Dunkeld its early history and the
Dunkeld "the Fort of the Celts",
is situated on the southern bank of the River Tay in a location
rich in natural resources, and has had a settlement since ancient
Dunkeld guarded one of the main passes from Lowland into
Highland Scotland making it an attractive location from a strategic
point of view and there is evidence that both the Romans and the
Picts occupied the location of today's Dunkeld.
Dunkeld became one of the centres of Christianity in
Scotland during the 7th Century, when St Columba made it a
religious centre, having come from the Island of Iona. His work was
carried on by his successors.
In the 9th Century, Kenneth MacAlpin, the
first King of Scots, made Dunkeld head of the Celtic
Church and the capital of the newly-formed Scottish nation, created
as a result of the union of the Scots and the Picts. King Kenneth
MacAlpin, built a church here in 850AD and then had the relics of
St Columba transferred here from the Island of lona. Dunkeld remained centre of the Celtic
church for the next hundred years until St Columba's relics were
taken to St Andrews.
The Church at Dunkeld grew in power and wealth,
with work starting on the Cathedral in 1325. Dunkeld remained as an
extremely important centre in ecclesiastical terms, until the
Reformation in the 16th Century, when it was destroyed.
Choir of Dunkeld Cathedral was re- roofed in 1600 to serve as the
parish church, and there was relative peace, until 1689, when there
was a short, but extremely violent Battle of
Dunkeld between the Jacobites (supporters of King James
VII of Scotland and James II of England) and the Cameronians (a
newly-raised regiment supporting William and Mary the joint
monarchs in the absence of King James VII and II, the English
parliament formally offered them the throne.) Most of houses in
Dunkeld were burned to the ground.
Up until 1689 the town of Dunkeld was built around the
Cathedral. The Dukes of Atholl made sure the new Dunkeld
town was not built around the Cathderal, so they could enjoyed
clear uninterupted views from their house to the Cathedral.
The architectural history of the Cathedral was recorded by Abbot
Alexander Myln in 1555, so it is better documented- than many
churches in Scotland.
As you enter Dunkeld Cathedral grounds today, the information
plaque beside the gates tell you that the gates were originally
cast for the gates to Dunkeld House in 1730 and moved here in1832.
Dunkeld House, which was the property of the Dukes of Atholl lies
on the other side of the Cathedral. It is now a resort hotel.
By the advent of
the industrial revolution and the opening of the railway to the
north, Dunkeld went into decline and many people moved
away to the larger cities in the south. By the late 1940s the town
centre was in a sorry state of decline and decay. The National
Trust for Scotland (NTS) took over many of the buildings (they now
administer 20 houses and 2 shops) and together with Perth and
Kinross Council began a major restoration project. This was
completed in the late 1950s, and due to all this work we can enjoy
the architecture of Dunkeld today.