Reelig Tall Trees

The tallest trees in Britain are to be found in Scotland, a short distance from Inverness in a quiet valley that links the Moray Firth with the north-east shores of Loch Ness.

Centred on a local peak called ‘The Aird’, the locally- celebrated ‘Tall Trees’ have been threaded with a series of walks of varying lengths. My wife, Bernie, is an horticulturalist by training, but neither of us had heard of the Reelig tall trees. It was about forty miles from where we were staying and too good an opportunity to miss…

We were spending a few winter days in this wild and beautiful part of Scotland in preparation for the Silent Eye’s ‘Macbeth’ weekend (The Silent Unicorn) in June, and came across a notice board that referenced the Aird estate.

Upon arrival we noticed that there are a number of paths through the forest. We wanted to do several things in the day, so chose the shortest one that still included all the most famous of these venerable trees.

This most popular path has recently been extended with an elevated section that forms a ‘switch-back’ to one side of the forest. The river Moniack winds through the park. A new bridge has been added – though the remains of the old one have been beautifully incorporated into the riverbanks.

The effect of the new section of path is wonderful. The original formed an ‘S’ shape through the vast trees. The extension crosses the river and climbs, steeply, curving back on a higher level towards the start of the walk and allowing the sheer vertical scale of the forest to be seen from different perspectives.

Many of the tallest of the Reelig trees have information ‘wings’ that fold out from slots in vertical posts.

The Reelig woodlands comprise a mixture of broad leaves trees and old conifers. The main group are giant Douglas Firs, many of which are over a hundred years old, and have reached over 170 feet.

In the year 2000, the then tallest tree – named Big Douglas – was measured at just over 200 feet. It was declared the tallest tree in Britain. A different Douglas fir in the Reelig forest has now been measured at nearly 218 ft, and is confirmed as Britain’s tallest, and is also the tallest conifer in Europe.

It was late March, and the photographs show that the landscape was still a winter one. We look forward to returning in the brightness of summer.

©Stephen Tanham

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