About me and The Hazel Tree

Welcome to The Hazel Tree, my online magazine

The Hazel Tree took root in 2011, when I decided to write about everything that interests me.  I’m interested in quite a lot of things, so it was a bit of a mad idea – but it has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done.

My name is Jo Woolf, and I live in West Lothian, Scotland.  I’m a freelance writer and editor, and my husband, Colin, is a wildlife artist.   In our free time we head out to the wilder places:  mountains, islands, rocky coastline, sandy beaches…  Scotland is an amazing, breathtaking country, and I have visited some places that are as close to heaven as I’ll ever get in this lifetime.

I love sharing these experiences, and I’m lucky enough to have some pretty wonderful readers – well, a lot of them feel more like friends!   If you have only just discovered The Hazel Tree, you are warmly welcome.

Purdey playing in the snow (March 2013)I publish fresh features on a regular basis, and you can see the latest ones in ‘What’s New‘.   To browse the archives, just click on any category in  the drop-down menu in the side bar.  You can also use the search box if you’re looking for something specific.

History,  wildlife, book reviews… and Catkins?   Ah, yes.   Let me introduce Purdey, our little tabby cat.   Purdey is an energetic blend of wilfulness, curiosity and cute furriness, and ‘Catkins’ is her own special section of The Hazel Tree.   Her annual PAWS awards are the subject of much media speculation (well, they may be one day!)

I really love hearing from you, and I welcome your comments and suggestions.  It’s wonderful to meet people who share the same interests as me.  I want The Hazel Tree to be the kind of magazine that I would like to read myself, so I hope you’ll enjoy it, too!

Other things I do…

I’m honoured to be Writer in Residence at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and I visit their headquarters in Perth on a regular basis in search of fascinating stories of exploration which are held in the Society’s archives.   I contribute to their quarterly newsletter, ‘The Geographer’, and to their monthly email newsletter (both available to members);  and I’ve written a book called ‘The Great Horizon‘ which tells the stories of 50 amazing explorers over the Society’s 130-year history.   It’s published by Sandstone Press and available in most bookshops.  I’m currently (2017-18) on a lecture tour for the RSGS, speaking about the people who inspired the book.

I write a column about Scottish explorers at History Scotland, and I’ve started contributing to a new online magazine called Prime Women.



  1. What a wonderful site, Jo! I’ve recommended The Hazel Tree to others- keep up the fantastic work!

  2. Wonderful site – feels like home! I need to return to the UK – and Scotland in particular! It’s been far too long away.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Thank you for the details on Skipness Castle and St Brendan’s Chapel. What a Renaissance Woman you are!

  4. Lone Christensen says:

    Hello Jo Woolf,
    I have enjoyed looking at your webpage and was wondering if you and your spouse have come across any Scottish wild cats when you are out and about?
    I have two cats myself and noticed your love for your own cat hence me asking. I have joined a group on Facebook about the Scottish Wild Cat as I’ve recently learned about it and that it is unfortunately close to extinction.
    Best regards from Denmark

    • Hi Lone, Thanks for your message and I’m glad you enjoyed looking at my site. I’ve never seen a Scottish wildcat, although Colin has – a long time ago (it would be in the 1970s) in the Cairngorms. I would love to see one! I think our cat, Purdey, could well be descended from one! I share your concern about the plight of the wildcat and I’ll have a look for that Facebook page. Kind regards, Jo

      • Lone Christensen says:

        You’re welcome!
        I cannot say that I know much about Scotland so maybe you live far from the area than where the wild cat is suppose to be living?

        The Facebook page about the wild cat is called ‘Scottish Wild Cat – The Highland Tiger’: https://www.facebook.com/TheHighlandTiger?fref=ts

        It’s very informative and with lovely photos!

        Kind regards

      • We live a good two hours’ drive from anywhere that’s remote enough for wildcats – I wouldn’t know exactly where would be the best place to go. Thanks – I have checked out that Facebook page and liked it. In fact, you have given me a good idea for a new article, so thank you!

      • Lone Christensen says:

        I’m glad that I could inspire you to a new idea. Hopefully you will publish it here at some point! 🙂

  5. I just stumbled across your site today, and am exceedingly glad that I did! I spent some time living in Scotland a few years ago and it was once of the best experiences i have had. Thank you for sharing your beautiful observations and idea. I look forward to following you from here on out!

    • Thank you so much, and you are most welcome! Scotland is indeed a beautiful country and I feel so lucky to live here, and to be able to visit all these beautiful places easily. I’m so glad that you have found a ‘home from home’!

  6. I love blogs like yours! It is wonderful to read when missing home 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Andrew! I’m so glad to hear it, and I hope you will enjoy all my posts. I have had a quick look at your blog too, and see that you have two quite adventurous cats, so I think you’ll feel right at home! 🙂

  7. I chanced upon your blog after following a chain of links – what a great collection of work, Jo. A pleasure to read.

    • Thank you very much, Martin! I’m very glad you found my site! 🙂 Just had a peek at your own site – excellent photos. Looking forward to your posts on Twitter!

  8. gabrielecampbell says:

    Found your site via Senchus. More Scottish goodness to read and add to my sidebar. I’ve fallen in love with the country when I first visited Scotland in 1998, and I keep coming back. Though I must admit my native Germany has some nice places as well. 🙂

  9. Ronald Mudie says:

    Hi Jo, I love your website as all your photo’s replicate my love for old churches, chapels, old castles and too, old graveyards; which seem to say ”I was once whole, now no one wants me, any more”. But there are people who do and in looking thru’ your collection it’s obvious you do too with many bloggers in full support. I too recognise many churches such as Muthill, Kirkliston and Athelstaneford even Dunstaffnage Castle, which, all bring me, great pleasure.

    • Hi Ronald, Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I do understand what you mean, and it is such a pleasure to share these wonderful places with like-minded people. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy my posts!

  10. Karen Brooks says:

    Wow, I cant believe I just found your site. I have been dreaming of a trip to Scotland for years, and now I can through your magazine. Thanks so much. I will visit the site often.
    Karen, US

    • You’re so welcome, Karen, and thanks for your lovely comment! Glad you have found The Hazel Tree, and I hope you will make it over to Scotland in person before long!

  11. Theresa Frank-Schengili says:

    Hello Jo,
    I found your blog through an American friend and am delighted! Your photographs show such love for the subject.
    Kind regards,

    • Thank you so much, Theresa, that’s really kind of you to say so! It’s a pleasure to write about these things, whether it’s natural history or magnificent historical sites. Lovely to share them with like-minded people. Thanks so much for following and for your kind comment.

  12. Rob Phillips says:

    Gosh this is such a treat. I find myself enjoying your work as I sit trapped at my desk…what a joyous escape.

  13. Hello Jo, interesting site and great background and illustrations. I have a blog with some similar topics including some further background to Scotland’s ancient woods (and the Birnam Oak). I used to live in Scotland but now live in Aachen in Germany, hence some of the Scottish stuff is not so up to date. Might be of interest: https://ianwcanoe.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/new-life-in-scotlands-ancient-forests/

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