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A Sense of Tradition

Four different Johnstons of Elgin Cashmere Scarves hanging.

WEAVING THE SENSES
INTO OUR PLAYFUL NEW AUTUMN WINTER TARTANS

From the intuitive touch of our Raw Fibre Technicians to the distinctive, humid smell of our on-site dyehouse, all the human senses play a role in creating our beautifully crafted products. While a machine can test the quality of our fine Cashmere fibres, many of our experienced workforce prefer to work by hand to achieve the most accurate results. Of course, a keen eye for detail is also essential, from the design stage to the final checks of a finished product. All the senses are woven deep within this season's vibrant new eclectic tartans, and each bold pattern takes inspiration from Scottish folklore. Explore our new Autumn Winter collection – taking us right back to our textile roots.

RANDOLPH'S LEAP

The subtle tones of our Randolph’s Leap tartan take their inspiration from the stunning waterfalls at Randoph’s Leap in Moray, Scotland. Crisp white echoes the foaming surface of the water, and muted blues are reminiscent of the depths of the river where it squeezes between the rocks. Our Cashmere yarn is of unparalleled softness and is dyed in our our mills using chemicals specially selected with thought for the environment.

According to legend, Randolph’s Leap is where the soldier and diplomat Thomas Randolph, later known as the Earl of Moray, chased a 'Comyn', or member of the Cumming Clan, who raided his castle. The accused man leapt to safety across a 10ft-wide gorge, through which the River Findhorn flows. An abundance of dramatic rocks and cliffs, along with the nearby pine forest, make Randolph’s Leap a favourite with locals and tourists alike, around 16 miles from our Elgin mill. Today, the area is brimming with wildlife, including woodpeckers and red squirrels.

The Randolph’s Leap Tartan is an easy-to-wear choice that’s suitable for any season or climate, owing to the heat-regulating properties of our fine Cashmere fibres. Along with our craftsmen and women’s delicate touch, a theatrical piece of Scottish history is woven into every thread.

CALEDONIAN FOREST

The incredible purple landscape of the Cairngorm mountains is mirrored in our contemporary Caledonian Forest tartan, inspired by the treacherous journeys of the timmer floaters in the 1600s. Timber, or ‘timmer’, felled in inland forests was transported downriver by men known as ‘timmer floaters’. Using a long stick to steer a raft made of around 150 sleepers through perilous waters, they risked their lives to transport their cargo.

The River Spey, Scotland’s fastest flowing river, descends from the beautiful Cairngorms down to the sea, not far from our Elgin mill. The wood floated was used in railway construction and later for shipbuilding, and for 200 years, the Moray area was the leading exporter of timber in Britain.

The Cairngorm mountains remain a majestic spectacle, boasting several different types of heather during summer, while their high plateaux and arctic-alpine environment mean there can be areas of snow all year round. Contrasts of dark green, teal and purple in our vibrant Caledonian Forest tartan are reminiscent of this unique terrain. The bold design acknowledges the ever-beautiful Cairngorms’ landscape and the gruelling job of the men who worked there 400 years ago.

CABRACH VALLEY

The Cabrach is an area of Moray, Scotland, world-renowned for its part in the illicit whisky trade of the early 1800s and pronounced with the characteristic ‘ch' sound of the word 'loch', not the 'ck' sound of the word 'lock'. The Cabrach was the ideal location for a complex underground network due to its proximity to water and choice view of any approaching visitors, such as excise men. Our Cabrach Valley tartan mirrors the rich caramel appearance of Scotland's famous drink and is named in celebration of the men who championed the illicit whisky trade, the Stillers of the Cabrach.

It is suggested that at one time, every parish in the Cabrach contained an illicit still from where whisky was smuggled, supporting the local economy and uniting its communities, albeit illegally. It is also widely believed that under threat of discovery, stillers would dismantle equipment and share out the pieces to avoid any one person facing prosecution.

Whisky is colourless when distilled but acquires the flavours and colour of the wooden barrel in which it is aged. The same soft Scottish water that guarantees the cloud-like feeling of our fine Cashmere is used in the production of local whiskies. Our Cabrach Valley tartan celebrates the similarities between the two processes and captures the distinctive amber colour of a well-aged malt.

Rolls of cashmere yarn at Johnstons of Elgin

PICTISH KINGDOM

What better colour to represent the heart of a community than bright red? Bold, passionate and associated with power and determination. The coastal town of Burghead, only a few miles away from our Elgin mill, is believed to have been the heart of the Pictish community, a mystifying group of people who left no written records and whose language has long since been lost. In fiery red with contrasting black, our Pictish Kingdon tartan is inspired by the Picts or ‘painted people’ whose lives remain shrouded in mystery.

Evidence of settlements at Burghead has led to the belief that the town was at the centre of the Pictish Kingdom, and Pictish stones, giant monoliths carved with emblems and symbols, have been discovered throughout Moray. The true meaning behind the symbols has never been uncovered. Our striking Pictish Kingdom tartan is a contemporary head-turner with a little bit of mystery woven into its design.

BURN OF TYNET

The clear blue waters at Spey Bay, Scotland, home to seals, otters and Bottlenose Dolphins, are reflected in our striking Burn Of Tynet tartan. The burn itself flows north, meeting the Moray Firth between Portgordon and Spey Bay, and is the site of a curious local legend dating back to 1814. According to a letter printed in the local newspaper that year, two fishermen returning home from sea witnessed a creature that was half man and half fish at the Burn Of Tynet (known locally as Burn O’ Tynet), concluding in their terror that this was a merman. Legend has it that later that day, the fisherman also saw a female mermaid and rowed as fast as they could to safety, reporting their findings to the local 'dominie' or schoolmaster.

While there are no recent mermaid sightings on record, the constant changes caused by the river at Spey Bay create a diverse array of habitats, including shingle, grassland, wet woodland and brackish saltmarsh. On a clear April day, much like the day the merman and mermaid were spotted, the vision of the azure blue sky meeting the Spey’s tranquil waters is something to behold. The brilliant cobalt blue of our Burn Of Tynet Tartan reflects this unforgettable view.

PLUSCARDEN ABBEY

The gardens at Pluscarden Abbey, just seven miles from our Elgin mill, may be the oldest in Scotland. The precinct walls, dating from the early-13th century, enclose a colourful fruit and vegetable garden – the source of inspiration for our vibrant Pluscarden Abbey tartan. Softest green and pink Cashmere yarn reflect the flowers, fruit and mature trees at the Abbey, or Priory, founded by King Alexander II in 1230. Four Irish yews in the walled garden are believed to date from the original layout.

The community of Catholic Benedictine monks living at Pluscarden Abbey are committed to maintaining a responsible use of natural resources and strive to improve their stewardship of the environment. The Abbey is the only medieval British monastery still being used for its original purpose. There is reason to believe that the site of Pluscarden had had religious associations long before 1230 and that a hermit's cell and a well dedicated to St. Andrew may have been situated here. In 1390, The Wolf of Badenoch burned the town of Forres and the city of Elgin. Pluscarden is also likely to have been damaged in his rampage.

Our stunning Pluscarden Abbey Cashmere Stole and Scarf take the energetic colours of these historical grounds and give a traditional pattern a playful twist.

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