There's a new campaign to save the remaining trees from Birnam Wood, made famous by Shakespeare in his play Macbeth.

Macbeth shall never vanquished be until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him.

(Third Witch, Act 4 Scene 1)

Just two of the oldest trees remain from the wood that Shakespeare wrote about in his Scottish tragedy, Macbeth. Now, Friends of the Birnam Oak and Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust are working to save the Birnam Oak and Sycamore and ensure they are around for another half-century.

Believed to be over 500 years old, the Birnam Oak stands close to the south bank of the River Tay in Birnam, Perthshire. Although it is too young to have been seen by Shakespeare's doomed king, it would have been a mature tree by the late 1500s when the playwright is thought to have travelled to the area with his company of actors. If so, this oak could have inspired Shakespeare to write his famous lines:

As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I look’d toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move.

(Messenger, Act 5 Scene 5)


A sycamore tree in Birnam Wood
The Birnam Sycamore.
Photo by Alison Campbell © Friends of the Birnam Oak Browse and license our images

The nearby Birnam Sycamore is a slightly younger tree at about 300 years old. Like the oak, it is becoming weak with rot and is unlikely to survive much longer without work to preserve it.

Find out more about the Friends of the Birnam Oak and Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust’s efforts to protect these ancient trees, and how you can help save Birnam Wood.

Macbeth opens in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 13 March 2018.

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