About The Hazel Tree

My name is Jo Woolf and I live on the Craignish peninsula in Argyll.  I’m a writer, and my husband, Colin, is a wildlife artist.  In our free time we explore the mountains, islands, rocky coastline, sandy beaches…  Scotland is an amazing, breathtaking country, and I’ve visited some places that are as close to heaven as I’ll ever get in this lifetime.

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome.  It’s wonderful to meet people who share the same interests as me.  I want The Hazel Tree to be the kind of blog that I would like to read myself, so I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

Why ‘The Hazel Tree’?

I think I’ve always had an affinity with hazels.   Every spring, I look for the first catkins braving the cold winds;  I love the smooth, silvery bark of the trees, the brilliant green of the first flush of leaves, and I love the pure air, the gentle restfulness that abides in the canopy of an ancient hazel wood.

Traditionally, hazels were trees of knowledge and poetic inspiration.  An Irish legend tells how a hazel tree grew beside the Well of Wisdom;  nine hazel nuts fell from the tree into the pool and were eaten by salmon, a fish revered by the druids.  The fish developed bright spots on their scales according to how many nuts they had eaten.  Later, while cooking one of these fish for his druid master, a young lad called Fionn mac Cumhaill ate some of the salmon’s flesh;  in doing so, he gained the salmon’s magical knowledge and grew up to become one of the most heroic figures in Irish mythology.

You can read more about hazels in this post on The Hazel Tree

Other things I do…

I’ve written three books about the natural world, its folklore and ancient traditions.   Please take a look at my books page to find out more.

I’m honoured to be Writer in Residence at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and in 2018 I received the Honorary Fellowship of the Society.  Much of my work involves reading and writing about the lives and adventures of explorers past and present;  in the archives of RSGS there’s a rich treasure trove of half-forgotten stories, and I love putting the pieces together and bringing them to life.  I’m also lucky enough to be able to interview some of today’s amazing explorers, scientists and public figures. 

I write regular blog posts for RSGS, and articles for their quarterly newsletter, ‘The Geographer’.   On my books page you can find details about ‘The Great Horizon’ which tells the stories of 50 great explorers, and the children’s book, ‘James Croll and his Adventures in Climate and Time’.

Website design by Verity Sansom – verity@sansomphotography.co.uk
‘The Hazel Tree’ logo design by Leonie Mead,
Art & Sea


  • Tony William Powell

    Incidentally as I type this, the Hazel Tree catkins are already showing themselves and dangling well as I’m informed by the UK Phenology Project. I run a phenology based blog myself, should you wish to visit.

    Kind Regards

    Tony Powell

  • Robin Jean Marie

    Lovely job with your online magazine, Jo! I did not know that hazelnuts represented wisdom and poetic inspiration–no wonder I like them.:-) You have a lot of interesting nuggets here. I’m glad to have found you.

  • Gallivanta

    How lovely to learn the history and lore of the hazel nut tree. I wish I had paid more attention to the one that grew on my great grandmother’s farm. As a child my only interest was the hazel nuts themselves.

  • flahertylandscape

    And then the scientific revolution came. They threw the baby out with the bath water. And thanks to your efforts Jo, we are learning again how important plants are to humans. They are not things. They are portals. Thank you!

    • Jo Woolf

      Very true, Edward – science and wisdom are sometimes worlds apart! I am learning a lot myself through this blog – it’s an ongoing process. Thank you so much for your kind comment! 🙂

    • Jo Woolf

      Hi Bruce, that’s very kind, and thank you! I am so glad to hear you enjoy my site. Thank you for sharing your own – I will enjoy taking a look! 🙂

  • Lucille Manning

    Thank you Jo, I came accross your website by accident while searching for Ausgta P. Hay. He was the Prior of Piermont several centuries ago. My Grandmother was a Hayes and Im following up on her and my fathers geneology from where they left off. I came upon your artilce on Rosslyn Chapel and I couldn’t help but stop and read every word, as it interest me very much. I will be coming back to read even more as your subject of Scotland intrigues me so very much.Thank You again for a wonderful evening of reading.. I will be coming back to read even further.
    Lucille Manning Hope, Arkansas USA.

