On the Way to Wick

Mid-afternoon, when I arrived at Pitlochry, is the warmest part of the day in the Highlands. It takes a while for the sun to get high enough, and another while to warm things up, but when it does, it makes a lovely day. I turned my face toward the sun to soak myself in it for a minute.

Pitlochry is a tourist town, a popular place to spend a weekend among Scots, Brits, and other tourists because of the outdoor recreation opportunities. This year, however, the pandemic precautions had closed some popular activities early on, and since it was now mid-August, in the Highlands, some of those businesses had written off the season. The advice was always “call first.”

As I walked from the train station to my hotel, it seemed as if there were as many restaurants closed as open, and the same with shops. Smaller hotels, inns, and B&Bs were allowed to serve food to their guests only. Pringle’s, a store selling clothing in traditional plaids, and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill had closed their shops for the duration in many places across Scotland.

Foreigners were staying home, even though Scotland was trying to open its businesses. As a result, there were a lot of Scottish tourists roaming the streets, looking for food, drink, and shopping. The open restaurants were busy. I was able to find a table at Hettie’s after a short wait to have tea and Victoria sponge, and a break before hauling my luggage up hill to the hotel.

The interior of Hettie’s, who serves a killer Victoria sponge. You may be wondering why there’s no photo of the Victoria Sponge. I’d eaten it. I’m not a “foodie” per se, so taking pictures of the food is always an afterthought. This time it was an after-eating-it-all-and-picking-up-the-crumbs-thought. By now I was drinking tea and looking at a “Things to Do” brochure, trying to discreetly take a photo of the shop from inside.
Except during the pandemic. Guests of the hotel only.

I choose hotels, inns, and B&Bs by location, price, and discernible character. As one travel guidebook phrased it, “The less you pay, the more you see.” The Rosemount is a good example. It was comfy, not glamorous, and staffed mainly by the owners. But I enjoyed the twisty-turny, step-up, step-down, hallway that led to my room in the far corner upstairs, where I could look out on real people (not tourists) walking to and from the center of town, since the Rosemount was on a residential street.

The Rosemount Hotel

The husband-owner was feeling expansive while I waited at my table for dinner to arrive that night. They had established The Rosemount years ago in Pitlochry, though they themselves came from Perth. Much of their business was from locals and nearby hotel guests who came to eat or drink here. Pre-pandemic, they had live music on weekends and a lively business. Ah, the good old days. In my mind, I pictured a local watering spot, friends and neighbors including travelers in their revelry, all in the good natured Scots way. They had a bright, lovely room where they served lunch and afternoon tea, and a darker, wood-panelled bar and dining room on the other side of the hall, with space for musicians. He and she were both older now, and the husband’s face, shining bright in reminiscence, lost the shine as he told me that he and his wife had planned to sell the hotel and retire this year, but now they weren’t sure when that would be possible. I didn’t know what to say to reassure him. Dinner arrived, and in the moment, I tried a cheery “We’re all hoping this will be over soon.” It didn’t seem enough.

The dam across the River Tummel generates electricity for about 15,000 homes. It is part of a much larger Tummel Valley hydro-electric network.

The next day I headed out to the Pitlochry Dam, to see what I could see. Others had made the same decision, but it wasn’t a crowd, and we smiled and nodded and wished each other a “Good morning” as we walked at our respective paces, socially distanced, along the road to the dam. The morning warmed up quickly.

Dams in Scotland are a major source of electricity. The Pitlochry dam alone generates enough power for fifteen thousand homes. The Tummel Valley area was being developed for hydroelectric power in the 1930s, and these early power stations were later integrated into a network. Here, the same water is used to generate power five times as it runs from source to sea.

Scotland invested in hydro-electric power beginning with the Hydro Electric Development Act of 1943. The network created by the Act consists of fifty-four power stations, seventy-eight dams, and one hundred eighty miles of tunnels throughout Scotland.

The Pitlochry dam, as it exists now, was begun in 1947. It was very unpopular with the public because there were concerns about the spa business that had brought visitors to Pitlochry since Queen Victoria’s day, and concerns about the salmon that annually swim up the river to spawn. Sport fishing was, and is, big business in the Scottish Highlands. The dam went forward anyway, and was completed in 1951 despite delays caused by winter flooding and a workers’ strike over the poor quality of food they were receiving.

