By Mikaela MacKinnon
Published: 15th May 2018

NC500 Galleries and Studios

“The north coast of Scotland has always been a source of artistic inspiration, and is home to many artists, makers and other local talent that makes up a vibrant creative community.”

“As you travel round the NC500 there are many opportunities to see not just what inspires, but view the work, meet the creators, or even take a while to participate in workshops and events.

You will find a delightful variety of galleries and studios showing the best of art and contemporary craft including glass, ceramics, jewellery and textiles; all run by those keen to share their various creative endeavours.
Sometimes these places will take you a little off the beaten track, but make the effort to seek them out, taking time to absorb and enjoy the unique experience that each has to offer. Far removed from impersonal online or high street stores, you could find you own piece of something special to take with you as a reminder of what inspired your journey.”

Hazel Gordon, owner, Golspie Gallery

Along the east coast…

The North Coast 500’s spectacular east coast takes in the Black Isle, Easter Ross, Sutherland and Caithness. This impressive coastline stretches from Inverness – the capital of the Highlands and the official beginning and end point of the NC500 route – up to John o’ Groats in the north. Along the way, make sure to visit…

Golspie Gallery – Golspie, Sutherland

Definitely worth a stop on the NC500 route is the lovely coastal village of Golspie, East Sutherland, home to the easily accessed, bright and spacious Golspie Gallery.

Offering an impressive range of quality craft and art, this is much more than a shop. You may see silver, pearl or glass work taking shape in the jewellery studio, or the century-old handloom being used to weave beautifully designed and up to date accessories and homewares. There is always a wide selection of local and Scottish art, textile art and print-makers work to choose from, alongside a changing exhibition programme. Watch out for interesting events, including creative workshops. You can even hire studio space by the day and unleash your own inner artist! Stunning pieces of locally made furniture and lots of ceramics that would enhance any home. Original and different. For more information: https://www.golspiegallery.co.uk/

Photo: Golspie Gallery

Timespan Museum and Arts Centre – Helmsdale, Sutherland

Mapping the past, the present and the future, Timespan is Sutherland’s only public contemporary art gallery, as well as serving as a cultural hub for creative development. The centre works with researchers and artists to preserve the culture of the North Highlands and promote the area’s vibrant art scene. For more information, visit www.timespan.org.uk

North Coast Glass– Tain, Ross-shire

The North Coast Glass gallery is a rare and unique find. This acclaimed glass studio is located in the ancient borough of Tain, a picturesque town on the east coast of Scotland.

Established by internationally renowned glass artists/designers, Brodie Nairn & Nichola Burns, this vibrant studio creates glass works to the highest creativity and craftmanship. With emphasis on elegance and strong contemporary design, North Coast Glass is now firmly established as one of Britain’s most exciting and vibrant hot glass studios.

Works can regularly be seen on TV and film sets as well as national public and corporate glass collections/art installations. More information here: https://northcoastglass.com/

Patricia Niemann – Berriedale, Caithness

Trained as goldsmith, designer and studio-glass maker, Patricia makes one-off pieces of fine contemporary jewellery, as well as wearables and objects on a sculptural scale. Patricia’s influences include the human body, anatomy, theatre and the far north of Scotland, and her preferred materials are unusual gemstones, pearls and precious metals, as well as blown glass, natural fibres and found objects. For more information, visit www.patbat.com

Photo: Patricia Niemann, Bespoke ring in 18ct white gold with Beryll and Diamond in Marquise cut by Patricia Niemann

Across the Black Isle…

Just north of Inverness, the Black Isle is, in fact, not an island, but a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by expanses of water. Whether you’re just beginning or about to finish your NC500 journey, don’t miss…

Aurorabearealis Art & Craft Studio – North Kessock, Black Isle

Situated on the north shore of the Beauly Firth, this creative hub in North Kessock is the studio gallery of both artist and craft maker Susan Phillips (Aurorabearealis) and wildlife photographer Charlie Phillips.

Charlie is a well-known, award-winning professional wildlife photographer, and a marine charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation Field Officer (he studies dolphins for a living!) Susan practices many different crafts; hand-making a diverse range of items for the gallery, jewellery and bead crafts, felting, fabric and textile work, fine art, cards and even miniature artist bears.

