Ardara in Donegal

Today we drove to the village of Ardara in Donegal, which this year won the Irish Times – Ireland’s best village to live in. It’s beautiful, in an amazing setting & has some of the friendlest people you’re ever likely to meet – two thousand people and thirteen pubs.

Ardara is famous for its music festivals & there are plenty of visitors, as but unlike many other places the town doesn’t organise itself around tourists, it’s a thriving community for visitors to enjoy rather than a tourist attraction.

The Grannies were keen to visit Eddie Doherty as they had heard that Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex in the City) buys tweed from him. Eddie is one of the last independent hand loom weavers in Ireland, his tiny shop is a treasure of colourful handwoven tweed & he was busy at his loom in the back of the shop when we arrived.

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Tweed part of Donegal’s social fabric

ARDARA, Ireland — Eddie Doherty’s hands dart about at a dizzying rate, feeding the warp and the woof into his loom, a clattering device of wood, springs, shuttles and knotted ropes.

The machine looks as if it should be in a museum. And it may well be heading that way, for hand looms are being overtaken by weaving factories even here in Ardara, the cradle of the tweed industry in Ireland.

“I’m a dying breed,” Doherty, 73, admits.

But for the moment he, and a few others here in this western Donegal village (population: 600) will continue the centuries-old hand-weaving tradition, making fabric for the likes of Armani, Burberry and Ralph Lauren.

“Yes, there are synthetic ‘tweeds,'” says Doherty, “but once you’ve had hand-woven tweed you wouldn’t have anything else.”


The north of Ireland has acres of space and weather by the bucket, writes Peter Calder.

What is undeniably beautiful about Donegal is the legendary tweed. In Donegal Town itself, I dropped into Magee Clothing on the triangular piazza at the centre of town which is, in good Irish fashion, called the Diamond. Here they’ve been making cloth since 1866. It’s not handwoven now but at least it’s not made in China.

I bought a handsome cap which warmed my bald pate a bit more stylishly that the beanie it replaced. But my trail soon led me to nearby Ardara where there was reportedly some handweaving to be found.

At the first place, Triona Designs, they encourage the impression that the cloth is woven by hand but an explicit assertion to that effect is absent from all their brochures and when I emailed them to ask about this, they never replied. The woman owner was as snooty as hell, too, so I moved on round the corner to the low-ceilinged workshop of Eddie Doherty.

The sign on his door says to ring his bell and “wait one minute”. That’s because he’s coming from two doors up the road at Doherty’s Bar (“You need some other form of income coming in,” he said gloomily).

Eddie was happy to demonstrate a bit of weaving and when I admired one of the jackets made from his handwoven cloth he smiled modestly. I slipped one on. It fitted perfectly and felt warm and snug. “Sure and it looks good on you, that it does,” said Eddie. You wouldn’t call it hard sell, but it was irresistible. I paid up. Eddie’s one of a very small handful of handweavers making Donegal tweed these days. Young folks aren’t picking up the craft – most young people in Ardara (population 500) wouldn’t know what he does, says Eddie.

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