islay woolen mills

As we wandered around the main town of Bowmore we came across The Celtic House. This is a shop that focuses on Islay and Scottish products. It is an interesting shop and I have to say a little too interesting given the baggage allowances of airlines.  The Celtic House has a carefully selected collection of books and I discover and purchase the Islay Roadbooks by Gudrun and Heinz Fesl.   The books are a rich collection of photographs and succinct descriptions, however, the authors include a map for each set of photographs and the books and our trusty Lonely Planet Guide were a great way of uncovering some of Islay’s gems.

One such gem is the Islay Woollen Mills. Visiting the weaving mills is like stepping back in time and we soon find out that Gordon and Sheila’s fabrics are in high demand from tailors to the rich and royal, fashion houses searching for uniqueness, and movies directors searching for cloth for to add a degree of authenticity to their productions. His cloth has featured in an impressive collection of movies, including Braveheart, Stars including Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks Lian Neeson, Will Smith, and Mel Gibson have used cloth made by Gordon to enhance their roles. In addition to the cloth there are jackets, scarves, and rugs on sale. Gordon provided a tour of the mill and later told me that when the mill was first built in 1883 it was powered by a water wheel, the waterwheel may have long gone but much of the early machinery remains – although some looks as if it will never run again it add atmosphere to the visitors experience. Like many who have a passion for preserving the past Gordon questions what will happen to this method of weaving cloth when he can no longer continue. It is easy to forget that there was a time when water and wind powered the industrial revolution of Britain.

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