Perthshire – The Big Tree Country
Welcome to the Big Tree Country, with Fortingall’s own ancient Yew Tree right at the top of the list, and next door to the Fortingall Hotel. Our measurement of Big is more to do with age, past events and the unusual, rather than physical size. Many of the trees listed below can be found close to, or actually at, the Lost Castle or Lost Garden sites in Perthshire, providing you with a wide range of interesting trees to view and enjoy.
The Twin Trees
Two very large oak trees can be found by the roadside between Aberfeldy and Kenmore – about 1 mile out from Aberfeldy. Known locally as Lord and Lady Breadalbane! They are considered to have mystical powers and it is thought that any girl that could not squeeze between the trunks of the two trees would never marry. Alas, the gap between the trees has narrowed as the trees have grown, so it is unlikely that even you will be able to slip through.
Bailie Nicol Jarvie’s Tree
This famous tree is still there, across the road from what used to be the Bailie Nicol Jarvie Hotel – now converted into housing. This old oak tree was named in memory of the Bailie – a character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Rob Roy. The Bailie is believed to have drawn a large hot poker from the fire in a local inn to protect himself from a wild, kilted Highlander and set fire to the Highlander’s plaid, which saved the day. A poker used to hang from the tree, but sadly that is no longer there. I remember it well from my own childhood.
Bridge of Earn
The Cromwell Tree
This ancient Spanish chestnut tree was planted on the day that Perth surrendered to Oliver Cromwell – 3rd August 1651. It can be found in the middle of a large field to the west of the Perthshire village of Bridge of Earn.
Eppie Callum’s Tree
A large, possibly 500-year-old oak tree by a road junction at Oakbank, near the west bank of the Turret Burn, is reputed to have provided shelter for Rob Roy and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Eppie Callum is said to have planted the original acorn in a teapot, and when it grew too large she planted the tree – teapot and all. This latter story fails on dates, as Eppie apparently ran the nearby Oakbank Inn in the 19th century, well after the oak would have matured. Perhaps it should be dug up to see if the teapot is still there.
Montrose’s yew once stood in the moat of Inchbrakie Castle, but is no longer there as it was destroyed by Cromwell as the Graemes of Inchbrakie were Royalist supporters. The Marquis of Montrose, a cousin to the Graeme Laird, hid in the tree to escape capture by Cromwell’s troops in 1646. Thought to have been the second largest yew tree in Scotland – it was around 35 feet high in 1883.
The Gallows Tree at Doune Castle
Again no more! The Gallows tree was a venerable ash tree – located about 50 yards north east of the castle on raised ground – which served as the gallows. Doune was a seat of law and justice up until the early 18th century. The tree was blown down in 1878 leaving a stump. Wood from the tree was used to make furniture for the Baron’s Hall.
The Big Tree of Kippenross
Probably the oldest and largest sycamore tree in Britain, it was blown down in 1868. It is possible that it may date from as far back as 1400. The tree’s measurements were: height 100 feet; branch girth 114 feet; trunk girth 42 feet 7inches. There are no photographs, but a fine engraving from 1804 exists. It was truly massive.
Dunkeld and Birnam
The Last of Birnam Wood
Two very old trees – an oak and a sycamore – are to found down by the River Tay at Birnam. They are thought to be the last remnants of the Great Birnam Wood, made famous by Shakespeare in ‘Macbeth’. The sycamore is around 300-years-old and thus too young, whilst the oak is much older, but unlikely to date back to the 11th century when Macbeth was King of Scotland. Makes a nice story and well worth a look.
Niel Gow’s Oak
Niel Gow was a popular and highly accomplished 18th century musician and songwriter. He lived close to Dunkeld and spent much of his time down by the Tay opposite the Dunkeld House Hotel – under an old oak tree which became known as Niel Gow’s Oak. Here he would sit, violin in hand, composing. It is said that the Duke of Atholl, his patron and friend, would sit on the opposite bank listening to Niel’s music. There is a wooden seat there now – a great spot to sit and enjoy a Fortingall Hotel Picnic Lunch.
The Parent Larches
These were the forebears of many European larch trees planted across the Atholl Estates in Perthshire. Mr Menzies of Glen Lyon – visit Castle Menzies to find out more about him – introduced the stock from Austria. There were originally five planted out at Dunkeld in 1738. Their seed was used extensively to grow on more larch trees. Only one of the trees is still standing.
The Yew Tree
The World’s Oldest Tree - our very own BIG TREE! Please refer back to the Fortingall Hotel website for historical details and directions! It is just next door!!
