Isle of Spar

The Isle of Spar was built by our an­ces­tors. But since its cre­ation, na­ture has claimed the tiny is­land, cre­at­ing a sea­sonal won­der, says Fer­gal MacEr­lean

Countryfile Magazine - - Great Days Out -

Perth and Kin­ross,

Atall sil­ver birch waves her bur­nished gold leaves un­der a crown of Scots pine on a tiny loch is­land in Tay­side. The colours are vivid, the strong reds of the beech trees tan­gling with the rus­set branches of the pine. And lower down, rowan, birch and lichen com­plete the pic­ture-post­card scene.

The man-made Isle of Spar is best seen from the eastern shores of Loch Tay, not far from the pretty vil­lage of Ken­more. We have the early in­hab­i­tants of Scot­land to thank for cre­at­ing the crannog, a de­fen­sive is­land-based dwelling, to­day home to this spec­tac­u­lar col­lec­tion of trees. It was re­built in 1842 prior to a visit by Queen Victoria, and the trees and walling on the is­land are be­lieved to date from this pe­riod.

EUROPE’S OLD­EST TREE

The area is re­plete with au­tum­nal won­ders. The ma­ture oak, birch and Scots pine trees of Drum­mond Hill are home to a pop­u­la­tion of ca­per­cail­lie, a species of grouse that thrives on the pur­ple blue­ber­ries found here. And at the ham­let of

Fortin­gall you will find one of Bri­tain’s old­est trees. This ven­er­a­ble ever­green yew – which had a girth of 52 feet in 1769 – lives in a pro­tec­tive en­clo­sure in the church­yard. Nowa­days, the trunk is com­prised of sep­a­rate

el­e­ments af­ter be­ing hacked at for sou­venirs. It’s widely thought to be 2,000–3,000 years old, while some ex­perts even be­lieve it dates to 7,000 BC.

LOOP OF THE LOCH

A 40-mile driv­ing cir­cuit runs right the way around the loch. From Ken­more, head an­ti­clock­wise through Tay For­est

Park be­neath the slopes of Ben Law­ers to Killin. Leave the at­trac­tive lit­tle vil­lage over the stone bridge, ad­mir­ing the mes­meris­ing Falls of Dochart, then take the sin­gle-track road along the loch’s south-eastern shore. At this time of year, the vi­brant hues of birch and rowan com­ple­ment the browns of the road­side bracken. Be sure to drop into The Scot­tish Crannog Cen­tre as you re­turn to Ken­more. This award-win­ning re­con­struc­tion of a wicker and thatched abode of­fers vis­i­tors a unique in­sight into crannog life. crannog.co.uk

The Isle of Spar, adorned in the au­tumn months with flax­en­coloured birch leaves and out­stretched Scots pine boughs, be­gan life as a crannog. More than 20 of these lake dwellings have been dis­cov­ered within Loch Tay; al­most all of them are sub­merged

Fer­gal MacEr­lean is an out­doors writer who loves ex­plor­ing the Scot­tish land­scape.

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