A lone ancient elm that has stood watch over a scenic glen in the Highlands for more than 300 years has been named Scotland’s Tree of the Year.
The gnarly old tree, which was re-discovered in Glen Affric in 2012, has been dubbed the Last Ent of Affric - in a nod to the mythological tree creatures from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which serve as forest guardians.
It is the only one of its species in the glen and likely the last survivor of an ancient forest.
The characterful tree, which bears the scars of a long life in harsh conditions, fought off stiff competition from five other finalists to scoop the top prize in this year’s contest.
It has also beaten the odds to survive the Dutch elm disease epidemic, due to its secluded location far away from other elms that were infected by the deadly fungus.
It came to prominence after conservationists from government agency Forest and Land Scotland and the charity Trees for Life noticed the solitary tree and recognised the significance of its existence.
“Given its location, its isolation and its peculiar 'face', it’s very easy to imagine it as one of Tolkien’s Ents standing sentinel over the rebirth of a new native woodland in Affric,” said Giles Brockman, of Forest and Land Scotland, who nominated the tree.
READ MORE: Killer tree disease set to cost UK £15 billion
As the 2019 winner, the Ent of Affric will receive a £1,000 Care Award from People’s Postcode Lottery, which can be spent on work to improve the tree’s health, signage or a public celebration.
It will also be honoured at a ceremony in the Scottish Parliament later in the year, when a trophy will be presented to its supporters.
Sanjay Singh, senior programmes manager with People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “We’re delighted players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported the Woodland Trust’s search for 2019’s Tree of the Year, a competition highlighting the need to ensure our ancient trees are valued and protected. There were many fascinating entries with incredible stories behind them.”
READ MORE: Call to fell alien trees to protect native Scots pine
The first and second runners-up - the Peace Tree, at Dunnottar Church in Stonehaven, and the Cadzow Oak, at Chatelherault Country Park in Motherwell - will both receive £500 Care Awards.
Last year’s favourite – Netty’s Tree, on the Isle of Eriskay – now has a ceilidh tune written in its honour.
Other previous winners include the Suffragette Oak in Glasgow, the Ding Dong Tree in Prestonpans and the Big Tree in Orkney.
The annual contest is run by the Woodland Trust, with winners from Scotland going on to compete against counterparts from England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the chance to represent the UK in the European Tree of the Year competition.