Ormiston Yew Tree – A New Years’ Day Adventure


On New Years Day, 2013, my mother, Heidi Bohan, and I went on an adventure to find a famous yew tree that is said to be over 1000 years old.

My Mom had heard about this tree through some friends of hers, but didn’t know anything about it besides the name, Ormiston Yew Tree. We knew it had to be near Ormiston, Scotland just a 30 minute drive outside of Edinburgh. We were in Edinburgh for Hogmanay, and the next morning was the only day we could go.

We had some general directions, but nothing was specific enough to guide us there. Luckily, I found one blog that actually gave a great picture and hints on how to find it.  Here it is.      Thank goodness we found this blog, because any other instructions would have left us driving on dirt roads for hours.

We originally thought that we would rent a car and drive there. We didn’t think about the fact that most of the in-city rental companies would be closed on the holiday. So we went to the airport, rented a car and used my “Map with Me” app with GPS and our blog directions loaded on my cell phone to find it.

Can you see my mom in the “bushes”?

After turning onto a dirt road, we drove for about a mile past other houses. We saw a field that we recognized from the blog and parked. We walked through the field and into a trail through some bushes. These bushes ended up being part of the Yew Tree. Because it is a layering Yew Tree, once the branches grow too long, they hit the ground and then grow roots and start a new plant, creating this ring of “bushes” around the tree. These bushes are all part of the 1000 year old yew tree.


We walked through the bushes and arrived under the trees canopy.  A Scottish family was sitting under the tree having a New Year’s Picnic. As we stood under a tree that has been there since the early middle ages you couldn’t help but think of all of the other people in history that had sat in that same spot. John Knox (founder of the Presbyterian Church) used to hold his first reformation sermons here, starting the seeds of a revolution that would shape the history of England, Europe, the US and many other places in the world. Even then, it was considered a very old tree.


While I wondering what this tree has heard, seen and what prayers and wishes have been made under it’s canopy I also couldn’t help but think of my own existence.  After making a few wishes and promises, I found a rock in the shape of a heart.


After I came home, I did some more research and found that there is a famous folk song about the Ormiston Yew Tree, called “The Yew Tree”. The first verse explains much of what I was feeling, and made me hopeful for those wishes:

“A mile frae Pentcaitland, on the road to the sea
Stands a yew tree a thousand years old
And the old women swear by the grey o’ their hair
That it knows what the future will hold
For the shadows of Scotland stand round it
‘Mid the kail and the corn and the kye
All the hopes and the fears of a thousand long years
Under the Lothian sky”

All the hopes and fears of a thousand long years. Pretty heavy stuff.

It was a perfect way to start the year.






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