    • Jo Woolf

      Hi Lucille, so nice to hear from you and thank you for your lovely comment! Really glad you enjoyed the article about Rosslyn – what an amazing place it is, and so crammed full of history (and mystery!) Your family research sounds very interesting!

  • Ashley

    Hi Jo! It’s been a long time since I followed you, so long that I didn’t realise that I was reading you again! Is this a new site? It is wonderful and a joy to read. So fresh and inviting. I only found it because I Googled “Atlantic hazel woods” and found your review of a book by Clifton Bain (I might just buy it). Strange how things go round and round! I’ve been reading Jim Crumley’s “Nature of” books (Spring, Autumn and Winter) and his reference to these hazel woods (in Winter) intrigued me. I live in Northern Ireland and want to find out more about them on this island and as a lover of trees (and a bit of history) I’ve joined your mailing list. It’s lovely to make your acquaintance again!

    • Jo Woolf

      Hi Ashley, great to hear from you again! Thank you for your lovely comments. I’m glad you found me by looking for Atlantic hazel woods. We’re lucky to live close to some here, especially on Seil island at Ballachuan. There’s nothing quite like them. Yes, I gave the site a new look (with my daughters’ help) in 2018 when we moved over to Argyll. Glad you like it, I was pleased with it myself!

  • Linda Forward

    I’m dropping in to tell you how much I admire and appreciate your work. Coming here takes this Texan who was born with Scotland in her soul (and genes) to magic places that I enjoyed visiting and want to visit. Your photographs capture the spirit of the trees and locations that you describe and take me back to happy times, so thank you.

    • Jo Woolf

      Linda, that’s so kind, thank you very much! And I’m so glad to hear that you have Scotland in your soul! It’s wonderful to be able to share these places in words and photos, and I love knowing that people like yourself can be transported here in spirit. There’s definitely something about Scotland and its history that exerts a strong pull on us all!

  • rileyswords

    Hello Jo, I am so enjoying your posts here! Four years ago I visited Argyll, specifically the area around Dunadd and Kilmartin, in doing research for a novel I’m writing. I recently came across your blog posts about sites in that area, and was delighted to revisit them through your beautiful writing.
    Linda Riley
    Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

    • Jo Woolf

      Hi Linda, lovely to hear from you! Glad to know that you’ve visited this part of Argyll and are inspired to write about it! We’re so lucky to live here and it never ceases to amaze me how many historical sites there are, just tucked away and waiting to be explored. Good luck with your writing and thank you for your kind comments!

  • Philip de Ste Croix

    Hi Jo,
    By a lovely piece of serendipity, I have just come across your blog while searching for references in Shakespeare to the hazel tree. I’ve just done a little drawing of some hazel catkins which are now in their full glory here in southern England, and I was intrigued to see if Shakespeare mentioned them at all. Apparently not, but Mercutio does tell us that Queen Mab’s ‘chariot is an empty hazel-nut’ which is pretty wonderful.
    It’s a beautiful website – thanks for sharing your words and images with everyone. I’ll be sure to return.

    • Jo Woolf

      Hi Philip, So glad you came across my site and have enjoyed it! Thank you so much for your kind comments. I’m glad to know your hazel catkins are coming out – they are just showing here too, and they’re lovely to see. I love that Shakespeare quote too! No, I don’t think Shakespeare does mention catkins, which is strange! With best wishes, Jo

  • Lorna Flanagan

    Doing a little project on Hazelwood and came upon your wonderful site. Your journey through the seasons was a real joy. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Marcia Bennett

    Just found you on Pinterest. I am in love with all things Scottish and your blog is amazing. Such a calming and insightful read. Wish I had found you sooner. I can’t wait for future reads and the time to read all past posts. Thank-you for your effort.

    • Jo Woolf

      Dear Marcia, thank you so much for your kind comments! I’m very glad you’re enjoying my posts. Like you, I love Scotland and especially this part of Argyll where I live. I hope that you find lots to inspire and interest you! With all good wishes, Jo

  • Anne

    Wonderful blog – just read your piece on the road of the kings having listened to Open Country this morning – we also love Argyll, Mull and ancient sites so looking forward to reading your posts

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