Travels in Scotland Post 4: Sailing the Scottish Isles

Welcome to my series of blog posts Travels in Scotland. Whether you're planning a trip, reliving a memory, or relaxing into some armchair traveling...thank you for joining me! Here I will show you images & share stories of my one month travels through Scotland. I'll cover this beautiful country of mountains, rivers, glens, islands, history, and, of course, fiber and textiles.

When you read the title of today's blog post, which ship below did you think I meant?

After five days of museums and city touring on my own, I joined a group with Wild Fibers Tours and set sail (on this seaworthy  British 100-passenger ship) headed for the Hebrides, the Orkneys, and Shetland.  Most of the passengers on this trip were British birdwatchers and evenings were filled with presentations by naturalists on the flora and fauna that we might see the next day.  

Shores of Isle of Iona
Shores of Isle of Iona

Scotland includes 790 islands (93 are inhabited) and 6,160 miles (9,910 km) of coastline.  The Wild Fibers Tour visited 9 islands: Iona, Canna, Papa Westray, St. Kilda, Jura, Isle of Skye, Isle of Lewis, North Ronaldsay (Orkneys) and Shetland (the main island of the Shetland Islands). Our group saw Atlantic birds including Skuas, Gannets and Puffins on the islands and sea mammals including Minke whales, Bottlenose and Short-beaked common dolphins, and Grey and Common seals from the ship. Because our ship was on the small side, we were able to visit more remote islands by anchoring nearby and transferring to a local landing by Zodiac. With amazing crew, waterproofs, and life jackets, the adventure began on the zodiacs. This was the only way to travel because it meant we were able to motor very close to the island shores to see the wildlife - all in all it had the effect on me of being "in" a National Geographic documentary!


During the days at sea, I along with the other passengers left the ship on a zodiac to stretch our legs on the islands - for the smaller group of Wild Fibers Tour members - that meant finding the sheep and the yarn shop! On Iona, the Wild Fibers Tour group was able to meet a shepherd to learn about raising sheep on an island and to visit the Iona Wool Shop, where wool from the island's native breeds of sheep is resourcefully turned into wool yarn, knitted items and felted boots. Publishing Editor, Susan Anderson, of Yarn: The Journal of Scottish Yarns writes an in-depth account of the evolution of Iona Wool from having little value to being in collaboration by the nearby Ardalanish Mill on neighboring Isle of Mull, to becoming a valuable product to sell directly from Iona.  Still, with a population of 120 people, 1,000 sheep that produce a ton of wool each year that must be sorted, skirted, and put on a boat, the enterprise of creating Iona Wool yarn is not to be underestimated!

Blog tip: Click on any photo to enlarge and read caption

IONA abbey

A short walk up the road from the dock & town, Iona Abbey and Nunnery (ruins) is believed to be one of the oldest centers of Christianity in the Western World. It is believed that the Book of Kells was created on Iona in Scotland, under Saint Colomba before a viking raid sent the monks to Kells in Ireland. (And here I have to recommend a favorite movie - The Secret of the Kells.)

PAPA westray


Isle of skye

Hiking from Loch Scavaig along the freshwater Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye toward the Cullin Mountain Range
Hiking from Loch Scavaig along the freshwater Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye toward the Cullin Mountain Range


My watercolor travel journal
My watercolor travel journal



Special thanks to Linda Cortright, tour guide par excellence, and publisher/editor of Wild Fibers Magazine for 20 years.  Linda's Wild Fibers Magazine is worth checking out.  You can also connect with Linda on the Wild Fibers Facebook page.  Linda does the research and the legwork for arranging meetings with fiber producers and processors for tour members.  And fiber people who go on these tours are the best people to travel with - it's amazing to travel with people who share the same passions and love to knit in public!


Anderson (2022) Fleece and Quiet: The story of Iona Wool, Yarn: The Journal of Scottish Yarns, Issue 1


This post began exploring the Scottish Isles. Stay tuned for more beaches, coastlines, water, sheep and wildlife... upcoming posts will continue the island hopping to St. Kilda, North Ronaldsay, the Isle of Lewis, and Shetland.

Thank you for reading my blog post. Travels in Scotland is a 12 part blog series filled with photos and stories of a fiber artist's journey through a beautiful country, encountering a land with a deep textile history, stunning landscapes, and of course sheep!


You can read all of the Travels in Scotland blog posts on my website.  I invite you to travel along with me, along the coast and through the mainland hills seeing, experiencing and learning about this place called Scotland. Turas math dhuibh! (Good journey to you!)  Amy

Write a comment

Comments: 3
  • #1

    Florence Trossello (Wednesday, 10 April 2024 07:39)

    I enjoyed this so much! My husband and I will be making the same trip wild fibers is coming June.

  • #2

    Diny Warren (Thursday, 11 April 2024 07:08)

    Thank you for the extensive post and pictures. My husband and I were on the Wild Fibers trip in 2023 and enjoyed it all

  • #3

    Wendy Potestio (Thursday, 18 April 2024 13:00)

    Thank you for this Amy! Like Linda mentioned, it’s always fun+interesting to see someone else’s views, photos of trips like this. Hard to believe it’s almost a year since our Wild Fibers trip to Scotland (after it was delayed a year!). Amazing experiences. Totally breathtaking.
    See you at HGB meetings!