Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Fortingall Yew

We arrived in Fortingall late on a dreich afternoon, lights already on.

What a handsome place this Perthshire village is! Its arts-and-crafts thatched cottages look more like a chocolate-box English village than the more usual grey boxes of Scotland, setting their faces against the weather.

The church site is old. Monks from Iona preached here in Pictish times. The reason this site was chosen for a church seems obvious. The surrounding area of Glen Lyon is rich in prehistoric remains, with Fortingall the focal point, its ancient yew tree a likely fetish object for the old time pagan religion. And the early Christians liked  to repurpose existing sacred sites - it made the adoption of the new religion much easier.

A stone in the path leading to the yew says 'imagine those who have passed this way before'. The yew tree is estimated to be 5,000 years old and the oldest living thing in Europe. That is a lot of imagining! Landlords and industrialists, clansmen, knights and ladies, Gaels, missionaries, Picts, Romans, metal workers, farmers...

Inside the yew:

There is a legend about Fortingall - it would be a shame for such an ancient place not to have one. Fortingall, so the locals say - other localities dispute this - was birthplace of Pontius Pilate, the Imperial Roman governor who condemned Jesus Christ to death. If the legend is true, he may be the first named Scotsman to travel abroad to find his fortune - but he certainly was not the last.


blueskyscotland said...

Only visited Fortingall once a long time ago. Surprising and charming village for a remote location. As a country I always think we could do more(even just different colours of paint on buildings) to brighten up some of the more mundane villages in Scotland although variety and imagination would need to be used to create contrast and maintain uniqueness in different areas. It would pay for itself in tourist numbers and tasteful pastel tones or little visual surprises here and there might add a touch of sparkle to otherwise grey surroundings in dull weather. We have many unique villages in Scotland already but the rest could shine as well without turning them into a Disney creation or losing their Scottish individuality.
Many of our best loved examples today started out as someone's vision with the look of the place faithfully adhered to down the generations. It wouldn't take much, in money and commitment, to add a few more.

Robert Craig said...

I agree. I once asked an old-school architect why colours weren't mixed in to concrete and he looked at me like I was crazy. Improve the look of our built environment?! Interestingly they now reckon that the original harling used in castles such as Craigivar was pink.

Chris said...

Nice place. We usually make a point of driving down Glen Lyon each autumn to see the display of colour on the autumn leaves and a couple of times have ended up at the hotel in Fortingall. That's an interesting place too.