We pulled up at a croft by the shore of Broadford Bay and stepped out under the benevolent gaze of Beinn NaCaillich. The old woman was cloaked in grey fog, as if drawing a thick shawl around herself for protection from the mizzle. We, on the other hand, found solace from the damp inside the croft’s thick stone walls, and drew around us the lingering scent of summer that emanated from the rows of bottles and jars on the wall and from a herbal preparation that was gently steeping.
Outside the croft meadowsweet grows in abundance. A froth of fragrant creamy-white blossom in midsummer, this medicinal plant has been used throughout the centuries for its soothing properties. In Gaelic it is known as Lus Cuchulain, as according to legend the Irish hero Cú Chulainn, who came to Skye to train with the great female warrior Scathach, was immersed in vats of water containing meadowsweet to calm his fits of battle rage.
Today, the plant’s beneficial properties are harnessed by Britt Sansom at the Dancing Dolphin in a range of hand-made therapeutic products. Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid, the naturally occurring form of aspirin, and in Britt’s hands its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties become a natural remedy for inflamed joints and muscles. Her Dancing Dolphin products are rich in natural, organic ingredients, free from parabens, and made without artificial colours, fragrances or preservatives, and without the chemicals sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) which can irritate the skin.
I left the Dancing Dolphin with a bottle of Skye Meadowsweet Miracle Super Soother Skin Lotion (a little of which goes a long way, and used every day as a facial moisturiser is doing wonders for my skin), and a selection of fragrant soaps packed full of essential oils, including the delicately scented Celtic Gold with frankincense and myrrh, which will make a wonderful Christmas present.
And as we emerged from the heady scent of the croft, Beinn na Caillich shrugged off her shawl, and we appreciated the magical setting in which these wonderful products are prepared.
The Dancing Dolphin has a website at http://www.thedancingdolphin.co.uk/
and is featured on BBC Alba http://youtu.be/gbYyk7q12Kw