Suppose you are tired and stressed out and urgently need a break. You might be unsure if the best way to relax is to lounge on a tropical beach or take long hikes in the mountains. Think again and consider a kind of relaxation you have never thought of before.
You will never know what soothing and relaxing activities knitting or crocheting can be until you have tried them. Discover hidden talents you didn’t even know you had, give your creativity free reign, and embark on a vacation of a very different kind.
When I came upon Gartmore House and the unique programs they offer, I was immediately intrigued. Picture a classic mid-18th-century Scottish manor and country estate, located in the midst of 50,000 acres of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, stretching from Loch Lomond to the rugged terrain of Strathyre and the Trossachs National Park. You are surrounded by rolling countryside, forests, lochs, swamps, and the accompanying wildlife with endless possibilities for hikes and walks. Little villages with quaint Scottish pubs dot the countryside.
Gartmore Manor is reached by road either from the south (Glasgow) towards Aberfoyle on the A81 or from the north (Perth) or east (Edinburgh) on the M9. The nearest airports are Glasgow or Edinburgh.
The manor itself features 23 en suite bedrooms all furnished in traditional Scottish style, warm and welcoming spaces to sit and relax, and of course, the arts and craft activities that make this estate so special.
Activities At The Gartmore House
You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding which art and craft you want to try. There is photography, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, lace making, painting from nature, and much more. All materials are provided as are the accommodations.
I must admit that I barely know how to sew on a button, so I had this illusion of trying knitting and making myself a nice, warm jumper from the lovely Scottish wool. Perhaps a bit too ambitious, but if you don’t try, you will never know what you can do.
Gartmore House has a great many tutors for all arts and crafts who, I must say, are enthusiasts and have endless patience to teach their skills to sometimes fumbling beginners. Always a kind and encouraging word from the knitting tutor Samira.
To my surprise, I learned that there are different ways to hold the knitting needles and to wind the wool around your fingers. The same applies to crocheting. I pulled the wool too hard and ended up with a square that hardly bent. Although I didn’t achieve the desired beautiful sweater, I had a lot of fun trying and so did the other members of the class. Chatting away, exchanging our life stories, and mutually admiring our achievements was as much part of the relaxation as seeing a strip of wool slowly growing into a multi-colored scarf, as was the tea time with scones in the elegant surroundings.
Next, I tried my hand at doll making. I thought that this was a particularly creative skill, you can craft your own “little people,” dress them as you fancy, give them hair in a color you might want to have yourself, and create a gift for any little girl among your family and friends. Tutor Angela, who has been a dressmaker all her life, is always at hand and helps you along. Believe me, you start talking to your creations as you squeeze and pummel them until they are just so.
Being a travel writer and photographer, I was very interested in the photography course Gartmore House has to offer, run by Edinburgh photographer Ewan Barry. I got a lot of useful tips and learned about the beauty you can create with black and white photography.
Something else I absolutely had to try was working with essential oils and making my own sweet-smelling candles. If nothing else soothes and relaxed you, this activity will. You will bring back a souvenir that you have created yourself and that will grace your home for many months after your return.
Head Off To Aberfoyle
Between classes, you can enjoy hikes and walks along Loch Lomond and in the woods and a trip to the small village of Gartmore with a community-run shop and a traditional pub or the larger village of Aberfoyle. This is a charming village on the banks of the River Forth. You will find a main street with many lovely shops, cafes, and restaurants and the interesting Trossachs Discovery Center and the Scottish Wool Center. Here you learn everything about sheep and wool. It was here that I finally got my coveted, lovely jumper as my own efforts, in the end, were not enough — but I had such fun trying.
The Majesty Of The Manor
The manor house itself is very romantic too. It was redesigned a few times since it was first built in the mid-1800s as a home for the Graham family on the site of an earlier home. Most notably, the roof was altered, a tower was added, and the staircase was relocated to the center of the house between 1901 and 1902. Stained glass windows designed by Stephen Adam were also added. All of this gives the manor, which is now a Category B listed building, a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
For a stay like this, food is also important, and Gartmore House lives up to expectations. When you book your arts and crafts stay, accommodations, as well as full board, are included. Breakfast is a buffet and so is lunch, but dinner is a sit-down meal with a starter, main course, and dessert. Two in-house chefs provide excellent food with as many local products as are available. This being Scotland, of course, you’ll find haddock, baked filet of salmon, and leg of lamb on the menu. If you have special dietary requirements, you only have to notify them in advance and all will be taken care of. Be prepared for big portions though; Scots are hearty eaters and nobody is left starving.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience. I loved the venue, the classes, and the spirit of companionship, and even learned some new skills that will come in handy for a long time to come.
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