Dunkeld Cathedral

Dunkeld, United Kingdom

Built in square-stone style of predominantly grey sandstone, the Dunkeld Cathedral proper was begun in 1260 and completed in 1501. It stands on the site of the former Culdee Monastery of Dunkeld, stones from which can be seen as an irregular reddish streak in the eastern gable.

It is not formally a 'cathedral', as the Church of Scotland nowadays has neither cathedrals nor bishops, but it is one of a number of similar former cathedrals which has continued to carry the name.

Because of the long construction period, the cathedral shows mixed architecture. Gothic and Norman elements are intermingled throughout the structure. Although partly in ruins, the cathedral is in regular use today and is open to the public.

Relics of Saint Columba, including his bones, were said to have been kept at Dunkeld until the Reformation, at which time they were removed to Ireland. Some believe there are still undiscovered Columban relics buried within the cathedral grounds.

The original monastery at Dunkeld dated from the sixth or early seventh century, founded after an expedition of Saint Columba to the Land of Alba. It was at first a simple collection of wattle huts. During the ninth century Causantín mac Fergusa constructed a more substantial cathedral of reddish sandstone and declared Dunkeld to hold the Primacy (centre) of the faith in Alba.

For reasons not completely understood, the Celtic bell believed to have been used at the monastery is not preserved in the cathedral. Instead, it was used in the Little Dunkeld Church, the parish church of the district of Minor or Lesser Dunkeld. Possibly this was because the later canons regarded Culdeeism as heresy and refused relics or saints of that discipline.

In the 17th century, the Bishopric of Dunkeld became an appendage of the Crown and subsequently descended to the Earls of Fife. Dunkeld Cathedral is today a Crown property, through Historic Environment Scotland, and a scheduled monument.

In 1689 the Battle of Dunkeld was fought around the cathedral between the Jacobite Highland clans loyal to James II and VII – deposed in the Glorious Revolution the previous year – and a government force supporting William III and II, with the latter winning the day.



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Founded: 1260
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom


4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Mickey Deutsch (12 months ago)
Well worth your time to visit this glorious ancient structure. The original cathedral was abandoned after the Protestant Reformation, but eventually part of the old structure was adapted into a smaller Protestant chapel. That chapel is still actively used for worship and is open to tours for free. The abandoned portion is fenced off because the masonry is unstable, but you can walk around on the outside. The Tay River nearby is pleasant to look upon.
Glyn S (2 years ago)
I couldn't go in as they don't allow dogs so I found what's called Bishops Walk at the back of the cathedral. I would definitely recommend a walk down this path which doubles back on itself after about 3quarts of a mile .The trees along the route are nothing short of spectacular and well worth the effort.
Harry Mulvenna (2 years ago)
Could not comment as it was closed to the public. Looked at it through a heavily padlocked gate.
Valerie Hinchliffe (3 years ago)
A hauntingly beautiful Gothic church hidden away in a leafy park about five minutes walk from the centre of Dunkeld. The nave is roofless, in a ruined state and out of bounds for safety reasons, but walking around it I got a very real sense of how large and impressive it must once have been. There's an interesting info board telling the story of the 1689 Battle of Dunkeld which was fought around the cathedral. We could go inside the chapel which is still used for services. Some beautiful stained glass and a little museum in the adjoining chapter house with a few artefacts and lots of info about the history of Dunkeld and its cathedral. The surrounding park is ideal for picnics and you can walk right down to the river. A place well worth seeing.
Gordon Milligan (elmilligano) (3 years ago)
Lovely cathedral on the banks of the Tay.
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