This dam, like many dams in Scotland, incorporated a fish ladder. It may not be the ideal fish habitat, but they still have salmon. The time to see fish moving through the ladders is between November and April. There is an underwater room to see the fish in the water, although the above water observation deck is supposed to be equally as good, possibly better, according to locals.

Rather than walk back the same way, I saw a path that followed the Tummel River downstream, and chose that. The walk was cool and shady, and a footbridge across a narrow part of the river came into view. On the other side were a few streets with houses that Google maps identified as Port Na Craig. When the footbridge met the side of the river where I was, the path turned left toward the village, and I found myself back in Pitlochry. I wandered a little along the main street before heading back to the Rosemount.

The Pitlochry Church of Scotland

The weather had turned hot and humid, occasionally raining. It didn’t dampen the activity, until late afternoon. While traveling, in Scotland, I had become accustomed to eating dinner early. The hotels could serve food to their guests into the evening, but none of the hotels, restaurants, or pubs that were open could serve alcohol after six p.m., so the restaurants and pubs generally closed up.

It rained a lot while I was in Pitlochry.

I walked down the hill to the Cafe Biba, an Scottish-Italian restaurant on the main street whose menu had looked interesting. I’m not sure why, but the Cafe Biba was below the street level. I stepped down from the sidewalk by two steps in order to enter the building.

The staff was watching the rain, which fell heavier and heavier, and louder and louder. I ordered the scampi provençal, passing by the haggis pizza and the burger and chips.

Lightning flashed as the server brought my dinner, and thunder crashed on top of the lightning. Rain was not just falling from the sky, it was aggressively pelting the village. It was a deluge. I was eating my very good scampi when water started pouring into the restaurant. The water came from the sidewalk and gushed under the doors – the building was old. Time and settling had loosened the fit of the windows and doors.

My bag was already on a chair. I pulled my feet up to escape the water. Luckily the floor drains did their job. In a few minutes, the rain subsided a notch, just enough so it no longer came into the restaurant.

Lightning continued, along with the thunder, while I worked on my glass of wine. I dawdled until the lightning and thunder became more distant, and then walked back to the Rosemount.

The next morning, the hotel had no internet service and lighting came by way of their generator. After breakfast, I went down the hill to the main street, where the situation was the same – little power and no internet. After all the merchant signs that requested “contactless payment,” i.e. by phone or credit card, they could only take cash. This was a problem because most people had very little cash because no one had wanted it because of virus transmission, and now the banks’ systems weren’t working, either, so no ATM service. My African experience, where internet systems worked, but unreliably, had taught me to always keep some cash on hand. Internet service was back by around 5 p.m., though, so at least people could eat.

The violent storm and deluge of water had left mud slides and debris on the tracks going west. Sadly, one train was derailed and the engineer was killed. The train routes would have gone to Perth first, so I decided to go to Perth, which was still intact, and stop there for a day or two.

Train tracks going east were blocked by mud and debris, one train had been derailed, and tracks had been damaged.

Perth, in Perthshire

On the train to Perth

In Perth, I stayed in the Rowanlea Guest House, uphill from the historic area downtown. As soon as I was settled in, meaning right after I took the photo below, I went off to explore Perth.

My single room at the Rowanlea. It was en-suite, small by American standards, and very comfortable!
A beautiful park in downtown Perth.
Water Vennel, one of seven surviving vennels in Perth.

“Vennel” is a word that originated in the royal burghs that were created by David I in the 12th century. Remembering that the royal courts of that era often spoke French, it makes sense that “vennel” is derived from an Old French word, “vennelle,” meaning alley or lane. Unlike a “close,” a vennel was a public alley leading from a high street or ground to open ground. The Latin form is “vennella,” which is related to our English word, “funnel.”

Perth’s source of prosperity was its location on the River Tay, the highest navigable place on the river. As the city and the ships who traded with her grew larger, the port moved slowly down river where there was less population and deeper water. Perth tried to establish trade with North America, but could never seriously compete with the western Scottish ports. Perth’s importance as a port declined as ships grew bigger, but when diesel engines were developed, which in turn allowed shallower drafts, there was a brief resurgence. However, steel ships grew larger as diesel engines grew, and Perth’s importance declined again. There still exists a lively trade with countries around Britain’s east coast – Scandinavian, Baltic, and the Low countries, as well as England’s east coast.

Shipbuilding was an important industry for Perth in the 18th and 19th centuries. Timber was floated down the River Tay from places like Dunkeld and Birnam to the many small shipyards along the river. Shipbuilding declined for Perth, however, after steel ships with diesel engines became a more economical choice than wood for ships.

