Trysting Tree

Origins of the name

A 'Tryst' is a time and a place for a meeting, especially of lovers. In Old French the word meant an appointed station in hunting. it is likely from an Old Norse source sharing its origin with 'traust', and the Modern English 'trust' (and thus also related to the Old English 'treowe' which survives as the modern 'true'). A Trysting day, is an arranged day of meeting or assembling, as of soldiers, friends, lovers and the like.


Many trees have through their isolation, appearance or position been chosen as a popular meeting place for young courting couples, soldiers called to gather at a distinctive venue prior to battle, etc. Many a romantic story features Trysting Trees, none more so than the tales of Robin Hood and his merry men, the epitomy of old England in the days of chivalry and romance. In the 1845 version of the story, Maid Marion and Robin Hood are buried together under their 'Trysting Tree.' Scott's Ivanhoe and the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The White Company' make several references to Trysting Trees.

And named a trysting day,
And bade his messengers ride forth
East and west and south and north,
To summon his array.
A poem by Macaulay.

In Sir Walter Scott's Waverley the large decaying trunk of a Trysting tree lies on Tully-Veolan moor and is still used as a meeting place.

Surviving and previously recorded Examples


A section of a woodland strip that runs along the old road from Muirhouses farm to Middleton cottage in North Ayrshire, Scotland, is marked at 'Cheepy Neuk' on the OS maps of 1966 and 2000. In Scots 'Cheepy' means 'Chirpy' as in bird song or it can mean 'a light kiss', prompting the thought that this may have been a trysting place for courting couples in times past.

The Covin Trysting Tree, Bemersyde, Melrose, Grid Ref: NT 593 334, is a Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) with aheight of 12.6 m, a diameter of 252 cm and is from 500 - 800 years old. The tree has long been a feature of Bemersyde, appearing in many paintings of the house including a sketch by Turner, located in the British Museum, London. The tree is thought to have been planted in the 12th century by Petrus de Haga, making it 800 years old.

Although the original trunk has now died, layers were taken by Earl Haig in the 1950s resulting in several new healthy stems rising from the base. One of the layers, planted about 30 meters from the original, is growing into a fine looking individual. The old rings that can be seen in the branches of the original Covin Tree were once attached to concrete weights which aimed to balance the trunk - in its younger days the tree was twice as high as it is now.

Kelso, in the Scottish Borders has a 'Trysting Tree' which is connected with the annual Common Ridings.

Robert Burns writes of a trysting tree (see below) at the Mill of Mannoch at Coylton in Ayrshire.

The locally famous trysting place of the 'Three Thorns of Carlinwalk', this being an old name for Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway, are recorded in the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland.


There is a Trysting Tree to the memory of Robin Hood, situated in the small wood just off the left hand side of Kiveton Lane on the south exit of Todwick in South Yorkshire. The "venerable oak" was stated as "great trysting tree in the Hart-hill Walk" which was, in earlier times, a private road owned and maintained by the Dukes of Leeds, and now forms that part of Kiveton Lane between the Rectory glebe land and Kiveton.

On the sandy heath of Barnhamcross Common in East Anglie used to be a pine tree about which curious customs have gathered. Called variously the Trysting Pine, Kissing Tree or Wishing Tree, the trunk had twisted and curled itself into a loop not far from the ground. One tradition said that a person had to pull off or knock down a single fir cone, hold it in the right hand, place one's head through the loop and make a wish. Another version told that couples must hold hands through the loop, then kiss and pledge undying love, hoping the tree would bind them to it with its magic.


In America the San Juan Capistrano 'Trysting Tree', a sycamore, has a tragic history of one notorious Tiburicio Vasques, who used San Juan Capistrano and this tree for his gang's own purposes. The gang used the tree as a base to meet and divide up the spoils after a raid, secure food, and then head for the hills to hide out. Vasquez was quite active in this area. His gang raided pueblos, stole cattle, and even held up the Seely and Wright stage coach that traveled between Santa Ana and San Diego.

The Trysting Tree at Oregon State University, in the USA, is a large Gray Poplar (Populus × canescens) located southeast of Benton Hall, and was a popular gathering spot on campus. According to one story, George Coote, a faculty member in Horticulture, planted the tree between 1880 and 1885. An early alumnus claimed that the Trysting Tree was so named because of its "magical effects on students, especially in springtime". The tree's popularity was such that the Board of Regents felt obliged to place two arc lights on the cupola of Benton Hall (then the administration building) "to keep the tree from being overworked". On September 27, 1987, the original Trysting Tree was cut down because of advanced disease in its trunk and limbs. Prior to its removal, Jack Stang (Department of Horticulture) took several cuttings from the tree and rooted them. One these "off shoots" (Trysting Tree II) was planted in 1982 near the original tree.

A poem, published in 1908, entitled The Trysting Tree, begins:

Beneath the faithful Trysting Tree,
A youth and maiden stand:
The youth, a noble lad is he,
Who claps the fair white hand;
The light that fills those earnest eyes,
Who can understand?

Its final lines are:

Long may'st thou live, thou worthy friend
Thou dear old Trysting Tree
Long may thy branches proudly wave
Majestic'ly and free
To mind us of those happy days
Spent at old O. A. C.*

Robert Burns

The National Burns Collection holds a cross section of thorn wood from a tree which grew at the Mill of Mannoch, Coylton, Ayrshire which was said to be Robert Burns' "trysting thorn", a romantic meeting place. Throughout the 19th century the cult of Robert Burns rose to huge proportions and many "relics" of Burns, and his family, however spurious were treasured and preserved.

One polished surface of the thorn wood reads:

"At length I reached the bonnie glen,
Where early life I sported,
I pass'd the mill and trysting thorn,
Where Nancy aft I courted"
From the Burns's poem "The Soldier's Return".


The American 'Trysting Tree' painting by Asher Brown Durand in 1868, was of a courtship spot, "where the Hudson winds to sea" is presumably in New York City or just a little north.

The 'Trysting Tree' is a well known golf-course in Oregon, USA.


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