Monday, 18 May 2009


Right now it’s May and it’s bog myrtle weather. Yes, it’s raining again. As you probably worked out from its name, bog myrtle (Myrica gale) likes it wet and it grows in great swathes on the spongy, peaty soils of the north and west.

It’s such a common yet fairly low profile plant in Highland Scotland that you hardly notice it in its shrubby twiggy winter state.

Lots of bog myrtle here – the brownish colour in the foreground. Photographed at the top of Glen Ogle, near Killin. (Pic 1)

In late spring it coves itself in little reddish catkins. Cleverly, these appear ahead of the leaves, to allow unimpeded pollination by wind. (Pic 2)

In Scotland, there has been a bit of a flurry of interest in it in recent times, and it sometimes gets called ‘Scotland’s tea tree oil’ because of its healing and soothing properties. It’s especially associated with caring for sensitive skins and is also said to help with acne.

(Pic 3, below right: near Enard Bay, north of Ullapool, last June)

Traditionally, it’s also used for keeping midges away. However, the chances are that if you are in a place where bog myrtle thrives, then you are probably deep into midge territory as well, given their preference for wet places. Continuing the Highland theme, it’s also the plant badge of the Clan Campbell. (As that’s my family name, I feel duty bound to point this out.)

Finally, it also happens to have a great scent – the very essence of those summer holidays in the Highlands. More on
bog myrtle products here.
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Thursday, 14 May 2009

PR Success for Natural Beauty Scotland!

I was delighted to have been included in The Scotsman Magazine Best Buys section last Saturday. Just a wee reminder to all customers - Until the end of May, you will get a free soap bar (worth £3) with every order – choose from seaweed and aloe vera or lavender oats and honey. While stocks last. Plus, new customers can also get 10% off, just type in the code "NBSnew10%" at the online checkout - offer valid until 31 May.
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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Benet's Balm - a super Scottish beeswax balm

Featured product of the month
Benets Balm

Maybe some products somehow become imbued with the ambience of the place in which they are made. On the other hand, maybe that’s a bit fanciful.

Yet if a ‘balm’ was going to be made anywhere, then it seems right that the word, with its soothing and peaceful overtones, should be associated with this sheltered part of Moray, east of Inverness in the north of Scotland.

Benets Balm is made at Pluscarden Abbey. We took these pictures on a bright but cool May morning, from the protecting wooded hills that lie to the north of it. There are miles of walks and trails here, all within easy reach of Elgin. The original abbey was founded as long ago as 1230 and the buildings were damaged by the English king Edward during his invasion of Scotland in 1303. So it wasn’t always so peaceful - as the place was also burned by the renegade Alexander Stewart (aka the Wolf of Badenoch) in 1390.

In common with other monasteries in Scotland, it fell into disuse after the Reformation. However, it was re-activated by Benedictines (from Prinknash in Gloucestershire, England) in 1948 and restoration work got under way. It’s now an active religious community and a centre for spiritual retreat. And, if you visit on a sunny day when the spring flowers are out, you’ll hear not just the peaceful, sleepy song of willow warblers and chiffchaffs but also the continuous hum of bees – a reminder of the beeswax basis for Benets Balm.