“Texture and patterns play a large role in the inspiration behind my work – I love old peeling paint, decaying wood and rusty metal as well as patterns in nature, such as tidemarks on a sandy beach or the flotsam and jetsam left behind. I find it hard not to see images in such surfaces. I have found myself working increasingly with wool and fabric, as an artist I particularly like using wool to create wall art using the textiles and fibres to add texture, as a Craft Maker their seemingly endless applications inspire me to keep exploring everything from jewellery and fashion accessories to sculpture and vessels. I also enjoy the challenge of using recycled textiles in my work and often blur the lines between art and craft using art materials with my textiles and craft supplies in my artwork.” Susan, Aurorabearealis.

For more information, visit www.aurorabearealis.co.uk

Photo: Auroraborealis

Picaresque Books and Gallerie Fanoosh – Dingwall

Bookworms, rejoice! This charming shop and gallery in Dingwall is home to an eclectic and extensive selection of books on all kinds of subjects. Antiquarian books and first editions can be found here, as well as a wide choice from Dingwall’s own publisher, Sandstone Press.

In the adjoining Gallerie Fantoosh, you’ll find a mix of modern and unique arts and crafts, glass, ceramics, jewellery and accessories. For more information, visit http://www.picaresquebooks.co.uk/

Along the north coast…

The halfway point of the North Coast 500 route, many of the artists and craft makers along this stretch of coastline are inspired by the Northern Isles. While you’re driving the far north of Scotland, make sure to stop in past…

Caithness Horizons Museum and Art Gallery – Thurso, Caithness

This impressive county history museum is home to a wide range of archaeological and botanical artefacts, as well as a gift shop and on-site café. Occupying the former Thurso Town Hall, Caithness Horizons is a much-loved landmark on the town’s horizon, providing a wealth of information and exhibitions relating to natural sciences, photography, fine art, agriculture, and much more. For more information, visit www.caithnesshorizonsmuseum.com

Along the west coast…

Rugged, wild and windswept, the west Highlands are home to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful coastal scenery in the world. Savour your journey along the hairpin bends of the NC500’s winding west coast roads, and make sure to stop at…

Sòlas Gallery – Gairloch, Wester Ross

This contemporary gallery hosts changing exhibitions from spring to autumn, including paintings, jewellery and ceramics, all of which are designed and made in Gairloch. Browse undisturbed in this exciting venue featuring the work of artists Rob Howard and Lyn Beckett and when you leave, look out for the red signs to Sòlas to the south of Gairloch, near the harbour and next to the Old Inn. For more information, visit www.solasgallery.co.uk

Solas Gallery, Sunset Over The Hebrides From Gairloch Wester Ross

Rhue Art Gallery: West Coast

Just north of Ullapool, Rhue Art Gallery is set in magnificent scenery on the shores of Lochbroom, looking out over the Summer Isles. Originally opened in 1980, Rhue Art Gallery is the workspace of renowned artist James Hawkins, considered to be one of the best contemporary landscape painters in Scotland. A beautiful display space has recently been added, showing changing exhibitions by national and international artists, all of whose work is influenced by the natural environment.More information here http://www.rhueart.co.uk/

Rhue Art: Beinn Alligin From Ob Gorm Mor

Beth Robertson Fiddes – Ullapool, Ross-shire

Beth specialises in large-scale works based on Scotland’s west coast and the Hebridean islands in the distant waters. Influenced heavily by the sea, the passing of time, and the rock formations of the coastline, Beth’s work has been exhibited in galleries throughout Scotland. For more information, visit www.bethrobertsonfiddes.com

Sawyer Art Gallery at Inverewe House

The National Trust for Scotland’s – The Sawyer Art Gallery at Inverewe House is exhibiting an exciting, innovative and diverse series of works this season – much of which is yet to be created! Most of this year’s artists will spend some time resident in the garden, creating works inspired by the Inverewe Garden and Estate, a National Trust for Scotland property.

There are a number of community craft markets around the route – for information on times and dates, see here: https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/inverewe

Photo: Inverewe Gardens, Kathy Sutherland, Water Lily

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