Standing on the North Bank of The River Tay – Scotland's Longest River, surrounded by the Perthshire hills, sheltered by Forest Trees, Dunkeld Cathedral dominates the little town of Dunkeld, a town known as the 'Gateway to the Highlands'
Dunkeld Cathedral is a mixture of Gothic and Norman architecture. It was built in stages between 1260 and 1501. The restored Choir is the oldest part of the original church, having been completed in 1350., followed by the Nave in 1447, South Porch 1460, Chapter House 1469 and Tower 1501.
However, on the site as early as 570 A.D. Celtic Missionaries known as Culdees built a wattle monastery. In 848 it was rebuilt in stone by the King Of Scots, Kenneth MacAlpin,. Some of the original red stones can be seen in the east gable of the Choir.
The Cathedral is a building of two distinct halves. The east end an attractive parish church, the west side, apart from the Bell tower and Chapter house is a roofless ruin.
Dunkeld Cathedral Is dedicated to St Columba whose name means "dove". The Dove motif can be seen in the East Window and on a specially woven chancel carpet It is thought that the relics of St Columba were brought to Dunkeld from Iona for fear of desecration by marauding Norseman. The relics are thought to be curried under the chancel steps.
Scotland's turbulent history resulted in Dunkeld Cathedral suffering twice. First in 1560 following the Reformation. The building was partially reroofed in 1560 but the Nave has never been restored.
In 1689 during the battle of Dunkeld which followed the Jacobite victory at Killiecrankie the cathedral and most of Dunkeld town was devastated by fire.
A succession of repairs to the choir in 1691, 1762 and 1815 culminated in 1908 when it was restored to almost its original form. Further renovation commenced in 1975.
The Cathedral provides such a wealth of interest, it is worth devoting plenty of time for the visit.
During June – September volunteer guides provide tours. We visited in April and used information leaflets provided inside the cathedral for our own tour.
The first area we visited was the Chapter House Museum, the entrance to it being visible as you go into the cathedral. Above the Chapter House door there are armorial bearings include the Coat of Arms of the Atholl family. The museum shows a graphic display outlining the history of the cathedral and its community from Celtic times to present day. Other exhibits include the Apostles' Stone, a fine example of Pictish stone of the 800's, a cross, stone slab of similar date. The Old Bell (which was removed during 1975 renovations). There is a marble statue of Sir Donald Currie, the 1908 renovation benefactor and a marble statue of the 4th Duke of Athol.
In the Choir there is the beautiful Great East Window, a gift from the late Sir Donald Currie. It depicts the Christian valued, fortitude, charity, prudence, justice, faith, hope, temperance and patience, below which are five shepherds, gazing at the angelic host. The lower section shows St Columba addressing the people
13c recessed seats on wall arcade for the use of canons. can be seen in the Choir. As can the Queen's colours and the Regimental Colours of the 42nd Royal Highlanders (Black Watch). An 1872 Black Watch memorial by Sir John Steell. Behind the carved oak screen (designed by Sir Robert Lorimer) there is a headless effigy of Bishop William Sinclair (died 1337)- Bishop William Sinclair was a staunch patriot and chaplain to both William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce during the war of independence.
Outside the cathedral the lawns sweep down to the River Tay. Seating is provided, this is a beautiful area, it is worth sitting and taking in the view. The River Tay as well as being Scotland's longest River it is also the River that carries the highest volume of water in Britain. The force and power of this river can be felt in the atmosphere around the Cathedral.
We reached Dunkeld Cathedral from the town car park, we walked a pathway through countryside before reaching the cathedral. The walk took around 15 minutes in varying terrain. There is also access from the streets of Dunkeld which would shorten the countryside walking
The town of Dunkeld was proclaimed the first ecclesiastical capital of Scotland by Scotland's first king Kenneth MacAlpin. The name Dunkeld comes from the gaelic for "the fort in the wood". Dunkeld is also famout for being the first town in Scotland to have a brick house built (in 1680).
The streets of Dunkeld contain whitewashed houses,hotels and cafes and an array of fascinating shops to tempt visitors. It also makes an excellent base for touring the Highlands.