Special branch: This is Ireland’s most popular tree

Six-hundred-year-old yew at Blarney Castle garners 42 per cent of public vote to scoop Irish Tree of the Year Award

The Witch’s Yew in the Blarney Castle estate, Co Cork.

The Witch’s Yew in the Blarney Castle estate, Co Cork.

 

A 600-year-old yew tree located in the grounds of Blarney Castle, Co Cork, has beaten off competition from trees in the Phoenix Park, the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Arbour Hill and at Castletown House in Co Kildare to win the Irish Tree of the Year Award.

The winning tree, known as the Witch’s Yew, scooped 42 per cent of the public vote in a competition organised by the Tree Council of Ireland.

The yew, which has long been a tourist attraction, is growing above the Witch’s Kitchen, a folly built by the Jeffreyes family in the 1750s as part of the Rock Close gardens in the Blarney Castle Estate.

Legend has it that the area is the home of the Blarney Witch, who first told mortals of the Blarney Stone’s magic power of giving those who kiss it the gift of eloquence. The legend is that the witch, imprisoned by day in the Witch Stone, is released after nightfall, only to be banished to the witch stone again at dawn.

Head gardener at Blarney Castle Adam Whitbourn says they are delighted that the Witch’s Yew has won the award.

“It’s an amazing veteran tree with a fantastic story and that’s what the competition is all about. Personally, I’m happy to see specimen trees like this getting some recognition, especially in the current climate where such devastation is happening to woodlands around the world. Trees such as this represent both our past and our future, and it is our duty to look after them.”

The other nominees included the Mighty Battle Oak in Drogheda, Co Meath, the Castletown Sweet Chestnut in Co Kildare, the Farmleigh Sycamore in Phoenix Park and the Arbour Hill Sycamore in Co Dublin.

The Blarney yew tree will now be considered for the European Tree of the Year award.