The Fossil Tree and Burg – Tiroran, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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The Fossil Tree and Burg

Tiroran, Scotland

On a corner of the Ardmeanach peninsula on the Isle of Mull, a 50 million-year-old fossil tree hides in the coastal cliffs. 


Take a walk on the wild side with a visit to Burg, a little corner on the Isle of Mull that captures the best of the Scottish countryside. Along the way, you’ll find ruined townships of crumbling stone houses, spectacular coastal waterfalls, and perilous views from atop 30-meter-tall cliffs.

The first half of the hike covers a timeline of human activity at Burg, passing by Bronze Age coffin cairns, a ruined Iron Age settlement, and abandoned 19th-century townships. Hikers in late spring will be treated to bluebell and wild garlic-covered forests alongside the path. A couple of miles into the hike, one can enjoy a much-needed break at the Burg bothy, taking in the spectacular views over Loch Scridain.

Past the bothy, the path turns from a flat, wide track into a twisting, narrow trail hugging the cliffs. The winds are fierce with small waterfalls flowing down from higher cliffs. Looking down at the coastline, visitors can spot strange basalt formations such as a pinwheel and warped hexagonal columns, an otherworldly marvel.

Towards the end of the hike, a precarious metal ladder drops down from the cliffs to the rocky beach below, and extreme care is required to descend. Once on the ground, it’s just a short scramble over the tide-shaped rocks and past basalt caves to the fossil tree. 50 million years ago, a lava flow solidified the tree’s imprint into the cliffside, and today the 12-meter-tall fossil remains a well-hidden but worth-seeing sight.

For this hike, it’s both the journey and the destination. Whether one makes it all the way to the fossil tree or not, it’s worth it to just sit by the coastline among the grazing sheep and vibrant flowers, hearing the waves crashing and looking off towards the sea.

Know Before You Go

Park your car at the Tiroran car park and plan accordingly, packing plenty of food and water; the 10+ miles hike takes at least six hours round trip.

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April 19, 2023

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