This ruined castle at the west end of Loch Tay is open to the public and famed for its connection with Black Duncan – Sir Colin Duncan Campbell – around 1600. He was a cruel despotic Clan Chief – much feared for his rough justice. He had a massive sycamore tree at Finlarig from which his victims would be hanged – the Gallows Tree. Sadly, it has not survived – possibly came down in a gale. The branch from which miscreants were suspended was cut off in the 18th century, revealing a large groove from the hangman’s rope. Black Duncan was a keen forester and planted an avenue of lime trees from the castle back to Killin, which became known as the Cathedral. This fine avenue was removed to make way for a housing development in the 1960s. Surely, such destruction of our history would not happen nowadays.
The Beech Hedge
Reputed to be the tallest hedge in the world, this splendid beech hedge stretches for some 500 yards along the Perth to Blairgowrie road, just north of the Isla Bridge. It is around 80 to 100 feet in height and was established in 1745-46. Work was delayed at the time, with the workforce leaving to fight at Culloden. It is a nightmare to prune! The hedge is only cut back on the roadside. It certainly merits a visit. So, Perthshire has the world’s oldest tree and the world’s highest hedge. That’s impressive.
Queen Mary Trees on Inchmahome Island
To be found in Scotland’s only lake – the Lake of Menteith. Mary Queen of Scots was brought, for her own safety, to the priory on the island in 1547 as a four-year-old by her mother Mary de Guise after the Scots defeat at the Battle of Pinkie. There were several trees that had links to Mary – a sycamore, a box wood tree and a thorn tree, but these have long since vanished. A visit to the island to walk round the substantial priory ruins is highly recommended. There are some magnificent specimen trees on the island as well as others that have grown into weird shapes.
The Avenue at Drummond Castle
Another avenue of splendid beech trees, possibly the best in Scotland, and a highly recommended place to visit. The Castle Gardens are open for the Easter weekend and then from 1st May to 31st October. Crieff is a scenic drive away from Fortingall. The Drummond Avenue runs in a straight line for a mile – from Muthill to Crieff. The avenue has been compared favourably with the Boulevards of Paris. It contains a mix of beech, lime and horse chestnut trees.
The Jougs Tree at Moulin
This was an old ash tree to be found in the churchyard at Moulin. Petty criminals would be held at the tree with metal collars, known as Jougs, for a few hours as a punishment. The local Baron’s Court at Moulin was responsible for such sentencing up until 1746. The tree was also used as a gallows, and was known as the Hangman’s Ash. The tree was reduced to a stump in 2007 when it was thought to have become a safety risk.
The Robertson Oak
This tree is nearly 400 years old and can be located at Aldour, near the sewage treatment works. It provided a hiding place for George Robertson of Faskally who had fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden and was on the run from Government forces. The tree provided an ideal bolthole and George was subsequently able to escape to France.
Queen Mary’s and King James IV’s Sycamores plus the King of the Forest
There are a wealth of things to see at Scone Palace, including some excellent Douglas Firs sourced from seed sent back from overseas by famous explorer and plantsman David Douglas himself. Douglas was born at Scone. Alas, Queen Mary’s sycamore is no more. It would have been top of most visitors’ itineraries in Victorian times. It was planted by Queen Mary in front of the palace, but did not survive into the 20th century. Her son, James IV planted several trees including a sycamore – King James Sycamore – which is still present today and can be found to the south east of the front of Scone Palace.
The King of the Forest is a Scots Fir located in Muirward Wood about 2 miles to the north of the Palace. It is huge and nearly 400-years-old. It measured 80 feet in height and 16 feet in girth as far back as 1883.
Located in Strathallan Estate woods near Auchterarder, this venerable oak tree marked a fitting end for Mallach, a local meal merchant, who held back from selling food to starving locals in an attempt to force up prices. He was duly seized and hung from the oak.
The Tullibardine Chair Tree
Remember the Great Michael at Tullibardine Castle – see our Lost Gardens of Perthshire Page. The Chair Tree – a very old oak – was massive, as was of course the Great Michael. The tree was around 700-years-old in the 1800s and big enough for a large viewing platform to be built into its upper branches to enable the Laird and his entourage to watch sporting events on the ground below and around the tree. As with the Great Michael, it no longer exists today.
The Wellingtonia at Cluny Gardens
Cluny Gardens are, as said elsewhere, a must see – an unspoilt non-commercialised labour of love, complete with a BIG TREE. The Cluny Wellingtonia – a giant Redwood – is some 150-years-old with a girth in excess of 36 feet, said to be the largest girth of any tree in the UK.