Fortingall – the Church and Yew Tree

Fortingall the village, church and 5,000 year old Yew Tree.

'Fortingall' the name is believed to be derived from the Gaelic word'fortair' (a stronghold) and 'cill' (a cell or church).

Archaeological evidence indicates the area has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years. There are a number of stone circles, standing stones and numerous large stones marked with cupmarks.  Three groups of standing stones clearly seen from the road in the field east of the church.

Pontious Pilate - There is a local myth or should we say traditon that Pontious Pilate was born at Fortingall when his father visited the Caledonians as emissary from the emperor Augustus. There is no hard eveidnce of this, but we do know of Agricola's campaigns in to Scotland around 800 AD and the eventual Roman front line to keep keep the Picts out of the rest of Roman Britain was at one time along Strathearn and Strathmore.

There is strong evidence that Fortingall was an important Christian Centre as early as the 7th century AD, when missionaries from the monastery on the Island of Iona (on Scotland's west coast), came to preach to the Picts at Fortingall. Fortingall was an important route for monks from the Celtic church going to meet  emissaries from the Roman churches in Northumbria.

Pictish monastary - In the 1980s areal photography highlighted crop marks showing what is believed to be a large Pictish monastic complex. Two excavation trenches were dug under the guidance of archaeologist Dr Oliver JT O'Grady, in August 2011.

Fortingall Church has a number of really fascinating early artifacts well viewing:-

  • The 5,000 year old Yew tree - current botanical opinion dates the yew treee in the church yard to about 5,000 years old. There are time lines marked in the paving stones near the tree, which helps to illustrate the Yew's great age. The Yew Tree is well worth a visit to see in its own right.
  • A 7th century Celtic Hand-Bell of a type that is common in Ireland and used by missionaries of the Columba church on Iona. This can be seen in Fortingall Church located in a small nook in the church wall.
  • Pictish stones - there are a number of very well preserved Pictish stone crossses that can been see inside the church. These were recovered from the walls of the old church which was demolished in 1902. They are very crisp due to being protected for many centuries from the elements, as a result of being buried within the church walls.
  • Celtic Font - A large font can be seen just to the right of the church entrance. This font is of a very early form, believed to date back to the 7th century.
  • 7th century 'Incised cross slabs' - You can see this standing against the south wall of the church, (next to it is an early medieval slab with the three crosses). The incised cross slab is believed to be from the 7th century and are common in Ireland and in the ancient Scottish kingdom of Dalriada (south of Oban in Argyll), but not seen anywhere else.
  • The church yard - take your time to wonder through Fortingall churchyard, you will find some fascinating grave stones, including one dated 1715 marking where a local stone mason is buried, it has a hammer, trowel, set square and plumb line marked on his grave slab.

There is limited parking facilitates beside the church and Fortingall Hotel.