12 August 2007


i arrived in scotland as the sun went down. it was after 10 pm and all the customs officials had already called it a night, so i headed right to the rental car desk. by this point driving on the left side of the road didn't require a second thought, though driving in the poorly-signed streets of edinburgh without a navigator to read my google directions did prove a bit tricky. i did manage to stay on track, however, after a quick check-in with the A to Z at a petrol station. the next morning i drove out of edinburgh towards perthshire. with something that i have to attribute to good travel karma, when i arrived in aberfeldy (the town where i was staying) i somehow managed to coast right up to the street i was looking for, just as i was going to have to consult a map or a local. after settling in i continued my drive to the even smaller village of fortingall. in a second stroke of luck, i had an entire precipitation-free afternoon to photograph. rain set in later that night and didn't stop until i was back in edinburgh.

the fortingall yew (yes: yews are conifers, ewes are female sheep), somewhere between 2000 and 5000 years old (probably closer to the former than the latter), lives within the confines of a churchyard, further confined by its own tourist-proof stone wall. the area is steeped in history, not to mention incredibly beautiful, so its popularity is hardly surprising. however, the increase in traffic lead to substantial souvenir-taking of the yew's bark, endangering the health of the tree. hence the wall.

while it seems to be undisputed that the fortingall yew is the oldest tree in europe, this was another case of shoot first, ask questions later -- i'll have to confirm the age and history of the tree with the appropriate experts after i return from this trip. after the lengths required to reach and research the baobabs and welwitchia, reaching the yew was much closer to a walk in the park.

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