“The Boat Builders” by Scottish artist John Bellany
The rest of the painting – it’s about 5 meters across, or slightly over 16 feet.

John Bellany painted this in 1962, while he was a student at the Edinburgh College of Art. It shows a fishing boat named “Good Hope,” with the registration number LH-321, which would have been Leith, a town near Edinburgh. “Bellany” is the name on the stern.

Bellany was born into a fishing family, and grew up surrounded by the fishing life in Port Seton, also near Edinburgh. Boatbuilding scenes such as this would have been very familiar. I thought perhaps the artist was depicted in the painting – I found the man with eyeglasses in the upper left a possibility, but the notes accompanying the painting did not indicate it.

The Perth Museum was well worth the visit, filled with Scottish paintings and local natural history, with a gallery or two of classical art as a nod to the larger world.

In 1993, after “days of wintry weather,” a sudden warming caused major snowmelt and then major flooding of the city of Perth. The flood dumped over 450,000 gallons from the swollen River Tay into the collections storage and offices of the museum. The Royal Navy helped pump water out of their storage areas, and staff waded through the flood waters to salvage art works, photographs, and other artifacts.

The event resulted in losses, but a great deal of cleaning, conserving, and preserving was done, and the museum constructed an entire exhibit to communicate the efforts being made and to educate their public about what those efforts entailed. Today, their activities are mainly conserving and cleaning, but the staff still works where visitors can watch and learn. In non-pandemic times, there will be more communication – when I was there, we spoke very loudly through the glass.

When I was in the conservation area, she was working on a trophy, visible in the background, won by a local team.
She held up a piece that she had cleaned earlier.
It looked like someone in an ice skating competition.

The Scone Palace

Outside of Perth is the Scone Palace, pronounced “skoon,” that is the ancestral home of the Murrays, who became the Dukes of Mansfield.

The entry gate of another generation – in more touristy times, tour buses come through another entrance from the highway.

This is where the kings of Scotland were crowned, or at least, many of them, including MacBeth in 1040 AD. The line from Shakespeare’s play, written about five hundred fifty years later in 1606, gives one an idea of how entrenched the tradition was, especially since MacBeth was not the first.

“So thanks to all at once, and to each one, whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone.”

“MacBeth” by William Shakespeare

The earliest monarch to be crowned king of Scotland at Scone was Kenneth MacAlpin in 834 AD. Tradition says that it was Kenneth who brought the “Stone of Destiny” to Scone, but there are some who believe it was earlier. The Stone was stolen in 1296 by the English King Edward I, who took it to Westminster Abbey. England’s “Coronation Chair” had a special shelf underneath the seat that held the Stone of Destiny. The Stone was returned to Scotland in 1996. The stone at the Scone Palace is a replica. (At the end of the post, there is information about how to learn more about the Stone’s story, which is pretty interesting.)

The Stone of Destiny – this one is a replica of the real Stone, which resides now in the Edinburgh Castle.

King Kenneth’s Scotland was comprised of the Pict and Scot tribes, and did not have the boundaries of today’s Scotland, but it did represent a “trans-tribe” entity. It was about three hundred years later that King David I united the tribes into a nation that would be more familiar to us.

Reading the signage at the Scone Palace, one would get the impression that it was the Murray clan that “hosted,” so to speak, the crowning of the monarchs, but that’s not really the story. The Murrays had a castle built in 1580, that was replaced in the 18th century by the current palace. It just happens to be right by “Moot Hill.”

Moot Hill is the area upon which the Stone of Scone sat. Tradition says that the nobles who would serve the king, brought one of their boots filled with earth from their lands. They poured this earth onto the hill and swore their oath of allegiance and service to the king. No one explained why it is called “Moot Hill.” (My brain kept trying to call it “Boot Hill,” which even made sense, given the tradition.)

The Scone Palace

Scone was the site of Pict gatherings, and later of early Christian cults, beginning possibly as early as 700 AD. It is known that a priory was founded at the site around 1114 AD, but between 700 and 1114 AD, the early medieval Christian cult called the Culdees, meaning “Companions of God,” succeeded an earlier cult. The Culdees were succeeded by the Scone Priory, a house of Augustinian canons, and later the priory became the Scone Abbey.

It is likely that the religious activity made it a place where monarchs were crowned, and this tradition was established before the Murrays’ castle was built on the site. The abbey’s buildings no longer exist, but there is a graveyard at the site of the abbey.

