Thursday 22 August 2019

Yew can vote online for Ireland's favourite tree

Witches Yew at Blarney Castle one of five finalists in national competition

The mystical and magical Yew Tree, estimated to be more than 600 years old in the Rock Close gardens in the Blarney Castle Estate
The mystical and magical Yew Tree, estimated to be more than 600 years old in the Rock Close gardens in the Blarney Castle Estate

Bill Browne

It has captured the minds and imaginations of locals and visitors from across the globe who have wandered through the spectacular gardens in the grounds of Blarney Castle.

Now the imposing Witches Yew is among five Irish trees in the running to be judged the nations finest tree, with the public invited to vote online for their favourite. 

The winner will then go up against others tress from across the continent in the hope of being the first from Ireland to win the annual European Tree of the Year competition. 

The four other trees selected by the Irish Tree Council and deemed to be Ireland's finest are: the imposing Oak at the Battle of the Boyne Site in Co Meath; the Arbour Hill Sycamore behind Collins Barracks in Dublin; the Sycamore on the Farmleigh Estate in the Phoenix Park and a Sweet Chestnut on the Castletown Estate in Cellbridge. 

The Yew Tree has been estimated by experts to be more than 600-years-old.

A folly, the 'Witches Kitchen' was built by the Jeffreyes family under the Yew in the 1750s as part of the famous Rock Close gardens. 

According to legend, the area is the home of the Blarney Witch, who first told mortals about the Blarney's Stone's magical powers - the gift of eloquence.

Imprisoned by day in the 'Witch Stone, the Witch is said to be released after nightfall only to be banished back to the stone again at dawn. Over the years some early morning visitors have claimed to have seen the dying embers of a fire in her stone. 

The European Tree of the Year Competition was established in 2011 and was inspired by a national competition that has been running in Czech Republic for many years. It's aim is to shine a spotlight on trees that had made a significant contribution to a country's national, cultural and environmental heritage. 

The eventual winner of the Irish competition will go up against trees from more than 15 other countries of the 2020 European Tree of the Year title. 

The president of the Irish Tree Council, Joe McConville, said the contest highlighted Ireland's "champion and veteran" trees, with some of this year's Irish finalists, including the Blarney Yew, up to six centuries old. 

"Planting trees is an important part if climate change migration, but it is equally important to recognise trees that have a personal connection for people," said Mr McConville.

"You can get behind your local tree or you can rally for one you really believe in - like you would a football team. I think Ireland has a really good chance of winning," he added. 

As does Adam Whitbourn, head gardener at Blarney Castle, who has more than 15-years of experience under his belt as a professional gardener. 

He waxed lyrical about the Blarney Yew tree, saying it had a certain mystical quality about it that has spawned many stories and myths. Perhaps the best known of these is that of the Witch, and how she spoke about the secrets of the Blarney Stone.

"You can feel the centuries of history unfolding around you when visit the tree. That is what this competition is all about. We are only temporary custodians of these tress and their lives last much longer than ours," he said. 

People can vote for their favourite tree at or via the link at