Hidden in a wood in the small Trossachs village of Brig o’ Turk – most definitely off the beaten track – is a peculiar sight: the Bicycle Tree.
This century-old Sycamore tree clearly has an iron deficiency for it has ‘swallowed’ not only a turn-of-the-century bike frame but also an anchor and other iron implements. The tree stands just off the lane that leads towards Glen Finglas, beside what was once an old smiddy (blacksmiths). The story goes that a local villager left his bike hanging from the tree when he went off to fight in the First World War, and the tree slowly enveloped the bike along with other pieces of iron discarded behind the smiddy.
Whether this is story is in fact true nobody knows. Search the web and you’ll find a similar bicycle tree on Vashon Island, Washington State, although the bike in question is a much younger 1950s bike. Whatever the origins of the iron-eating tree it’s certainly a most unusual sight.
Brig o’ Turk itself, right in the heart of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park between Callander and Aberfoyle, is a delightfully sleepy hamlet (population c. 160). It’s unusual name derives from the location of a bridge (‘brig’) as well as wild boar (‘tuirc’ in Gaelic). It boasts a rare wooden 1930s tearoom which featured in the 1959 remake of The 39 Steps with Kenneth More (I can recommend its coffee and cakes), as well as the Byre Inn restaurant. Brig o’ Turk has connections with a number of writers and artists including Ruskin, Millais and The Glasgow Boys.
The Trossachs became a well-known tourist location after Sir Walter Scott published The Lady of the Lake in 1810 and visitor numbers rose drammatically. After ‘The Duke’s Road’ was built in 1886 to connect Aberfoyle with Loch Achray Brig o’ Turk found itself on a key tourist route leading back to Callander, this loop being considered an essential part of any Victorian’s trip to Scotland.