Pine needles, yes it all started with a hunt for Scottish pine needles and the image below.
Our Bothy Original uses pine needles as one of the fresh botanicals we use to distill gin, fresh is best and we love the way you can almost imagine you're walking through a pine forest when you drink our gin!
So when a Save Scotland’s Caledonian pine forest fundraising leaflet popped through my door at home from Woodlands trust I wanted to get involved.
Arriving at Loch Arkaig in the Scottish Highlands, which I think is arguably one of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland, I was struck by the remoteness and colour of the landscape that is a picture postcard at every turn. Steeped in legend this mystical loch bears stories of Kelpies, hidden whisky and lost gold!
This area is the home of Clan Cameron and as a Cameron I have listened to the tales and importance in history of Achnacarry from my dad of my great grandad’s quest to find the hidden gold said to be deep in the hills, the opportunity to visit was so special and felt like an adventure to paths of old.
We ventured up the lochside, off road into the heart of the forest guided by Steve from Woodland Trust, you think a forest is a forest until you experience it with a man who knows more about the land than I could ever imagine!
Scots pine is the natural wood of the highlands and in autumn light was a patchwork forest, one of the most stunning landscapes I’ve seen.
The forest is a cultural living space full of historic and ecological delights and its biodiversity allows the natural forest to foster capercaillie, sea eagles and osprey, we even saw remnants of what the natural forest should be like with wild boar!
The loch Arkaig project aims to secure the future of the Scots pine forest by helping the local community manage the forest through restoration techniques which involve the sensitive movement of non-native species encouraging natural regeneration and protection from deer browsing.
This is no mean feat as it’s a dynamic forest with over 1000 hectares and restricted access definitely a long term project - a 200 year vision project with a 20 year plan!
The Gin Bothy relationship with this project is clear, it’s a way of giving back, a space that has remained unchanged to the untrained eye for hundreds of years needs us to engage in whatever way we can, if that’s by donating or buying a bottle of gin then anyone can get involved.
Steve described it perfectly whilst helping me forage and gather pine needles from lower hanging branches in the forest: we are guardians of the land and here to protect it for generations to come, to him this clearly isn’t just a job, his passion and commitment emulate and I definitely left feeling this is his vocation and the future of the forest was in safe hands.
More blog posts to come, every foraging visit I will update you on our Gin foraging news!
Thanks for reading, Kim xx