Fortingall is a small village just west of Aberfeldy in Perthshire, Scotland and we stayed in a rented cottage here for one week during a trip to Scotland. It’s a great location for exploring the area as you can head in almost any direction into some truly wonderful Scottish scenery.
The village has a hotel (Fortingall Hotel) with an excellent restaurant and a bar (The Ewe) where you can enjoy some great local food, drink some good beers or whiskies and listen to some local folk music on some evenings in the bar. Our cottage was only 30-40m from the Ewe Bar so very convenient!
The hotel sits right next to the Fortingall parish church and in the churchyard is a very famous old yew treee which is reputed to be anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 years old and may be the oldest tree in UK.
The tree’s once massive trunk (16 metres, or 52 feet in girth when it was first taken notice of in writing, in 1769) with a former head of unknown original height, is split into several separate stems, giving the impression of several smaller trees, with loss of the heartwood rings that would establish its true age. This is a result of the natural decay of the ancient heartwood, which reduced the centre of the trunk down to ground level by 1770. Other than this, the tree is still in good health, and may last for many more centuries. By 1833 it was noted that “large arms had been removed and even masses of the trunk, carried off, to make drinking-cups and other curiosities.” It is protected by a low wall erected in 1785 to preserve it but it can still be easily viewed. The yew is male, however in 2015 scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardenin Edinburgh reported that one small branch on the outer part of the crown had changed sex and begun to bear a small group of berries – an occurrence occasionally noted in conifers. The seeds have been preserved for study and will be used to help maintain genetic diversity in yews.
Clippings from the tree are to be taken to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, to form part of a mile-long hedge. The purpose of this “Yew Conservation Hedge Project” is to maintain the DNA of Taxus baccata from ancient specimens in the UK as, worldwide, the trees are threatened by felling and disease.
According to local legend, Pontius Pilate was born in its shade and played there as a child.
The attractive village of Fortingall, with its large hotel adjoining the churchyard, was built 1890-91 by shipowner and Unionist MP, Sir Donald Currie (1825–1909), who bought the Glenlyon Estate, including the village, in 1885. It was designed by the architect James M MacLaren (1853–90) and built by John McNaughton. The thatched cottages are notable examples of a planned village built in vernacular style (here combining both Lowland Scottish and English influences, notably from Devon) and are increasingly appreciated as one of the most important examples of ‘arts and crafts’ vernacular style in Scotland. The Fortingall Hotel, recently (2006–07) restored to its original appearance, is an important example of Scottish vernacular revival.
Just on the outskirts of Fortingall is an ancient stone circle arranged in three distict groups. The stones are rounded and smooth and probably water-worn.
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