The Covenanter Alexander Peden’s Tree in Sorn Parish, Ayrshire

According to the Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1857:

‘The object which bears this name [Peden’s Tree] is a large Holly Bush or tree tradition points it out as the place where the Rev[eren]d Mr [Alexander] Peden preached during the Persecution in Scotland, it is a well known object.’

The modern-day Canmore website records it, too:

‘This large holly bush is traditionally pointed out as the place where the Rev Mr Peden preached during the persecution in Scotland. (The Rev Alexander Peden, a famous Covenanting minister, died in 1686).’

See here for more information on Alexander Peden.

The OS revisited Peden’s Tree in 1978:

‘NS 5707 2601. A large holly tree, 25 feet high, very well known locally as Peden’s Tree and reputed to be 300 years old (Mr Mackenzie, Glenlogan House, Sorn). Visited by OS (BS) 10 July 1978.’

The tree was standing in 1978, when it was photographed. Details of the tree can be found on the Canmore website.

According to a later visit by a member of the Scottish Covenanting Memorial Association, the ‘enormous holly tree’ stood on the ‘edge of a bluff’ on the Glenlogan estate. It was described as ‘multi-trunked, and each trunk is of great girth. Many of them are very old indeed.’

Is it still there?

It is on the modern Map, but marked in a different location from the original map, shown above:

Map of Peden’s Tree

Can anyone solve the mystery? Further information and/or photos of Peden’s Tree would be most welcome!

The tree was still extant when it was recorded in the Scottish Covenanters Association Newsletter some years before 2010:


Alexander Peden’s name keeps cropping up! My neighbour recently pointed out to me on a large-scale map of this area, a feature described as ‘Peden’s Tree (Site of)’
For years I have been conscious of the many topographical features attributable to Peden:-‘Stone’, ‘Cave’, ‘Pulpit’, ‘Cairn’, ‘Cleuch’, etc. Apart from the famous ‘Peden’s Thorn’ over Peden’s grave, just yards from where I write, I had not come across a Peden’s Tree. The description on the map (‘site of’) suggests that Peden’s Tree does not now exist. However, my friend and I decided to investigate the terrain.
The area concerned is part of a private estate, but we were welcomed coridally once we had declared our interest and quest. We discovered that, not only did the people in the ‘big house’ know quite a bit about Peden, – they declared that the tree still existed! We were given explicit instructions, and we were able to reach the spot, despite very rough conditions underfoot.We found this enormous holly tree on the edge of a bluff, and we could envisage Peden preaching from this spot with his congregation standing below him. The tree itself could well be contemporary with Peden. It is multi-trunked, and each trunk is of great girth. Many of them are very old indeed.
Although our visit may not have advanced historical knowledge in the slightest, we were very thrilled to absorb the atmosphere of the spot, and to envisage ‘The Prophet’ standing here over 300 years ago.

~ by drmarkjardine on January 15, 2012.

11 Responses to “The Covenanter Alexander Peden’s Tree in Sorn Parish, Ayrshire”

  1. […] thorn associated with Peden was located at Denholmdean in the Borders. A Holly tree, known as Peden’s Tree, is also located at Sorn in […]

  2. […] different locations on the old OS map and the modern OS map. Can you find out which one is right? The full story of Peden’s Tree near Sorn is here. Can you find and photograph the Peden’s […]

  3. By overlapping the Ordinance Survey 25 inch map of 1897 on the Google Earth image you can find the exact spot for Peden’s Tree. It is surrounded by many other trees on the edge of a field on the Glen Logan Estate. I can send an image of where the tree is/was located if the 1897 map is accurate

  4. […] is also associated with thorn trees near Maybole and Denholm, a holly tree near Sorn and a willow near […]

  5. […] Peden’s Tree, a site associated with the field preacher, which may still exist, lay on the opposite bank of the River Ayr from Holehouse. […]

  6. […] Covenanters were later associated with trees . (See for example Cargill at the Wallace Oak, Peden’s Tree and Renwick’s Tree. However, there is no indication in local tradition that ‘The Big Oak’ was […]

  7. […] Peden’s Tree (near Sorn, Ayrshire) Peden’s Tree was described a few years ago as an ‘enormous holly tree’ which stood on the ‘edge of a bluff’ on the Glenlogan estate. It was also described as ‘multi-trunked, and each trunk is of great girth. Many of them are very old indeed.’ Is it still there? It could be. For the full story and details of Peden’s Tree, see here. […]

  8. This is an ancestor of mine and would absolutely love any information on Alexander! 🙂

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