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  • Writer's pictureFraser Mitchell

Scotland's Top Textile Attractions

We often receive international visitors at the Sma' Shot Cottages who, in addition to exploring Paisley's rich heritage, are travelling around Scotland's textile attractions.

From tartan and tweed to lace and carpets, textiles have long played an integral role in Scottish culture and industry.

Visitors to Scotland can immerse themselves in this living textile tradition by exploring some of the country’s top textile tourism attractions from the borders to the northern isles!

Whether you want to learn about the history of Scottish textiles, see how they are produced, or have a go at making them yourself, there are museums, events and people across Scotland ready to welcome you.

The Best Textile Tourism Attractions in Scotland

Here are some of the top textile tourism attractions in Scotland that enable visitors to discover and experience the country's renowned textile heritage firsthand:

Sma' Shot Cottages - Paisley

Let's start at home!

The Sma' Shot Cottages in Paisley provide a window into the lives of the 19th-century weavers and mill workers who once inhabited them. Visitors can explore the restored workers’ cottages and learn about the development of Paisley's textile industry through a guided tour led by a local volunteer.

Highlights include gaining insights into the 18th and 19th-century handloom weavers' way of life, seeing the looms where Paisley patterned shawls were produced, and joining volunteers and Paisley locals in the atmospheric tea room serving hot drinks and home baking.

Paisley Thread Mill Museum

Set in Paisley's former thread mill, this Paisley museum chronicles the town's textile manufacturing heritage and the history of thread manufacturing in Paisley.

The museum was founded in 2003 to tell the story of the Clarks and Coats Thread Mills.

Historic machinery and displays illustrate the industrial processes.

Weaver's Cottage - Kilbarchan

Just down the road from us in Paisley is the Weaver’s Cottage in Kilbarchan. The early 19th century weaver's cottage has been restored to its original condition. Local weavers specialise in making tartan on a 200-year-old loom.

Visitors can also explore the dye garden growing plants that were used for natural dyes and browse the shop filled with locally woven textile items.

New Lanark World Heritage Site

This preserved 18th-century cotton mill village near Lanark provides a look into Scotland’s textile past. You can explore the historic mill buildings and workers' housing set alongside the picturesque River Clyde falls.

Exhibitions explain how the mill operated and the innovative approach to workers’ welfare. Costumed interpreters demonstrate textile processes like spinning and weaving. There is also a mill shop selling textile products.

The Borders Textile Towerhouse - Hawick.

Heading south from Paisley, you could enjoy a driving route through the Scottish Borders visiting textile heritage sites like knitwear factories, mills, and museums. The borders town of Hawick has a rich tradition of tweed and cashmere.

200 years of textile tradition are preserved Borders Textile Towerhouse in Hawick. This museum set within a 16th-century towerhouse brings the region's renowned knitwear and tweed heritage to life and is also the focal point of the annual Hawick Common Riding festival.

You can also take in a tour of the four textile producers of Hawick - Hawico, Johnstons of Elgin, William Lockie and Lovat Mill.

National Museum of Scotland - Edinburgh

As Scotland's national museum, the National Museum has impressive textile collections including Paisley shawls, tartan pieces and Fair Isle knitting.

The Fashion and Textile gallery collection of European and North American fashion and textiles consists of around 50,000 items.

You can also attend textile focused events, talks and workshops at the museum throughout the year.

Dovecot Studios - Edinburgh

Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh is a leading international tapestry studio. Visitors can go behind the scenes to see tapestries being hand-woven by expert weavers and learn about the creative process from start to finish.

Interactive studio tours allow you to meet the artists and gain an appreciation for the meticulous work that goes into these stunning, large-scale textile artworks. You can also have a go at tapestry weaving yourself in a hands-on workshop.

Inside the vibrant Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh
Dovecot Studios

V&A Dundee

The spectacular V&A Dundee has outstanding collections spanning Scottish design heritage and is home to the national collection of textiles and fashion.

