The Ormiston Yew
The Ormiston Yew is a fine example of a “layering” yew (Taxus baccata) in Scotland. Its weeping branches radiate out from the solid central trunk and take root where they touch the ground, encircling the tree in an ever-extending fringe of growth.
The inner chamber formed by the layered branches and dense foliage creates a spacious, natural cathedral of arching limbs. The huge central trunk measures about 23 feet (about 7 meters) in girth. Records of measurement over the past 160 years suggest a very slow rate of growth, and it is possible that the tree could be ten centuries old.
As early as the 15th century, the yew was recognized as a local landmark. A parchment dated 1474 was found among some old papers belonging to the Earl of Hopetoun. It had been signed under the yew tree. The famous religious reformer, John Knox, who was born in nearby Haddington, is also reputed to have preached his early sermons within the secluded interior of the yew’s evergreen canopy. Here Knox, along with his influential mentor, George Wishart, sowed the seeds of the Reformation, which was ultimately to sweep throughout Scotland.
This majestic tree is located a mile and a half south of Ormiston, near the site of the ruinous Ormiston Hall. Situated in a private development, visitors report that it is challenging to discover without directions. With satellite positioning technology, it can be found at 55° 53′ 49″ North latitude and 2° 56′ 42″ West longitude.