The rich and colourful landscapes of Loch Lomond and Trossachs have given rise to many delightful woodland fairy and creative art trails, available for visitors to explore and discover a magical world steeped in history…

However, visitors are developing worrying habits where cultural traditions are being incorrectly applied and causing damage to the nature and ecology of the forests.

Have you ever noticed the practise of hammering a coin into a tree?

This ancient tradition is intended to bring luck when carried out on a wishing tree, an example being an oak tree on Isle Maree in Wester Ross which is associated with curative properties. It is believed that the unwell person’s illness was transferred to the tree by the offering of a coin, particularly if combined with bathing the person in the water from a well on the island or in the waters of the loch. Many people have taken part in this ritual, including Queen Victoria in 1877. 

However, all the metal inserted into the trunk has caused the tree to die from copper poisoning.  Hammering coins into a dead tree or stump will also have an impact on the insects who live there as oxidised copper is poisonous to them and anything that eats them.  Many oak woodland trees are also legally protected as they provide a important habitat for rich biodiversity.

Another well-known tradition is to leave small votive offerings tied to the branches of wishing trees or trees which were next to places of pilgrimage.  The votive would often be a piece of cloth known as a clootie, which forms part of this ancient ritual. More recently, there has been a growth in the number and types of items being left at trees and woodlands without historical or cultural heritage, including plastic doll furniture, trinkets and decorations.


After being exposed to the external elements, these items will quickly lose their cosmetic appeal and it will also be a long time before they degrade and decompose.  Metal will degrade after 100 years and plastic can take 450 years.  Choosing a synthetic material like nylon over a natural fibre means it will take 30-40 years to decompose, which is really bad news for the balance of our natural ecosystems.

Woodlands are magical places filled with natural elements which fuel a child’s imagination.  Please consider what you do and what you leave. Set a good example, remember that the act of one person is often rapidly copied by others.  The forest is the home of many creatures- both natural and magical- which need your help. 

Let the next visitor and the next generation enjoy the unspoilt magic of the forest just like you did.

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