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Scottish Fleet Cardigan: Week 2 – 7 September

Some 35 minutes’ drive south of Wick, just inside the Caithness-Sutherland border, lies the small village of Berriedale. You can’t miss it: the road, which has till then been footling along the clifftops overlooking the German Ocean, suddenly plunges down into a deep gorge where the Berriedale and Langwell rivers meet before merging their waters with the sea. Indeed, “Berriedale Braes” has been a notorious black spot for many years, especially in winter, with hairpin bends and precipitous inclines. I was once trapped there for nearly an hour some years back while a huge articulated lorry, which had got itself stuck, defied the laws of physics inch by painful inch around the sharpest bend; an experience not at all improved by the burning summer heat and the overpowering smell emanating from the meat wagon parked ahead of me.

Berriedale beach & one of the Candles

It’s a beautiful spot. Apart from a church at the very top of the brae—what fun Sunday mornings must have been, back in the day—there are just a few houses down in the gorge, a studio and the River Bothy cafe. To be honest, forget the scenery: it’s worth going there just for the cakes. (In The Lord of the Rings, Galadriel the elf-queen laments leaving the beauties of middle earth for the afterlife, “But if there are mallorn-trees beyond the Great Sea, none have reported it”; I feel much the same about mars bar tray bakes.) After stocking up on essentials to keep your blood sugar and spirits high, you cross the river and the road and follow the path down past the Wellbeck Estate offices to the harbour.

The latest ganseys modelled by their recipients

The harbour is sheltered by a projecting spur of land which curves out into the sea like a one-armed crab’s pincer. There’s nothing left of it now, but in medieval times there was a castle built on top of this spur, commanding both the seaward and landward approaches to Caithness. There’s a suspension footbridge leading to the north side of the river, where you will find the pebble beach, some old fishermen’s cottages, a handful of caves hollowed out under the cliffs, and the ocean. The footbridge is sturdy but has a noticeable wobble, designed by an engineer who clearly wanted to combine a bridge with a bouncy castle. There are two crenellated turrets perched high on the cliffs, originally built by the Duke of Portland for lights to guide fishermen to the river mouth and known, rather delightfully, as the Duke’s Candlesticks.

We slithered along the beach, peered into the only cave accessible at highish tide, stared man- and womanfully out to sea, and then it was time to go back across the only footbridge I know that suffers from turbulence. Luckily we’d parked the car at the cafe, and—what’s that you say? Another tray bake for the road? Well, now you mention it, maybe just a quick one…



This gansey is being knit in Frangipani Moonlight yarn. The chest size is 22 inches, which equates to c. 359 stitches in the round, plus 20 for the steek of the cardigan. I cast on 336 + 20 = 356 stitches for the welt and steek and increased by 23 for the body pattern. On each side, front and back, there are 3 tree panels @ 33 stitches wide, alternating with four cable bands @ 20 stitches wide. The central tree panel on the front is broken down the middle for the steek.

Autumn colour in the marsh

I only made one slight alteration to the tree pattern. In the original, the flags on either side of each tree are seven stitches deep. Now, the tree panels, which were 33 stitches wide, fit my required number of stitches perfectly. But the cable panels always start and end with a purl stitch: If I just fit the two patterns together as they were, I’d have had the cable purl stitches running up against the tree panels’ flag purl stitches. I felt that this would be messy, and wouldn’t give me the clean edges I felt these patterns required. So I converted the first and last purl stitches of the tree panels’ flags into knit stitches, which gave me a nice, sharp knit column to separate the trees and cables. In order to keep the flag pattern looking similar to the original, I adjusted each flag so that it still abutted the ones above and below, to reflect the fact that they are now six stitches wide, not seven.

6 comments to Scottish Fleet Cardigan: Week 2 – 7 September

  • Sharon Gunason Pottinger

    Lovely ganseys and great report from the south. Morris went down to see the new road but did not get to River Bothy–a def oversight if I had been organising it.

  • Eve

    The pedestrian bridge over the Tummel at Pitlochry has a considerable bounce! My delightful family always take pains to demonstrate as my white knuckled knitters hands grab the handrails, it’s also high enough over the river to induce whimpering vertigo (in me anyway, although I have to have a lie down after standing on a chair).

    • Gordon

      Hi Eve, I joke about it but my inner ear is very sensitive. Even walking over this footbridge, with no family members contributing to the bounce, I wasn’t sure just where the ground was for almost half an hour afterwards! It’s a horrible sensation, not vertigo exactly. If you can’t trust the ground, what can you trust?

  • =Tamar

    What a perfect landscape for an adventure novel! Caves that fill at high tide, a bouncy bridge, two turrets with lights to either burn in the fog or go out at a Bad Moment… and a cosy cafe where the heroes can eat while they discuss the plot.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar, I like your thinking! All it needs is lashings of ginger beer, a body washed up on the shore, a dog called Montmorency and a sinister yacht with a mysterious owner who wears an eyepatch and it’s good for 60,000 words at least. (Plus mars bar tray bakes..)

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