Origin of Birnam Wood

Birnam Wood and MacBeth

The Royal Forest, which includes Birnam Hill, was gifted in 1160 by Malcolm, the Maiden, to Duncan, Earl of Fife, on his marriage with Princess Ada, the King's niece. This Duncan was a descendant of that MacDuff who accompanied Malcolm Canmohr on his march to oust the victorious usurper, Macbeth. Beautiful as this hill is, with its belts of graceful birches and green tasselled larches, its patches of purple heather and green blueberry knolls, its huge precipitous rocks and gentle slopes with magnificent prospects, it does not owe its world-wide fame to beauty or prominence of situation. It has been rendered classical by Shakespeare's immortal pen.

Every avid reader knows the story of Macbeth and great Birnam Wood. Duncan, "gentle king," whose assassination by his general Macbeth, forms part of the play, was a son of Crinan, the lay Abbot of Dunkeld. Seventeen years after King Duncan's assassination by Macbeth, Duncan's son Malcolm marched from Stirling on to Crieff, thence through the Sma' Glen, their resting place for the night. Various reasons are cited for the subsequent adornment of Malcolm's army with branches from Birnam Wood.