Scotland's millennia-old Yew tree has seen it all

The Fortingall Yew, Europe's oldest tree, has been everything from an ancient clan gathering place to a matchmaker.

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    Scotland’s Fortingall Yew is pictured in a 1953 photo.
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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Close to the geographical heart of the country, and occupying an important place in local Christian history, is Scotland’s ancient Fortingall Yew, believed to be Europe’s oldest tree – between 2,000 and 5,000 years old.

The tree is said to have been a sacred place long before the advent of Christianity. According to some accounts, it was used as a clan gathering place.

Lately, archaeologists have been excavating what is believed to be an ancient Pictish-era monastery nearby. Beginning about the 7th century, it was at sites such as these that the pagan Picts, the native inhabitants of east and north Scotland, were converted to Christianity.

These days, the yew helps to play matchmaker, as the owners of a neighboring hotel promote the legend of the long-lasting tree as a draw to marrying couples.

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