A Trip To Birnam Oak In Dunkeld

Shutterstock / Dave Lake photography ©

Dunkeld is a beautiful town in Perthshire. It looks almost alpine in the way it’s nestled into the surrounding hills and forests.

The River Tay runs through the middle of the town. The same river will eventually reach Dundee – home to The People’s Friend office – and continue on out to the North Sea.

There are plenty of things to do there – a wealth of walks to choose from, charming independent shops to browse through and lots of pubs, restaurants and cafés.

A walk with family

A couple of weekends ago, when my family came to visit, we decided to visit the Birnam Oak, along one of the many trails at Dunkeld.

The Birnam Oak is a magnificent oak tree, thought to be 500-years-old and one of the last surviving trees of the ancient Birnam Woodland.

We set off from Dunkeld town and crossed the large bridge across the Tay.

People did a lot of double takes – we had a pram with us and the passenger wasn’t a baby, but a dog!

Photograph by Abbie Phillips.

Our family dog is getting on in age and he’s nearly completely blind. He can’t walk very far anymore, so we got him a pram and now he travels like a King! He loves the gentle breeze as we walk along.

Strolling by the riverside

We made it down to the path along the river and enjoyed the stroll.

There are a few spots where you can get down to small beaches on the riverside. At one, we encountered four friendly ducks.

Photograph by Abbie Phillips.

Further along the path, we all spotted what looked to be Birnam Oak. A massive trunk with huge branches at the side of the path.

But, as we got closer, we saw the sign – this wasn’t the oak, but the Birnam Sycamore. It’s been dubbed ‘The Young Pretender’ because it tricks passers-by, as it did to us!

The real deal

The Birnam Oak was the next tree along. It looks smaller than the sycamore, but when you walk down to it and walk around the trunk, you realise how big it is.

Photograph by Abbie Phillips.

Much of the trunk is hollow and some branches are held up by large crutches. As you look at the bark, it seems like gnarled faces peer back at you!

Looking at it, it’s no wonder that the ancient woodland in which it stood inspired Shakespeare.

It’s said that the bard visited Birnam Wood in 1599 and he later worked it into ‘The Scottish Play’, Macbeth.

In the play, an apparition conjured by the three witches prophesises that:

“Macbeth shall never vanquished be until

Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill

Shall come against him.”

Read about Editor Angela’s wee break in Dunkeld here.

And don’t miss Willie Shand’s account of his visit to nearby Loch Ordie in our October 9 issue!

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.