Graveyard in the old Scone Abbey area.

There is a chapel on the grounds of the Scone Palace, behind Moot Hill, that is the resting place of several family members.

The Murray Chapel at Scone Palace.
Part of the interior, photographed through the bars that kept visitors at the doorway.

The Dukes of Mansfield were also interested in trees and botany in general. Apparently, the Dukes of Mansfield are from the same Murray family who were the Dukes of Atholl, the “planting dukes,” but the relationship is unclear. At any rate, it was a member of the gardening staff who guided tours through the gardens.

HM Queen Elizabeth was celebrating her 50th year as queen, a year filled with activities, one of which was to recognize the importance of the Douglas Fir to Scotland, United Kingdom.
Not the best-shaped Douglas Fir, but entirely grown on site.
The maze was very popular with visitors. There is a bridge near the entrance so no one was lost, at least not forever!
The oldest tree on the palace grounds.
The road leading out of the grounds for people who want to catch the public bus back to Perth!

The Stone of Destiny has its own story, which is interesting and only takes a few minutes to read the “20 facts.” Go to the website, historicenvironment.scot, then enter Stone of Destiny into the search field on the top right of the page. It will produce several links, but when I did it, “20 facts revealed…” was the top link returned. Just click on the link to read about when the Stone was stolen from Westminster Abbey, how it was returned, and the efforts made to return the Stone in 1996 to Scotland.

In Birnam Wood

“Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him.” – William Shakespeare

I stepped off the ScotRail at the Birnam station one grey morning, with coffee on my mind. It was August, and I was entering the Highlands where August mornings could be chilly already. The sun would warm things up, but hot coffee would fix me up right now. My breath hung in the air.

The train station is on the far side of the A9 from the village proper. Pedestrians have to follow steps and a gravel path that go down hill from the train station platform and turn right, going under the tracks and the highway overpass to get to Birnam. It’s a walk, especially with rolling luggage on the gravel, but when you get there, you are greeted by a charming garden along a charming village street, Perth Road.

Partly the inn (in the distance,) partly residences, Perth Road.

It was after eight o’clock in the morning, but there was nothing open that would be serving coffee in sight, and few signs of life. The Birnam Inn was open, not serving anything, but he – the desk clerk – pointed me down the road to a place that was open and, as far as he knew, serving coffee, tea, and some food. The lock-down in Scotland still had many things closed, especially smaller establishments.

The clerk also deserves mention because he said yes to letting me stash my luggage there while I visited, even though I was not a guest of the Inn. It was a very nice thing to do.

The place he pointed me to was open, and had places outside to sit while you drank your beverage and nibbled on the nibbles they were serving. People in line were a “unicorn apart,” and wearing masks. From the conversation and demeanour, I gathered I was the only tourist – these were people who were acquainted. While I waited for my mocha, I noticed the sign that said “Post Office.” It explained everything.

The Birnam Post Office & Tea Room, the official name. Obviously, it’s much more!

After coffee and a pastry, I walked further down Perth Road, just to see what was there – houses, mainly, and the occasional car – so I walked back toward the inn to take a look at the garden.

The garden is called the “Beatrix Potter Garden” because her family, the Potters, stayed at the nearby Dalguise House during summer holidays for ten summers, 1871 – 1881, from the time Beatrix was five years old until she was fifteen. Not connected to the garden per se, there was an exhibit about Beatrix keeping a diary, starting at age fifteen, that she wrote in code. In her later years, she couldn’t read it anymore, and it wasn’t until after she died that the papers were given to a university student who cracked the code. Just FYI.

The garden is small, with neat flower beds, and relaxed edges. The visitors’ shed was closed, of course, but the garden was open. There were, interspersed among the plantings, characters from Ms. Potter’s various stories. I spotted Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, and Mrs. Rabbit, who was trying to corral Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. I didn’t see Farmer MacGregor – the designer may have decided that visitors supplied enough human intrusion.

Mr. Jeremy Fisher – he’s there, but you have to look closely!
Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, hiding inside her house.
Mrs. Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.

The “woods that were” are Birnam’s main claim to fame. There are still many trees, but the old growth forest, the Great Birnam Wood, that used to line the banks of the River Tay is gone, save for one very old oak that still lives on the edge of the river, the Birnam Oak.

The Birnam Oak is not as old as the 11th century, which would have been the time of MacBeth, but it is one of the last trees of the ancient Birnam Wood. It is 24 feet (7 metres) around, estimated to be something over 600 years old.

