In many cultures, aged trees are worshipped and seen as sacred to this day. While we obviously have plenty of those in Scotland, one ancient tree is extra special. Fortingall Yew is an ancient European yew that way predates modern history with a varied estimated age of between 3,000 and 9,000 years old.
Located in the Highland Perthshire village of Fortingall just under two hours drive from Glasgow, the Fortingall Yew is situated in a churchyard in the heart of the village.
A brief history of the Fortingall Yew
The place name of Fortingall pre-dates to the Iron Age, when it was thought to be home to a cult centre thought to be centred around the tree itself. Unsurprisingly, the current churchyard was baptised in the early Middle Ages, as the tree has already been worshipped for centuries at that point and had a sacred significance.
The tree and its age
The main attraction towards the Fortingall Yew nowadays is its age, as well as its majestic appearance that is split into three stems. However, the tree wasn’t always split three ways: in 1769, a grandiose trunk was recorded at 16 meters (52 feet) in girth. Over time, the ancient tree has split into three stems, as part of the natural decay of the heartwood.
Because of the split, it is extremely difficult to accurately determine the exact age of the tree, as the number of rings in the heartwood is needed to do this. Therefore, some estimates say that Fortingall Yew is 3,000 years old, while others go up all the way to 9,000, almost reaching the famous Norway spruce Old Tjikko’s in Sweden honourable age of 9,500.
However, Forestry and Land Scotland has determined the ancient tree’s age as 5,000 years old, so perhaps we should just go with that. After all, 5,000 years is a respectable age, indeed.
What is more, Fortingall Yew is a male tree, yet scientists from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh have recorded a small branch of the tree that started producing berries.
Things to do around Fortingall Yew
On top of being home to one of the UK’s and Europe’s oldest trees, Fortingall is a quaint picturesque village with some exploring opportunities and a hotel. Just across the road from Fortingal Church, visitors can also find the Cairn of the Dead, and for those who like waterfalls and fancy a nice walk can visit the Falls of Acharn about a 15 minute drive from Fortingall.