This cathedral, standing on the northern bank of the river Tay and at the western end of the city of Dunkeld, is one of the most striking in Scotland, and indeed all of the United Kingdom. The site was first made 'holy ground' in 570 AD, 17 years before St Augustine began his mission to the southern British Isles, when the Culdees, Celtic missionaries, built a monastery there.
In 848, Kenneth MacAlpin, erstwhile King of the Scots, rebuilt the monastery in red stone, bringing relics of St Columba to the site from Iona. At this point, Dunkeld became the centre of spiritual organisation for all of Scotland, a status it maintained until the middle of the tenth century, when what is now called St Andrews took over the position. All that remains now of this original site are some carved stones and other remains. Most notable is the so-called 'Apostles' Stone' which depicts many figures and animals.
In 1114, a Bishop was appointed for Dunkeld, who initially had responsibility for the land all the way to the east coast of Scotland, although this later diminished. Services held followed the traditions of the southern Salisbury Cathedral.
The cathedral itself was built between 1260 and 1501, and is a mixture of both Gothic and Norman influences. The Choir, later restored in 1908, was the first part to be finished, in 1350. The East gable betrays some of the cathedral's heritage with its red stone. The cathedral was originally planned to be fairly simple, with this Choir at the East for services, and an arcaded nave, now ruined, at the West. The latter was consecrated in 1464. Later, a two-storey chapter house was added on the North end, and a tower was added to the West.
In 1560, after the Reformation, the cathedral was partially destroyed in an attempt to remove Roman Catholic 'idoltry' (sic). Later, in 1689, in a follow-up battle to the Battle of Killiecrankie, which followed the second Jacobite Rebellion, the Cathedral, along with much of the city, was desecrated by fire. Most of the buildings were later re-rooved, but the nave remains in the same ruinous state to this day.
The Choir saw the most extensive decorations, and today houses the impressive Great East Window, along with a museum outlining the history of the building and other exhibits from its past, including the aforementioned Apostles Stone, an example of Pictish art from the 9th century, the Cross Slab from the original monastery and the Old Bell.
Despite its 'cathedral' denotation, Dunkeld cathedral is the size of an average Church of England parish church. It is a Scottish Heritage property open to visitors during the high season.