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Dunkeld Cathedral

Dunkeld CathedralNo one who knows Dunkeld would wish to dispute that it is one of Scotland’s most delightful small towns. It has the great natural advantage of a magnificent setting on the banks of the River Tay, within a mountainous landscape. Beyond this, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, its architectural appearance was seen by the Dukes of Atholl as one of their special concerns and, particularly after the construction of the new bridge in 1805—9, great care was taken over the design of all buildings within the town. But the finest single building is undoubtedly the medieval cathedral, part of which remains in use as the church of the local community, and the rest of which stands as a ruin of great beauty.

We are very fortunate that we probably know more about the architectural history and internal arrangement of Dunkeld than about any other Scottish cathedral. Much of this information was provided on the eve of the Reformation by Abbot Alexander Myln of Cambuskenneth, who had earlier been official (judge in the ecclesiastical courts) of the diocese of Dunkeld.

Dunkeld CathedralThe present park-like setting of the cathedral, however, would have been a great surprise to Myln. At the time he wrote, it was closely hemmed in by the burgh, amongst which the residences of the clergy would have been prominent in the cathedral’s immediate vicinity. The broad lawns and fine trees which now provide such a splendid foil to the building were another part of the involvement of the Dukes of Atholl with the appearance of Dunkeld. They came to regard the cathedral as an inspiring eye-catcher within view of their adjacent house, following the destruction of much of the rest of the town in the great battle of Dunkeld in 1689. In the process of creating this landscape, much of historic interest must have been lost, although when the result is so timelessly beautiful most visitors will feel there are sufficient compensations.

Written by Dr Richard Fawcett, for:
The Society of Friends of Dunkeld Cathedral
The Manse,
Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland.

Published with the assistance of
Historic Scotland

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