in Ettrick Valley. You’ll be welcomed with champagne and canapés, and once you’ve settled in, you’ll enjoy a hearty two-course evening meal. After a wonderful night’s sleep, you’ll tuck into a delicious breakfast, before stepping into the purpose-built studio to paint or draw the awe-inspiring landscapes that surround you. With all your materials, tuition, accommodation and meals included with your holiday package, this is the perfect way to kick back, relax and allow your creativity to flourish… Want to start planning your painting knitting holiday in the Scottish Borders?
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Jewellery making, Perthshire
This creative break will give you an introduction to traditional jewellery techniques with a two-day workshop at the Creative Exchange in Perth with designer Roberta Pederzoli, as well as a day exploring Perthshire, the gateway to the Highlands. Roberta will show you basic skills such as sawing, texturing, hammering, drilling, filing, annealing, soldering and polishing, so you can create your own piece of silver jewellery. Tools and metals are included in the four-day retreat, as is three nights of accommodation at the family-run four-star Sunbank House Hotel, which is set in elegant gardens and just a 10-minute walk from the city centre. Breakfast, afternoon tea on arrival, dinner with wine on the first evening and transportation, including pick-up and drop-off at Perth train station (if needed), are also included. Want to start planning your jewellery making holiday in Perthshire?
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Stone carving, Edinburgh
Discover the rewarding art of stone carving with Simon Burns-Cox, a professional sculptor and letter carver. Suitable for beginners and more experienced sculptors alike, the contents of the two days of workshops will be tailored entirely to your skills level and interests. So, if you’ve never done stone carving before, you’ll be shown how to think three-dimensionally and learn how to manipulate the stone from the basic idea to the finished work. And, with three nights at the recently re-furbished Ten Hill Place Hotel, a four-star hotel owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (where all profits go towards training surgeons worldwide), you’ll also have time to take in the delights of the capital, a city buzzing with creativity, culture and history. Want to start planning your stone carving holiday in Edinburgh?
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Please make sure to follow the latest Scottish Government guidelines when planning your trip to Scotland and travel responsibly.