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Scotland's Tree of the Year 2017 shortlist revealed

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An ancient sycamore with connections to Mary Queen of Scots and a tree planted by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie are among the shortlist for Scotland's Tree of the Year, the Woodland Trust has revealed.

The Woodland Trust's annual competition asks members of the public to vote for Scotland's favourite tree, and voting is now open for the 2017 contest.

Six trees have been shortlisted, each of which holds a special place within the community where it stands.

Scotland's Tree of the Year 2017 shortlist

1. The Beauly Sycamore, Beauly

The Beauly Sycamore (pictured) stands within the grounds of Beauly Priory and is well-known and much-loved in the district. Although, its exact age and origin are unknown, it has certainly been gracing the site for several centuries. Its nominees hope its appearance in the competition might lead to an expert assessment of its age.

The trunk measures 5.33m in girth with a height of 17.5m. Beauly Priory was founded in 1230. Mary Queen of Scots visited in 1564 on her way to Dingwall and spoke of the beauty of the abbey and its orchard.

2. The Big Tree, Kirkwall, Orkney

This 200-year-old sycamore is a well-known and much-loved landmark in Kirkwall, used as a meeting place by generations of Orcadians. It could only be regarded as “big” somewhere like Orkney where there are so few trees!

The Big Tree originally stood with two others in the grounds of a grand house. In the 1870s a new owner felled two trees causing public outcry which saved the third. As Kirkwall grew the Big Tree eventually found itself in a street rather than a garden. In more recent years a public outcry once again saved the Big Tree when the council decided to remove it. In poor health due to its challenging location, and its hollowed out trunk supported by a metal rod, the Big Tree nevertheless continues to find a special place in the hearts of Orcadians.   

3. The Carnegie Oak, Dunfermline

Planted in 1904 by the famous industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, this sturdy oak can be found in Pittencrieff Park in Scotland’s ancient capital of Dunfermline. As a boy Carnegie lived within a stone’s throw of this park, known locally as The Glen.

Emigrating to the United States in 1848 he went on to become one of the richest men in the world. After retiring from business Andrew began to distribute his wealth among causes close to his heart including libraries, universities and the Peace Palace at the Hague. Of all his gifts he described giving Pittencrieff Glen to the people of Dunfermline “the most soul-satisfying public gift I ever made, or ever can make, to the people of Dunfermline forever. This is the crowning mercy of my career! I set it apart from all my other public gifts.”

4. David McCabe's Spruce, Crieff

During the First World War Lieut. David McCabe pulled saplings from the mud of no-man’s-land at Passchendaele – and sent them home to his father in Perthshire. David died from wounds in 1917 and never returned to see one of these young trees grow on to splendid maturity.

The saplings travelled in an ammunition box together with a letter which read: “..owing to the amount of shell, rifle and machine gun fire which the place has been subject to, practically nothing is alive which is any taller than the trees I sent ….. some of the fiercest fighting of the war having taken place in their vicinity.”

Today David’s tree stands as a magnificent living memorial at Abercairny Estate, Crieff. In summer 2017 a wreath was fashioned from its cones. A team of cadets cycled from Crieff to France to lay it on the grave of Lieut. McCabe.    

5. The Greenock Cut Oak

This mighty oak is passed by thousands of people completing the Greenock Cut Trail every year. Walkers often stop in their tracks when confronted with the sight of this fine old specimen.

Its sprawling branches are covered in ferns, mosses and lichens and it is an ambassador for Shielhill Glen Site of Special Scientific Interest – being the first big tree many of the school pupils are introduced to as they are led around the nature trail by Park Rangers. The Greenock Cut Oak spreads its branches over what has become a well-used outdoor classroom where children are enthused about the tree and nature as a whole.

6. The Old Holly Bush, Castle Fraser

Castle Fraser’s staff are very proud of this ancient holly tree whose main trunk has a whopping girth of 3m 17cm. Its exact age is unknown but it is believed to be one of the oldest holly trees in Scotland. It appears as a mature tree in paintings of the castle from the early 1800s. The tree stands on what is believed to have been the edge of a 17th Century enclosed garden that was surrounded by a holly hedge rather than a wall.

The Old Holly Bush is part of Castle Fraser’s Ancient Tree school trail and it is one of Aberdeenshire’s champion trees. It serves as an inspiration for story-telling and crafts especially with young visitors.   

Vote for your Scottish tree of the year

To place your vote, visit the Woodland Trust website.

All images copyright WTML/Niall Benvie.

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