There are signs along the path to where it grows that are designed to help visitors – many of them city dwellers who don’t necessarily know one tree from another – get to the right tree:

“It’s not me, I’m a sycamore.”
“Not me, either…keep going!”
And here it is, The One. Another visitor kindly posed for me to give an idea how big it is.
It’s had some help staying upright. The trunk is hollow for the first ten feet – you’d think that would kill it, but the nutrition it needs travels upward through the bark and outer layers. Trees like this provide habitat for insects and birds.

Tradition has it that Shakespeare was inspired to write Macbeth after visiting the area as an actor. Records show that a company of English strolling players were given permission to stage a play in Perth in 1589, but no names are listed in the entry. So, a “definite maybe.”

“The Young Pretender” is a sycamore, but, even though very large, it is half the age of the older oak. Sycamores are not native to Scotland. They give “excellent white hardwood” that does not taint food, so it’s good for cutting boards and rolling pins, in case you ever need to know, but best of all, bees like them!

Walking through the village, following the river, I found the bridge that leads to Dunkeld. The two villages face each other across the river; Dunkeld is larger, or at least, so it seemed to me.

The bridge had an interesting sign on it:

“Toll Riots.” Really?

The toll keeper’s name was Peter Murray, was deemed a “peaceable man:”

Toll Keeper Peter Murray

Peter Murray lived in this house:

And the house was on the bridge that crossed this river, the River Tay:

The River Tay.

An act of Parliament in 1803 gave the Duke of Atholl authority to build a bridge across the river at a cost not to exceed 18,000 pounds. The Duke was allowed to be repaid this expense from the tolls and “pontages,” meaning “a duty or tax paid in lieu of personal service for the building and repairing of bridges,” (Merriam-Webster,) plus an additional 1,500 pounds to be invested to support maintenance. When the 19,500 pounds was collected, the Act provided that “all right and title of the said Duke and his heirs…to demand tolls…shall cease, determine, and forever be extinguished.”

Work started on the bridge in 1805, and finished in 1809, although the bridge was opened to the public in 1808.

By 1853, forty-five years later, the paying public was beginning to feel that, surely, the debt owing to the Duke had been paid off. There were rumblings.

Not rushing into anything, it was 1867 when the congregation of the Free Church requested that the Duke forgo collecting tolls from the members of all denominations when proceeding to and from church on Sundays. The Duke refused this request. That was when the public meetings began….

Alexander Robertson became the “Convener” of a small committee to fight the bridge tolls. The committee didn’t make much progress, and so Robertson held meetings to rally public support for their position. These meetings took place over the next couple of years, but after an “incident on the bridge,” Robertson was imprisoned for assault.

Alexander Robertson

A flyer for one of the meetings.

The situation continued to deteriorate, with lawsuits filed against the Duke, and the Duke filing counter suits. The gates were ripped off and thrown into the river. Gates were replaced. Gates were ripped off. Things got so bad that the Black Watch regiment showed up to keep the peace.

Finally, in 1878, some seventy years after the tolls were first imposed, the Roads and Bridges Act removed the tolls, a victory for “the people,” and ending the Toll Riots. The gates were removed. This time the gates were stored under the bridge, not in the river, and stayed under the bridge until 1942, when they were hauled out and given to the Wartime Drive for Salvage.

One of the early Jacobite uprisings came to Dunkeld. Fought right on the heels of the Glorious Revolution, the Battle of Dunkeld took place in 1689, and was so furiously fought that it destroyed virtually the entire village, including Dunkeld House, home to the Dukes of Atholl, and the Bishop’s Palace, belonging to the Dunkeld Cathedral.

Dunkeld House, the home of the Dukes of Atholl prior to the 17th century, had been surrounded by different gardens, glass houses, arbors, and clipped hedges. This had been the style for the previous two or three hundred years.

But styles change, frequently prompted by new discoveries or explorations, and both were taking place as the “New World” was discovered and explored by Europeans.

From the 17th century right up to the early 20th century, the landscaped setting of the big, important houses, such as the Dukes’ Dunkeld House, which was rebuilt a little further up the river, was as important as the house itself. “Designed landscapes” became the fashion. Some of Scotland’s designed landscapes are protected as historic examples of the trend.

Where the old Dunkeld House had manicured gardens, the desire by the 1700s was for a more natural look. Plant hunters and botanists were traveling the world and bringing back the seeds of exotic new plants.

