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Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom
October 14, 2009
From journal From Ayrshire to the Highlands
by Mary Porcher
New Haven, Connecticut
July 28, 2002
About an hour and a half's drive from Edinburgh on the way to Aberdeen, Dunkeld was a highlight of our trip. This small, secluded town is surounded by lush green hills and is built around a fast-flowing river. The colorful shops neatly line the winding road, and the ancient cathedral stands majestically beside the river.
We happened to walk into a local flower celebration, and there were all kinds of flower arrangements set up in the cathedral, along with a string quartet playing at the altar. Locals were milling about on this brilliantly sunny afternoon. The grounds were so green, with tall trees waving down at the river. There was a cool breeze rushing through the older ruins and over the weary tombstones. This was the first cathedral we've visited where we could truly feel the spiritual history and sacred air hanging from the trees. And not only that, but we also passed by the Dunkeld Records Shop where Dougie MacLean started out. I just love him! And it turns out that he will be playing in our new hometown in September.
History Long before this cathedral existed, the site was a Celtic monastery. The monastery was built at the time of Columba, who was an Irish Christian who landed in Iona in 563. Columba was an interesting character. Yes, he was a monk, and a Celtic Christian instead of a Roman one. But he was also of royal blood, and had influence in politics. He single-handedly changed the face of religion in Scotland.
When Columba arrived in Scotland, the Celts worshipped the Maker of the Sun. Their stone circles attest to their appreciation of the sun and stars, and they also had festival days of worship, which were believed to be held at the stone circles. Columba did not attempt to do away with their religion, but instead expanded on the Celtic understanding of God. He built monasteries and churches in the center of the stone circles. He expanded the Celtic festival days to include Christian celebrations. He spoke with the influential men of the time, converting many to Christianity. St. Columba is said to be buried underneath this cathedral. His bones were hidden here when Vikings were invading Iona and other isles.
The current cathedral was built over a 200 year span, starting in 1260. The building has suffered a great deal of destruction, during the Reformation in 1560, and later in a 1689 fire. The choir and other parts of the structure have been restored. The grounds are especially beautiful. The town of Dunkeld is also worth a visit. In the year 850, it was named the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland. Although the Cameronians razed the whole town to the ground in 1689, it is now a lovely place, surrounded by the Perthshire hills.
Suggested Sights Nearby:Stirling Castle
From journal Amazing Edinburgh