DUNKELD, a town of Perthshire, Scotland, on the left bank of the Tay, 15 m. N.W. of Perth by the Highland railway. Pop. (1901) 586. The river is crossed by a bridge of seven arches which was designed by Thomas Telford in 1805 and opened in 1808. The town lies in the midst of luxuriant trees, and the noble sweep of the Tay, the effectively situated bridge, the magnificent grounds of Dunkeld House, and the protecting mountains combine to give it a very romantic appearance. The town hall is the principal modern building, and the fountain erected in Market Square to the memory of the 6th duke of Atholl (d. 1864) occupies the site of the old cross.
As early as 729 - some authorities fix the date a hundred and fifty years before - the Culdees possessed a monastery at Dunkeld, which was converted into a cathedral by David I. in 1127. This structure stood until the Reformation, when it was unroofed and suffered to fall into ruin. The building consists of the nave (120 ft. long, 60 ft. wide, 40 ft. high), aisles (12 ft. wide), choir, chapter-house and tower. The nave is the most beautiful portion. The Pointed arches rest upon pillars, possibly Norman, and above them, below the Decorated clerestory windows, is a series of semicircular arches with flamboyant tracery, a remarkable feature. The choir, founded by Bishop William Sinclair (d. 1337), has been repaired, and serves as the parish church, a blue marble slab in the floor marking the bishop's grave. The chapter-house, adjoining the choir, was built by Bishop Thomas Lauder (1395-1481) in 1469, and the vault beneath is the burial-place of the Atholl Murrays. Lauder also began the tower, completed in 1501. In the porch of the church is the most interesting of the extant old tombs, namely, the recumbent effigy of Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch (1343-1405; the inscription refers his death to 1394, but this is said to be an error). The most famous of the Bishops was Gavin Douglas (1474-1522), translator of the Aeneid. One of the most heroic exploits in the annals of warfare is associated with the cathedral. Shortly after the battle of Killiecrankie (1689), the Cameronian regiment, enrolled in the same year (afterwards the 26th Foot), was despatched to hold Dunkeld prior to another invasion of the Highlands. It was under the command of Colonel William Cleland (b. 1661), a poet of some merit. On the 26th of August a force of 5000 Highlanders suddenly appearing, Cleland posted his men in the church and behind the wall of the earl of Atholl's mansion. Still flushed with their victory under Dundee, and animated by bitterest hatred of their Whiggamore foes, the Highlanders assaulted the position of the Covenanters, who were 1200 strong, with the most desperate valour. Sustained by their enthusiasm, however, the recruits displayed equal courage, and, at the end of four hours' stubborn fighting, their defence was still intact. Fearing lest victory, even if won, might be purchased too dearly, the Highlanders gradually withdrew. While leading a sortie Cleland was shot dead, and was buried in the churchyard.
Adjoining the cathedral is Dunkeld House, a seat of the duke of Atholl, the grounds of which are estimated to contain 50 m. of walks and 30 m. of drives. On the lawn near the cathedral stand two of the earliest larches grown in Great Britain, having been introduced from Tirol by the 2nd duke in 1738. The 4th duke planted several square miles of the estate with this tree, of which he had made a special study.
A mile south of Dunkeld, on the left bank of the Tay, is the village of Birnam (pop. 389), where Sir John Everett Millais, the painter, made his summer residence. It lies at the foot of Birnam Hill (1324 ft.), once covered with a royal forest that has been partly replaced by plantations. The oak and sycamore in front of Birnam House, the famed twin trees of Birnam, are believed to be more than 1000 years old, and to be the remnant of the wood of Birnam which Shakespeare immortalized in Macbeth. The Pass of Birnam, where the river narrows, was the path usually taken by the Highlanders in their forays. In the vicinity are the castles of Murthly, one a modern mansion in the Elizabethan style, erected about 1838 from designs by James Gillespie Graham (1777-1855), and the other the old castle, still occupied, which was occasionally used as a hunting-lodge by the Scottish kings.
At Little Dunkeld, almost opposite to Dunkeld, the Bran joins the Tay, after a run of 11 m. from its source in Loch Freuchie. It is celebrated for its falls about 2 m. from the mouth. The upper fall is known as the Rumbling Bridge from the fact that the stream pours with a rumbling noise through a deep narrow gorge in which a huge fallen rock has become wedged, forming a rude bridge or arch. Inver, near the mouth of the Bran, was the birthplace of the two famous fiddlers, Niel Gow (1727-1807) and his son Nathaniel (1766-1831).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)