Earlier this year I mentioned the national competition to find the Scottish Tree of the Year and said that it would seem obvious as we all knew it was the Scots pine. Well the competition went further than that as it wanted a specific single tree so several weeks ago the hunt was on and people were asked to vote. The competition was organised by the Woodland Trust with support from the People’s Postcode Lottery. This produced a great deal of interest from a wide range of people and organisations and the results are fascinating. This was not only for the single tree but also the runners up and the final result gave a list of six.
There is the temptation to consider what there is more locally in the Highlands that could compete and there are some strong contenders. For example the famous yew tree in the grounds of Dundonnell must be a likely contender. Fortunately the grounds are open at certain times of the year and then there is the chance of seeing the tree close to. It is the centre piece of the private garden and is very beautiful and ancient. It looks as though it has been coppiced many years ago and the result is a ring of almost awesome interlaced stems. Its huge trunk, one of the largest recorded for a yew in Scotland measures 7 metres in girth at ground level. It is reputed to be up to 2,000 years old. What many people do not realise is that its size is remarkable considering just how far north it is growing near Ullapool.
Another obvious contender must be the already famous conifer near Beauly. Famous because it is reputed to be the tallest tree in Britain and may well be the tallest in Europe. It is a Douglas fir growing in an often overlooked glen near Beauly a few miles west of Inverness. The tree has its own name, “Dughall Mor” which is, aptly, the Gaelic for “Big Douglas”. It stands an impressive 218 feet and, interestingly, there are three or four other trees nearby that are almost as tall and all these trees are still growing! The photograph gives an idea of just how impressive these trees in Reelig Glen are. The Glen is open to the public and the tall trees are included in the trail organised by the Forestry Commission.
Remarkably, to my mind, neither of these trees made it to the final 6 but the last one was one that I doubt very many readers will ever have heard of. It is the “kissing beech” in the grounds of Kilravock Castle to the east of Inverness. It is rare as it is layered beech in that branches have grown right down to the ground and some of these have been rooted to create small trees in their own right although still attached to the main tree. The characteristic smooth grey bark has been used for ages as a “trysting tree” where lovers carved their initials. It first became known as the “kissing tree” after a member of an early owner’s family and a housemaid were witnessed in an embrace under the huge branches.
So even with all these options the final choice came down to the now famous Lady’s Tree, a 100 year old Scots pine at the SWT’s reserve on the Loch of Lowes reserve near Dunkeld. Here the lady, an osprey, has made it her home for nearly quarter of a century and reared no less than 50 chicks. An iconic tree for an ionic osprey and a suitable choice for Scottish Tree of the Year 2014.