Ross Priory is a Category A listed building and has fine views of the southern shores of Loch Lomond. Despite the name the site has no history of any ecclesiastical heritage, the name itself being a ‘romantic affectation’ created in the 19th century.
The estate, when known as The Ross, was owned by the Buchanan family from the 14th century. They were still here in 1925 when the male line of the family finally expired. A house was built in 1695 and replaced in 1812 with the current building. In 1971 the building and grounds were sold to Strathclyde University and today it serves as a meeting and entertainment centre for the university and is also a wedding venue. Sir Walter Scott used to make annual visits and these are said to have inspired his Waverley Novels.
In 1999 an avenue of yews and other yews in the parkland were recorded and confirmed in 2002 by TreefestScotland who described them as an ‘unusual collection.’ Girths of 244 – 488 cm were noted implying that the collection were not all of the same age. The National Trust for Scotland stated that 12 yews here were thought to be 600 years old.
In 2018 a visit by SYTHI found the avenue all but gone, with what appeared to be only three yews left near to the house. One individual in parkland near to the avenue still survives and has a girth of almost 500 cm implying it is 500 years old at least and could possibly be 600 and may be the only survivor of the 12 thought to be that age by the NTS unless the three remaining near to the house were also part of that group which could be the case, though their girths are not near 500 cm.
Enquires made by a supporter of SYTHI concerning why the yews were removed was given ‘disease’ as the reason, though this is unlikely as the remaining yews, though apparently storm damaged, exhibit healthy sprays of new growth. Where the yews mainly stood is now a flower garden and not overlooked by any major trees and this implies that the yews may have been removed for aesthetics rather than the reason given. Whatever the reason the yews were felled, Scotland has lost a significant number of yews of priceless heritage significance, some of them certainly ancient and which were intrinsic to the spirit of the site which so inspired Sir Walter Scott. Their loss is, of course, irreplaceable and it is an oversight of individuals and authorities responsible for Scotland’s history and heritage that such yews are not also listed as of Category A importance in the history of Scotland.
At the old burial site in the grounds it was also noted by SYTHI that yews had been felled which once flanked an old memorial from the 18th century. Those yews would have been planted with a special purpose in mind in memory of the deceased, and not merely for aesthetic reasons. They are also part of the tragic loss of yews which has happened at Ross Priory and possibly for what are not in any way truly justifiable reasons.