The V&A doesn't only focus on Scottish heritage, it has a spectacular collection which encompasses over 75,000 individual items and sets spanning more than 5 millennia of human history. You can learn the history of the Japanese kimono or delve into India's rich handmade textile heritage!

The museum also runs textile-focused events, talks and workshops.

Verdant Works - Dundee

Also located in the historic jute milling city of Dundee, Verdant Works tells the story of the city’s textile heritage. This former jute mill has been transformed into an immersive museum exploring Dundee’s past as a hub for textile production.

Exhibitions chronicle the jute industry and mill workers’ lives. You can also see industrial machinery like spinning frames and power looms in action. The demonstration weaving sheds provide a dynamic look at historical textile manufacturing.

Scottish Crannog Centre - Perthshire

The Scottish Crannog Centre on Loch Tay will take you back 2500 years to the Iron Age where can learn about learn about period crafts like warp-weighted loom weaving. This is a truly hands-on museum with events and workshops that let you experience Scotland’s early textile heritage.

Recent events have included "A Day in the Iron Age Crafts Taster" and the "Celtic Autumn Iron Age Bake Off!" - Both sound a lot of fun!

Guided tours let you explore a reconstruction of an ancient crannog dwelling.

Scottish Crannog Centre bustling with visitors and guides
Scottish Crannog Centre

Stanley Mills - Perthshire

Stanley Mills near Perth is an atmospheric 18th-century former cotton mill with a focus on industrial heritage. Visitors can explore the old mill buildings including the spinning room and weaving sheds to learn about cotton production.

Interactive exhibits help bring Scotland's history alive. You can also see the engineering that powered the mill including the working waterwheels.

Clò-Mòr ~ Harris Tweed Exhibition

Located in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, the Clò-Mòr exhibition shines a light on the island's iconic Harris Tweed industry.

It explores the fabric's history and production as well as modern innovations.

Shetland Textile Museum

If you've made it this far north from Paisley, you've definitely had a good tour of Scotland!

Located in Lerwick, Shetland, this museum celebrates Shetland's textile heritage through displays of knitwear, lace, and wool fabrics. Visitors can learn about traditional Fair Isle patterns and local wool production.

Shetland Textile Museum in Lerwick on a sunny day
Shetland Textile Museum

Textile Tours and Experiences

In addition to specific textile attractions, various textile tours and experiences across Scotland allow you to deeply immerse in the country's textile heritage.

Isle of Skye Textile Experience

This 9-day tour provides an in-depth exploration of the Isle of Skye's textile heritage. Participants visit local studios, workshops and museums while learning from expert textile practitioners. It's an ideal way to experience Scotland's longstanding textile traditions.

Scottish Textiles Experience

On this day trip from Edinburgh, you'll be immersed in Scotland's prestigious wool and cashmere industries. Along with seeing mills like Johnstons of Elgin and Lochcarron, you'll gain insider access and meet textile craftspeople.

Textile Breaks and Holidays

Various companies offer multi-day Scottish textile vacations. These small group trips take you behind the scenes at mills, studios and factories while uncovering cultural traditions.

Key Textile Types in Scotland

From tartan to fine lace, Scotland has made an array of diverse textiles central to its heritage. Textiles to discover include:


Tartan is undoubtedly Scotland's most iconic textile. The crisscross wool plaid patterns are synonymous with Scottish culture. Each tartan is specific to a Scottish clan, region or family. Visitors can learn about tartan history at museums and see it being woven at mills or studios.

Harris Tweed

This famous tweed textile originates from the Outer Hebrides island of Harris. Made from local wool, Harris Tweed features distinctive flecks of colour and is still woven by islanders today. You'll find this desirable fabric at mills and shops across Scotland.

Paisley Pattern

Paisley pattern is an intricate teardrop motif textile design historically associated with the town of Paisley. Inspired by Kashmiri shawls, Paisley pattern became hugely popular for shawls and garments in 19th century Scotland and beyond.

