Some 50 cyclists are set to ride out in the Isle of Lewis’ first ever Harris Tweed Bike Ride on Saturday 13th August.

Dapper lads and lassies of all ages, clad in the finest Harris Tweed, handwoven by fellow islanders across the Outer Hebrides, will get on their bikes to celebrate one of Scotland’s most famous exports and raise money for Action for Children.

The bike ride is part of Harris Tweed Festival Day, a celebration of all things tweed based at Stornoway arts centre, An Lanntair.

Cyclists will gather at An Lanntair, the Outer Hebrides’ hub for creativity and the arts at the start of the ride. The tweed-clad peloton will then make its way around Stornoway, taking in some of the area’s spectacular scenery, before racing back to An Lanntair.

There, the winning cyclist will be awarded a length of stunning yellow Harris Tweed officially named by the Harris Tweed Authority as FEIS CLO GEANSAIDH BHUIDHE, meaning Tweed Festival Yellow Jumper in Gaelic.

They will also receive a hand-made version of the famous Tour de France yellow jersey, specially commissioned and knitted by Harris-based Joan Macleod using yarn donated by the Carloway tweed mill on Lewis. 

An international movement, ‘Tweed Runs’ take place in cities across the world including Moscow, Paris, Tokyo, New York and Athens. London recently saw its eighth annual run with some 1000 tweed-clad participants pedalling their way around the capital’s iconic landmarks.

Elly Fletcher, CEO of An Lanntair, organisers of the event said:
“We have been amazed at the popularity of Tweed Runs across the world and, as the Outer Hebrides is the home of Harris Tweed, we jumped at the chance to host a bike ride here in Stornoway to kick-start our Harris Tweed Festival Day.

“It will be a great way to bring people together to celebrate Harris Tweed, raise funds for a local charity and have fun!”

For centuries the islanders of Lewis and Harris, the Uists, Benbecula and Barra have hand woven ‘clò-mòr’ in the original Gaelic or ‘big cloth’, in their homes, or small weaving sheds on the edge of the Atlantic.

A vital means of livelihood for over 250 craftsmen and women weaving and working in the mills of the Outer Hebrides, in 2012 some one million metres of Harris Tweed was produced and shipped to every corner of the world and used by world’s best designers, fashion houses and artists.

The Harris Tweed Festival Day continues at An Lanntair throughout Saturday 13th August, celebrating the Hebrides’ iconic industry with speakers, events, workshops, film, exhibits and a fashion show.

Visitors to An Lanntair for Harris Tweed Festival Day will also see a stunning exhibition by award-winning photographer, Ian Lawson. From the Land has been described in The Herald newspaper as “a tactile experience featuring large-scale photographs of people, places and beasts associated with the making of Harris Tweed”.

Lawson’s vivid imagery is set alongside sheep fleeces in buckets, a cabinet full of dyed yarn, bobbins, shuttles, Harris Tweed accessories such as bags and purses, and cloth woven into jackets (made by Lawson’s partner, Alison O’Neill). There is even a fully-operational Hattersley Loom at the heart of it all.

Harris Tweed Day is also a highlight of the Bealach Project, a wide-reaching arts project taking place across Harris and Lewis over two years.

A host of experts will take part in the day’s activities. Speakers include; Janet Hunter, author of The Islanders and the Orb, Margaret Ann Macleod, Brand Development Director with Harris Tweed Hebrides, renowned designer Sandra Murray, historian and archaeologist Mary Macleod-Rivett, as well as Stornoway Historical Society.

They will all share stories of those who make the internationally renowned cloth. Visitors can enjoy a live performance of waulking songs, traditionally sung in the Gaelic language by women while waulking cloth, and archive film footage on the history and culture of Harris Tweed. Some films date back to the 1940s and give a very special insight into the lives of those who have woven tweed across the generations.

Visitors of all ages can try their hand at weaving and take part in creating cloth in a giant human loom. An Lanntair’s education team will be on hand to help visitors turn a whole room into a loom as giant lengths of ‘bobban wool’ is interwoven to create a new art installation.

The festival has been created from a partnership between An Lanntair, The Harris Tweed Authority and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as part of the Scottish Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design and delivered as part of the Creative Place Award Winning project ‘Bealach’ from 2015-2017.

Elly Fletcher added: “The Harris Tweed Festival presents us with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the successes of this remarkable industry and captures the story of Harris Tweed; from the Outer Hebrides to London Fashion Week. 

“We are working with the Harris Tweed Authority and a variety of industry players from across the islands to implement this innovative festival at An Lanntair this summer.

There will be a £5 registration fee for all riders taking part in the Tweed Bike Ride, with all funds raised donated to Action for Children. Tickets are on sale at www.lanntair.com, on 01851708480 or in person. Booking is essential as places are limited. Riders under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

About Bealach 
Bealach is a transformational project that represents Stornoway as the gateway and passage into the Gaelic culture, creative communities and landscape of the Outer Hebrides. Bealach is a two-year initiative supported by Creative Scotland’s Creative Place Award and led by An Lanntair that is commissioning cultural projects across Lewis and Harris.  Please visit the website for further information lanntair.com

Notes to Editor 
•    For more information on Bealach and other upcoming projects and events, please visit: http://lanntair.com/bealach/

•    For more information on An Lanntair please contact Head of Marketing Kathryn Lamont Smith at kathryn@lanntair.com or visit www.lanntair.com  @anlanntair  #MyHarrisTweed

An Lanntair, Kenneth Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2DS
www.lanntair.com info@lanntair.com @anlanntair  #MyHarrisTweed
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 10am – late