Tartan Culture

The second day of the press trip with Barbour (catch up on day one here!) started early. Breakfast at the hotel was really an excuse for us to exchange ghost stories. Seriously, we were spooked from the night before. Footsteps on the roof (which we really think were just the peacocks!) and signs in the room that were “disturbed” overnight were two of the major occurrences. As funny as I thought it was, I would be lying if I didn’t have goosebumps. There was another mini-hotel tour while our luggage was put on the bus and I joined in… again. It felt like a new tour in the daylight, with new discoveries in every room.
Our first stop of the day was Kinloch Anderson where we would learn about the Barbour tartan and about tartan in general. It was such a unique experience. Like Barbour, Kinloch Anderson is a heritage brand that’s still run by the family (currently the fifth and six generations).
Tartan, I learned, is more about culture than a science. Barbour, for example, had used plaids (or checks) in their coats for years… but not tartan, as there was no history behind the patterns. In fact, other manufacturers could use the same plaid they used and make look-alikes all too easily. They decided that they should research their family tartan to use in their coats, but discovered that the family didn’t actually have a tartan! That’s where Kinloch Anderson comes in. The Barbour family sat down with them to come up with options to create the signature Barbour tartan.
The family originated in Ayrshire, a district in Scotland, so the colors from that tartan were used as a base. Because it’s not a science, they drew up a few options based on that sett and they went from there! Once they decided on the Barbour tartan, they could then come up with the different variations (dress, modern, etc.). If you look at the Barbour tartans, they seem different, of course, but you can tell how they’re all within the same family. You can make the print of the tartan really big or really small to give it a different look too. It’s pretty cool to see what Kinloch Anderson can do!
We also learned a lot about kilts. Kilts are only for men, by the way… but women wear kilted skirts. A kilt was passed around and I couldn’t believe how heavy it was. Until, that is, they showed us how much fabric goes into a kilt–about seven yards. There’s no hem on the bottom, if you want or need it to be altered, you’d have to unravel the whole thing to make the alteration on the top. (A proper kilt, we also learned, has the tartan matching around the whole thing… even with all the pleats!)

I couldn’t get enough of the tiny kilts for kids.
After visiting Kinloch Anderson, we drove to the Barbour store in Edinburgh for a quick look around. (I really did wear those boots every day!) It was a particularly beautiful store and everyone was super nice. I was lusting over the Liberty of London prints… 
We had lunch at the Tower Restaurant and the views were really incredible. You could see so much (despite the fact that it was overcast and starting to rain). I honestly could have stood on the deck for a while just taking it all in. The rooftops were so charming and the view of the castle couldn’t be beat!
We had a little bit of time to explore Edinburgh on our own before we were on the move again. It was getting really cold and the rain was picking up, so we stopped into The Elephant House. Nerd alert, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to go here… J. K. Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter here and it’s claimed to be “the birthplace” of Harry Potter. I kind of expected it to be overrun with HP fans (you know, like me), but it was just a really cute cafe with lots of students. There were two girls there in Gryffindor ties/cloaks though. (I was jealous.)
There are elephants everywhere in the cafe… even the cookies are shaped like elephants. Too cute. 
The best part?! The bathroom is covered and I mean COVERED in Harry Potter graffiti from fans. Some of the messages are funny, some are sad. Some are favorite quotations. Some are messages to J. K. Rowling herself. It’s basically a shrine to the author and the books and the characters.
We walked around the city for a while, popping in and out of stores to warm up. It was dark, cold, and rainy… so basically I felt like we were getting the full experience!
After our self-guided walking tour, we met back at the bus where we drove to Newcastle. It was pitch black at that point so we couldn’t see anything out of the windows, unfortunately. So I caught up on some sleep!
In Newcastle, a few of us when out to dinner in an English pub. Fish and chips for everyone. And beer. (… From San Francisco, which seemed to be a common theme everywhere we went.) The fish was, I kid you not, the length of my forearm. This was such a fun night because we could all get to know each other more. The French and Greek press people were there and it was fun to exchange stories. One of the women from Greece’s daughter lives a block away from me in the city! And we got to see some gorgeous wedding photos in Switzerland. 

At the end of dinner, it was all I could do to keep my head up and my eyelids open. Another wonderful day!
And the third day was even better!

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The posts about your trip are incredible. I'm loving living vicariously through them!


Dani Fairbairn

My family is from Scotland & we have a tartan! I was lucky enough to find it too when I visited Edinburgh last summer.


I'm such a fan of classic plaids, tartans, and checks. I loved the little bit of history in this post. Thank you for sharing your trip; it looks enchanting!

Victoria |


I was the only blogger… The editor from Elle is writing something for I think. And then there were people from various publications from Europe, but I think they have longer lead times for coverage! I'll tweet any other write ups I see 🙂