The famous lavender fields of Provence in south eastern France have been the inspiration for Ayrshire’s only lavender enterprise.

It has been created in the hills above Largs as a retirement hobby for a husband and wife team.

After running a thriving lavender farm business in Shropshire for nearly 20 years, Robin and Joanna Spencer decided to retire to Scotland and bought Holehouse Farm, with the intention of having a small lavender patch to ‘keep their hand in’.

Speaking to members of the Rotary Club of Hunterston, Robin revealed how planting, growing and distilling lavender oil, from which Joanna makes soaps and lavender based products, was an ideal retirement business having run his own market research company for 30 years.

Joanna had already established the ‘bones’ of the lavender farm, called Shropshire Lavender, which was open to the public and had a busy tea room and lavender shop.

Robin explained: “Many years ago we both fell in love with this wonderful plant and were fortunate to establish a small business eventually growing over 25,000 plants with many visitors each year.

"However both reaching our 70s, the time came to retire from such a full time commitment

“A new location was our aim and Scotland was our choice. We moved to Largs in 2021 to downsize using a small portion of the field in front of the house.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Robin Spencer harvesting the lavender at his Holehouse Farm outside Largs

"As we were no longer in Shropshire, we clearly had to re brand and our new name became LavandaMia. We now have around 500 plants and amazingly we've found that despite the damp Scottish weather, and the very different soil conditions they are growing well and producing a reasonable yield.”

Robin, Joanna and their young family had spent many holidays in the lavender growing region of Provence and Italy in the 1980s and learnt much about its fascinating history.

He said: “From the wild growing lavenders on the hillsides, which are traditionally gathered by local people to flavour liqueurs, to the huge commercial fields of purple interspersed with sunflowers, it is a truly stunning sight.

"Most interestingly it has been known since Roman times as a healing and soothing herb with many wonderful properties – we find it fascinating.

“Steam distillation is the method of obtaining the much valued lavender oils – ‘Liquid Gold’ as we call it.”

Robin added: “We use a traditional copper still which produces a much smoother scented oil than larger stainless steel commercial stills, and we believe it has some additional benefits.”

The Spencers are planning over the next few years to allow the current plants to establish and grow just enough lavender to produce dried lavender bunches to sell - notwithstanding that the climate is not so ideal in some years for natural drying - and to produce about two litres of lavender oil a year,and hopefully to bring lasting fragrances to North Ayrshire.

For more details of Robin and Joanna’s hand made bathroom and body care products, essential oils see