The Armada Tree in Cairncastle, Northern Ireland

A gnarled old tree looms over the tombstones in a small church graveyard. Its trunk bent at an odd angle, it seems to crouch over the ground, its knotted branches outstretched in all directions.

According to local legend, this Spanish Sweet Chestnut tree sprouted from seeds stored within a dead sailor’s pocket. Supposedly, the 16th-century Spanish sailor buried beneath it had been carrying chestnuts with him while on his maritime journey, likely to ward off scurvy.

The sailor was part of...

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