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Standing not far from each other near the Perthshire village of Dunkeld are two of Scotland’s most impressive Douglas firs. One is a sometime contender for the title of tallest tree in the United Kingdom, and the other has the largest girth of its species in the United Kingdom.
One of the UK's tallest trees
At a towering 59 metres (194 feet) tall, the graceful Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) at the Hermitage, near Dunkeld, Perthshire, is one of the tallest trees in the UK. It nestles at the bottom of a steep gorge, with its roots in the turbulent River Braan. It is an elegant specimen, with a single, slender trunk and spire-shaped crown in perfect form to the tip of its leading shoot.
It is thought that the tree began life about 1875 as a self-sown seedling from the grove of older specimens on the opposite bank of the river. Its relatively young age makes its impressive vertical growth all the more remarkable.
Nearby, the Douglas with the champion girth stands next to Dunkeld Cathedral. Despite its impressive girth of 7 metres (23 feet), it is easily overlooked because it is located in woodland containing many fine trees of great size.
Said to have been planted as a gift to the Duke of Atholl about 1846, it is coarsely branched and not particularly attractive. Its top was blown out many years ago, and it now stands at just over 30 metres (98 feet) tall. The bark on the lower trunk is exceptionally thick and deeply fissured, a characteristic that undoubtedly contributes to its vast bulk.
Where to see the Hermitage Douglas Fir:
On the south bank of the River Braan at the Hermitage, near Dunkeld, Perth & Kinross. The Hermitage is signposted off the A9 road, and the tree is signposted and readily viewed from the National Trust for Scotland property on the north side of the river. The site is managed by Forestry Commission Scotland and free public access is available.
Image: copyright Edward Parker