If you’ve ever read or seen Shakespeare’s Macbeth performed, you may remember the prophecy “’til Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane” for Macbeth’s final defeat. Considering that Perthshire, where Birnam is located, is known as Big Tree Country, you, like Macbeth, might expect that to be an impossibility.
Birnam Wood is apparently not as extensive as it was in Shakespeare’s time, but the woodlands around Birnam and Dunkeld, its neighbor across the River Tay, still contain tall, large, venerable old specimens. And the most legendary is the Birnam Oak.
When I got off the bus in Birnam, I found a footpath down to the river and followed signs to the grand old oak. I passed a couple of mighty trees (sporting cheeky signs like “Not me, I’m a sycamore!”) before finding the behemoth. Though even this old tree does not date back to Macbeth’s time, it looks like it might, given the two logs used to prop up one of its fragile limbs. (The tree is partly hollow now, warranting a little extra help.) From there, I continued walking along the river to the Hermitage, where I found other tall old trees. (See previous post.)
After crossing the river and finding lunch in Dunkeld, I had hoped to revisit Dunkeld Cathedral, an old friend from an earlier holiday. Sadly, the cathedral ground were closed, but I couldn’t tell if it were due to more extensive renovation efforts or to a day of grounds maintenance.
Instead, I wanted to find a woodland walk I learned about from a photographer I met in Culross. As it turned out, part of the walk he had suggested overlapped the Big Tree trail I discovered behind the cathedral grounds.
I headed first to the Parent Larch at the tower end of the cathedral. This particular larch tree has “donated” so many seedlings to the grounds over the centuries that the Duke of Atholl (who had owned the property adjacent) transplanted them around his estate.
As I headed toward and along the river, I found tall specimens of Douglas fir, pine, sycamore, and others I could not readily identify. Some had helpful information placards nearby, but others were evidently justs to be admired. I followed the path until the road to a nearby hotel met it, and since the road looked too narrow for me to walk it safely, I turned back along the riverside trail until I found a path up the hill to a parallel path.
This path, overlooking meadows and fields, led me through some of those transplanted larches, now growing almost as tall as the Parent!
As the temperatures had dipped, the wind had kicked up, and the light misting rain had occasionally converted to snow, I decided to stop once I made it back to the cathedral and headed for the bus stop instead. But what a lovely walk it was!