The Dukes of Atholl liked to plant trees, and they planted a lot of them. They played a big part in trying to revive the timber-based industry in Scotland.

On Dunkeld’s tree trail is an historic larch tree, the “Mother of Millions, the Parent Larch.” Five larch seedlings were planted in 1738 by the 2nd Duke of Atholl. One was cut in 1789 to become the axles in a mill; two were cut in 1809 to become ships; a fourth was cut in 1905 and became part of a great lodge. The fifth still stands today.

The Parent Larch

The “Planting Dukes” of Atholl made Perthshire the “cradle of Scottish forestry,” planting over fourteen million larch trees over a hundred years, 1815 – 1915. They turned Scotland’s rocky hillsides into Scotland’s first large-scale managed forests, and turned a profit as well. (After all, they didn’t have the bridge tolls anymore.)

The American tree with the Scottish name, too tall for a single frame!

Another tree that caused a sensation in Scotland and England was the Douglas fir. This tree is native to the Pacific Northwest part of the United States – Washington, Oregon, northern California, and, in Canada, the province of British Columbia. Douglas firs are extraordinarily large trees, in an area of other extraordinarily large trees, such as Redwoods and Sequoias.

This type of fir tree was first described to science in 1792 by Archibald Menzies, a Scottish doctor and plant-hunter, who sailed to North America with the Royal Navy. Menzies was a Perthshire native from Aberfelly.

In 1827, another plant-hunter, David Douglas, introduced the species to Britain. Douglas was raised in the village of Scone, near Perth, and trained in his field at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens.

Both men are commemorated in the names of the tree. Menzies’ name is part of the scientific name, “Pseudotsuga menziesii,” and Douglas’ name in the common English name, “Douglas Fir.” This tree, while popular as a specimen, did not become the commercial success that the larch did.

Another Douglas Fir

The trees grow around the Dunkeld Cathedral, which is now a parish church and still in use. There is not much known about the history of this church, only the “Vitae Episcoporum Dunkeldensian,” written by Abbot Alexander Myln around 1515, wherein he describes the elaborate interiors.

The bell tower is at the rear of the structure. There was going to be a large window in the arched opening next to it, which would have been at the rear of the nave.

After the Protestant Reformation of 1560, adornment was frowned upon, and austerity became the style of the day. The choir section of the cathedral became the parish church, and the nave section, no longer used, deteriorated so much that the roof fell in, creating the “romantic ruin” of today.

The roofless nave – some restoration work is going on, as you can observe from the scaffolding on the interior. The bell tower would be to the right, the choir to the left.

Dunkeld itself derives its name from a large tribe of Caledonians. The Gaelic “Dun Chailleann” means “fort of the Caledonians,” according to the signs. In the 790s, Constantine, the son of Fergus, king of the Picts, built a monastery here for Christian monks, the “Culdees,” or “companions of God,” according to a different sign, both from historical sources.

The choir section, at the front of the building, used as the current parish church, which was closed because, pandemic.
The door to the Chapter House, now used as a sacristy, to the side of the choir section.
In the corner of the grounds around the ruin was this stash of slate pieces used, I assume, to make repairs to the current church roof.
I included this photograph to indicate the size of this place – it is huge. Those are people in the lower right corner of the photo.

Relics of Saint Columba were brought here from Iona in 849 by Kenneth MacAlpin, the first king of both the Picts and the Scots. The relics were brought to safeguard against Viking raids, but they also made the monastery a place of pilgrimage. Around 1114, Cormac became the Bishop of Dunkeld, and a “medieval age of peace and prosperity” followed. Construction of the cathedral began in the 1200s with the choir section, and continued over the next three hundred years.

The Protestant Reformation of 1560 caused the cathedral to decay, and the Jacobite uprising, manifested here as the 1689 Battle of Dunkeld, destroyed the Bishop’s palace along with most of the village and Dunkeld House.

The Old Rectory

That’s why the Old Rectory, originally a manse, is Dunkeld’s oldest surviving (intact) house. The blue Heritage sign tells you that fiddler Niel Gow and …wait for it…poet Robbie Burns entertained here in 1787.

Other parts of Dunkeld are charming, and I spent a very lovely afternoon here, lunch in the village, window shopping the main street, and enjoying the views into the closes along the way, before gathering my luggage from Birnam Inn, and catching the train to Pitlochry, further into the Highlands.