Larch trees

Craigvinean forest is a story in itself; a story of the Atholl family and their interest in growing larch.

Larch is not a native tree to Britain. Mr Menzies of Culdares brought it over from Europe in 1738. He gave several trees to James, (2nd Duke of Atholl); five of these were planted on the lawn of his home, Dunkeld House.

Starting a plantation

The duke bought and planted seven hundred larches, intermixed with other trees, on the slopes of Craigvinean Hill as an experiment. The mountain land was poor farmland not even worth £3 a year. The plantation thrived and can be considered Scotland's first mountain tree plantation.

His son, John, continued to experiment with growing larch.  It was his grandson, however, who really made the forest into a business.

"I don't believe there is another species in the 29 acres, oak included, except a few spruces, that would bring a guinea" John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl.

Ship building out of larch

John the Planter saw the potential of using larch to build ships but it was difficult to persuade others to change their building material from fir to larch.

In 1820 two ships were launched, H.M. Frigate Athole built from larch and the H.M. Niemen built from fir. On 13 December 1827, an Admiralty report compared the condition of the two ships. It stated that while the Athole only needed a few, small repairs, the Niemen was so defective it was ready for scrapping.