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The Fortingall Yew

Probably the oldest tree in Britain..

11 June 2009

In a small village in deepest Perthshire grows a Yew tree revered as being the oldest living in Britain. The Fortingall Yew has been estimated to be at least 3000 years old and, perhaps, as old as 5000.

It maybe that celebrity has taken its toll on this ancient beauty but, happily, it seems now to be well looked after. Having been famous for a long time, many visitors have felt the need to take a little bit of it home as a souvenir. Consequently, a low wall has been built around it to offer a little protection. It may also have heaved a sigh of relief as props were erected to take the strain of some of its branches. In 1769 the girth was recorded as being around 17 metres. What remains today, although thriving, are remnants of the old and new growth, amounting to no more than two hugs – a mere shadow of its former glory but, nonetheless remarkable .

Local tradition would have it that Pontius Pilate was born near the yew and spent some of his early years in the area. This is unlikely, however, as, despite Julius Caesar landing in Southern Britain in 55BC, the Roman invasion didn’t start until 43AD..

Yew trees have long been the source of legends. We think the Fortingall Yew is a legend in its own right. What do you think?

FortingallYew Photo: Archie Miles