Northern Ireland news

Tree dating back more than 430 years and linked to Spanish Armada has fallen in Co Antrim

The felled Chestnut tree in the graveyard at St Patrick's Church of Ireland at Cairncastle. Picture by Mal McCann

A TREE believed to date back more than 430 years has fallen in a Co Antrim graveyard.

The Spanish Sweet Chestnut tree, which has reported connections to the Spanish Armada and believed to have sprouted from seeds stored in a dead sailor's pocket, fell in recent weeks near Larne.

It is believed that the tree was suffering from root disease.

Located in St Patrick's Church of Ireland graveyard in Cairncastle, it is a well-known landmark in the local area and is believed to date back to the 16th century.

Dubbed the Armada Tree, local legend suggests that the tree is connected to the Spanish Armada fleet, which saw 130 ships set sail from Spain to invade England in May 1588.

Storms blew a ship off course, which was later found off the Co Antrim coast and a sailor was washed up on the shores at Ballygally.

Local people buried his body in an unmarked grave at St Patrick's Church, but a Spanish Sweet Chestnut tree later emerged from the grave.

It is believed the tree grew from a chestnut the sailor had in his pocket, thought to have been carried to ward off scurvy at the time.

The tree, which was named runner up in the Woodland Trust's ‘Tree of the Year' competition in 2017, had also become a popular attraction for Game of Thrones fans visiting nearby points of interest related to the television series.

But after standing in the graveyard for over 400 years, following its collapse, plans are afoot for the wood to be repurposed.

Woodturners with experience working with wood from the 'Game of Thrones' Trees at the Dark Hedges are now set to try and create something memorable from the tree.

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