Heather was once an important material with several uses.

Rope was an important one, as woven heather rope is stronger than straw, linen and hemp ropes. At the 4000 year old Skara Brea village in the Orkneys heather rope was found.

Some people thatched with heather, but it tends to catch fire easier than straw and reed. Several people took the change and thatched with Heather as it could last for up to 100 years compered to 25 to 35 years with reed and 15 to 25 years with straw thatch. If roofs were not thatched with heather it is likely the thatch was held down using Heather ropes.

Heather is excellent insulation material. Because of this it was a common ingredient in cob buildings and wattle and daub building where the heather was mixed with sand and lime, maybe clay too. As eco building today is using straw bales or hemp bales covered with lime mortar I would think heather bales would work too. Heather was also used as extra insulation below thatched roofs.

Brooms were made with Heather branches and poles.

Some basket work was done with heather where willow was not available or even mixed in with willow. The pannier baskets used on donkeys and ponies were made this way.

On the Isle Of Mull, where I lived for some time, there were findings of what were called "basket houses". These were round houses weaves with willow an heather and then plastered with lime, sand, and clay.

Bed mattresses used to be made with heather too with root material at the bottom and blossoming heads at the top. Remnants of Heather mattresses found by archaeologists go back 6000 years. The fragrance from Heather mattresses is said to enhance very sound sleeping.

Perhaps the most known use of Heather is its use as a good luck charm. Those who carry and wear heather, especially White Heather, is said to attract peace and prosperity into their lives, so say the travellers and gypsies who used to go door to door selling sprigs when I was young.


Heather was popular as kindling for lighting fires and used as a cooking fuel with open fire cooking and barbecues. When farmers burn the heather on the moors, the remaining charcoal is a good cooking fuel too.

Some people used to keep the narrow stalks of heather charcoal to write with. I did that as a small boy myself.

Outdoor workers would make tea within a metal kettle. They would put tea and water into the pot and a sprig of heather. This would be placed on a base of heather, then lots more heatheraround the sides and on the top of the pot. The whole lot then set alight, and when they returned a good pot of hot tea is waiting.

to read about brewing, fermentation and distillation of Heather, please click here