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Dunkeld History

Dunkeld ArchesEcclesiastically Dunkeld represents a national treasured landmark; it was proclaimed the first eccelesiastical capital of Scotland, by Scotland's first king, Kenneth MacAlpin. The majestic ruin of the cathedral still dominates Dunkeld today. Before the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689, the Cathedral was the centre of a busy market town. What is now Cathedral Street was a crowded thoroughfare, with a market cross at one end, where, every Friday, people came from miles around to purchase local produce. The area is still known as The Cross today. The cathedral had already lost its roof - removed by a local landowner after the reformation. In the course of the Battle of Dunkeld the cathedral was further damaged, and the town itself was destroyed by fire. An engraving of the time shows the Cathedral and Dunkeld House as the only buildings of any size still left. There was, of course, no bridge, then. A ferry, upstream from the Cathedral took people across the River Tay. The cattle had to swim.

Dunkeld BridgeBy the 18th century, Dunkeld had revived, as a centre of the shoe-trade, exporting footwear as far away as the Continent. When, in 1809, Thomas Telford built the splendid bridge which still carries traffic across the River Tay today, it became even more important as a staging post on the way North. The railway came to Birnam, or Little Dunkeld as it is sometimes known, in 1856 and gradually the cathedral was restored: first by the Dukesof Atholl, who worshipped here, and later by benefactors, including the shipping magnate Sir Donald Currie.

Dunkeld Inside ChurchIn 1926 the nave, tower and grounds were given by the Atholl patrons to the Ministry of Works, now Historic Scotland, and in 1931 they gave the choir and chapter to the Church of Scotland. The choir continues to serve as the parish church of Dunkeld. The Chapter House Museum, in a room of the main body of the church, houses an excellent display recounting the history of both the town and cathedral. There are many interesting graves to be found in the ruined section of the cathedral, including the remains of General Charles Edward Stewart, Count Rochenstart, who claimed to be the grandson of Prince Charlie.

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