I am just finishing up a 10 day trip to the UK – with 3 days filming at the Birmingham Quilt Festival – and a week touring Scotland. Back home in Colorado, over the last year my mom and I have been delving deeper into our family history, and I am understanding why I felt so at home when I visited Scotland for the first time last summer! Last weekend our tour started in Glasgow, worked our way across the Highlands, and finished in St. Andrews and Edinburgh. I’ve spent hours and hours gazing out the windows of our tour bus, completely entranced with the dramatic landscapes. Glen Coe is one of the places that touched my heart so deeply. The Culloden Battlefield (Bonnie Prince Charlie’s last stand) was an eerie experience. As we headed east…towards the Scotch Whisky distilleries…the vast fields of golden grains were punctuated by emerald green pastures with sheep and shaggy Highland cows.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most are the historic textiles in the castles we’ve visited. Yesterday we visited Crathes Castle, and two of the bedrooms provided a banquet of quilting, embroidery and cross-stitch artwork. As much as I loved the Victorian-Era quilt, I was blown away by the Tudor-Era crewel embroidery bedspread.
Today we had a castle experience that was way beyond my expectations: 600 years of history at Glamis Castle in Angus. This is where the Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth’s mother) grew up. If you saw the movie “The King’s Speech”, she was Bertie’s wife. Anyway, it was as engaging as my tour of Windsor Castle several years ago, which is saying something! There were historic textiles all through the house, and they were proudly displayed.
It is also a lot of fun to see filming locations for Downton Abbey and Harry Potter. When we visited the Duke of Argyle’s castle in Inveraray (and met him in the gift shop!) we discovered to our great delight, that it was the filming location for last year’s Downton Christmas special! We also saw the viaduct train bridge in Glenfinnan that was used in the 2nd Harry Potter movie, where Ron is driving the flying car.
I have always loved the combination of purple and green, and you see those colors everywhere here. One of the things I find so amazing in the Highlands, are entire mountains and vast valleys that are covered with carpets of blooming purple heather! The ubiquitous purple thistle is one of the beloved symbols of Scotland, because of an ancient story of an enemy who cried out when he stepped on a thistle, and alerted the Scots to the enemy’s advance. At home in Colorado the thistle is eradicated as a weed, but here it is celebrated in tapestries, jewelry, porcelain dining sets, and family crests as a beautiful purple blossom. There was a dramatic large quilt with a purple thistle at the Birmingham Quilt Festival, which you will see soon in one of my videos!