Ayrshire Whitework

A distinctive regional embroidery technique from Scotland's Ayrshire area, whitework features sophisticated white-on-white stitching. You can see exquisite examples of whitework at museums like the Scottish Crannog Centre.

Scottish Lace

Intricate lacework has been produced in Scotland for centuries. Handcrafted in places like Loch Fyne, Scottish lace at its finest features elaborate, openwork designs. Examples are exhibited at museums like the National Museum of Scotland.

Planning Your Scottish Textile Travels

Best Times to Visit

Many textile museums and attractions in Scotland operate on a seasonal schedule. The main visiting season runs from April to September. Some places open on selected days only in the winter months. Check websites for annual opening times.

Key textile events like Wool Week and local wool festivals also take place in the spring and summer. However, year-round visits can be rewarding. In the winter, you may have more opportunities for one-on-one interactions with textile practitioners.

At the Sma' Shot Cottages, we are open from the start of April until the end of September, and have one winter open day in the run up to Christmas.

Useful Resources

Websites like VisitScotland and Undiscovered Scotland have comprehensive listings about Scottish textile attractions and events.

Sites like Craft Scotland connect you with an active community and will provide you with many more ideas on places to visit.

Local tourist information centres can also advise on textile sites and experiences in their area.

Bringing Scotland's Textiles to Life

Scotland's diverse textile tourism attractions open up enjoyable ways to experience the country's living textile tradition. You can discover how iconic fabrics like tartan were born, see masters at work spinning and weaving, and even try your hand at ancient textile crafts.

By engaging directly with Scottish textiles - whether through interactive museums, behind-the-scenes tours or hands-on workshops - you'll gain memorable insights into this integral part of Scotland's cultural identity.

Discover More During Your Scottish Textile Travels

  • Design your own tartan at Houston Kiltmakers

  • Learn about plant dyes and have a go at dyeing at a studio like Skye Weavers

  • Do a fair isle knitting class

  • Visit a contemporary design studio and meet leading artists

  • Try felting, spinning, or loom weaving workshops to learn ancient skills

  • Attend a festival or event like Edinburgh Yarn Festival or Aberdeen Wool Week

  • Browse the tweed and tartan shops to find the perfect textile souvenir

  • Book a specialized textile tour focusing on your interests from lace to mills

Scotland's textile attractions open up a treasure trove of enriching experiences for visitors eager to delve into the enduring traditions of tartan, tweed, paisley pattern and beyond. Between world-class museums, hands-on workshops, exclusive tours, specialist retailers, and festivals, you'll find endless inspirational ways to explore Scottish textiles firsthand.

❓ Your FAQs on Scottish Textile Tourism Answered ❓

Q: Where in Scotland has the strongest textile heritage?

A: Key areas include the Scottish Highlands and Islands, known for tweed and tartan, as well as industrial cities like Dundee with its jute mills history and Paisley with its historic mills and weavers cottage. However, textile heritage can be found all across Scotland!

Q: Are there any hands-on textile experiences for visitors?

A: Yes, many attractions offer weaving, knitting, spinning and dyeing workshops. Check individual attraction websites for details. Some also have studios where you can become a weaver or knitter for the day.

Q: What are the best textile souvenirs to buy in Scotland?

A: Quality souvenir ideas include Scottish wool or cashmere scarves, handcrafted tartan, Harris Tweed jackets or accessories, Scottish lacework, or a replica Paisley patterned shawl.

Q: Are textile attractions in Scotland accessible for visitors with mobility issues?

A: Many key sites offer accessible facilities and tours. However, some historic mills have access limitations. Check individual attraction accessibility information to plan visits.

Q: What are some of the best annual textile festivals and events in Scotland?

A: Top annual events include Shetland Wool Week, Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March, textile focused events at various museums, local wool festivals like Hawick's Common Riding in June, and Paisley's Sma' Shot Day held on the first Saturday of July each year.



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