A small attractive town, Dunblane has been an important ecclesiastical centre since the seventh century
With an olde worlde charm and examples of 17th and 18th century architecture blending with the more modern and contemporary, today’s town of Dunblane nestles beside the Water of Allan.
With a population of around 7000 it is often seen as a commuter town with easy access to Perth, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow. This may be so but it is also a place with a unique ecclesiastical history at its very heart. Named and founded in 602 AD after the Celtic missionary St Blane, it is dominated by the lavishly restored 13th century Dunblane Cathedral. St Blane lived with his followers in honeycomb shaped stone cells inside the old Dun or hill fort behind the town. Here he founded a church and became one of the most important churchmen of his time and was known as ‘Blaan the Triumphant’.
In the beginning
Followng the death of St Blane in 640AD Dunblane became a stronghold of the Culdee church who were most likely to be responsible for the lower storeys of the Cathedral Tower. However, with the arrival of Bishop Clement in 1240 building work began on the amazing structure that stands before visitors to the town today.
A riverside view of the Dunblane. top: Old world charm is plentiful.
Now under the care and stewardship of Historic Scotland, the cathedral exists as a congregation of the Church of Scotland and seeks to serve the community in every aspect of its life and to promote Christian values of concern for others in forgiveness, reconciliation, truth and integrity.
‘With a population of around 7000 it is often seen as a commuter town with easy access to Perth, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow.’
Viewed from the outside the Cathedral is impressive, but its true beauty lies within. A sentinel of towering pillars and archways of weathered stone stand in the nave overlooked by colourful religious icons of stained glass. The decorative woodcarvings are an added glory and each of the floral carvings on the Scots oak pews is unique. In front of the altar lie three slabs of Tournail limestone marked as the resting place of Margaret Drummond, who was reputed to have been the secret wife of King James IV. A visit to the cathedral would not be complete without a wander around its ancient graveyard. With epitaphs and verses a notable one reads: ‘Remember man as you pass by, As you are now, so once was I, As I am now, so you must be, So prepare therefore to follow me.’
For the visitor a walk up the twisting High Street leads to the Dean’s House, now a museum, ruins of the Bishop’s Palace and the Leighton Library. The Cathedral Museum unfolds much of the rich and colourful history that surrounds this ancient burgh and its medieval cathedral. Each of the museum’s seven rooms focuses on a different period in the cathedral’s history, starting with St Blane’s early Christian community, the Reformation and the restoration of the Cathedral undertaken between 1889 and 1893. The museum houses a fascinating array of ancient religious relics, including a 17th century Death Bell and pieces of choir stalls, one of only two sets surviving from the middle ages.
The Leighton Library, with crow step gables and an outside stair, was built in the 1680s to house the bishop’s book collection, and with 4500 volumes in 32 languages, may be the oldest purpose built library in the country. A lending library in the 18th century, it is now administered by Stirling University. The collection includes Samuel Johnson’s dictionaries and many first editions, such as Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Lady of the Lake’.
Visitors to this impressive literary collection are given the rare and unique opportunity to handle some of Scotland’s rarest books, the oldest being a book of Psalms dating back to 1504. For the walker the Darn Walk (or Daurinn Road) is aptly named as it comes from an obsolete Gaelic word meaning ‘The Water Road’. This charming riverside pathway, thought to have been in use since Roman times, connects Dunblane with the nearby community of Bridge of Allan. If you take this walk, look out for the cave associated with the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson who is thought to have composed many of his literary masterpieces here. He described the cave as ‘a cavern by the side of a wide meadow which has been part of me for the last 12 years or so.’ About half a mile from the town centre are the Laighills and Ochlochy Park, also offering excellent walking opportunities as well as ideal spots for picnicking.
About three miles east of Dunblane is secluded Sheriffmuir. It was here on 13 November 1715 that a Jacobite uprising culminated in battle. It was an inconclusive battle as an old Scots ballad recounts: ‘Some say that they won, and some say that we won, and some say that none won at all.’
The coming of the railway in 1845 brought prosperity and fortune to the town and large villas were built by wealthy Victorian commuters. The large Hydro, now a luxury hotel, was built as a spa in 1875 to take advantage of the local mineral waters. Although only 45 minutes from Glasgow and Edinburgh, this is the perfect place to get away from it all. In 2009, a multi million pound refurbishment has added contemporary style and world class facilities to the Hydro’s iconic Victorian architecture. These include a new restaurant, The Kailyard, which is being operated by Nick Nairn’s team. At Doubletree Dunblane Hydro, 200 beautifully appointed rooms provide every creature comfort.
Today, visitors to Dunblane can appreciate the rich history of yesteryear along with the modern amenities of the 21st century.
Town silversmith Graham Stewart and his wife Elizabeth.
The natural world of the Scottish landscape and Perthshire in particular is the source of inspiration for designer and gold and silversmith Graham Stewart. A second generation silversmith and jeweller he is a graduate of Gray’s School of Art and was made a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in 1996. With a great love and respect for early Scottish silver with its simplicity and integrity he strives to honour and maintain this tradition in his own work. Graham particularly enjoys carving details like fish, birds, barley or furrowed fields, which he often includes in his more decorative work. Having exhibited in Edinburgh, London, the USA, Russia, China and Japan there is no doubt that his work has given Dunblane a world wide reputation for excellent craftsmanship.
These days, traditional family butchers are few and far between. David Bennett & Son, located in Dunblane’s High Steet, began when the original David Bennett set up in business in 1901. His son, David Bennett Jr, expanded the business, and today it is his great grandson, Graham Fleming, who is the one in charge. Bennetts source only the best quality products, as locally as possible, so that there is full traceability. Their farmer for over 20 years has been Tom Stevenson of Balmacolly, who always ensures that the meat is perfect. The awardwinning beef is Aberdeen Angus cross, which gives superior eating qualities, and the animals are grass fed, with no fertilizers or hormone treatments. From this the firm daily produce their own specialist, consistently awardwinning sausages, burgers, freshly made pies and cooked meats.
Driving forward Dunblane New Golf Club has been welcoming members and visitors alike since 1923, and this quality parkland course provides an enjoyable and testing challenge for golfers of all abilities. The ‘New’ in its name derives from the fact that before it was built, golf had previously been played on a small nine-hole course adjoining the River Allan.
‘With 10 acres of rolling landscaped grounds, and the Trossachs and Campsie Fells providing a stunning backdrop, this is a setting that will take your breath away.’
Designed by Amateur Champion Major Cecil Hutchison and renowned Open Champion James Braid, its lush fairways and manicured greens ensure a memorable golfing experience. Woodlane of Doune was founded by Cheryl Sivewright ten years ago, and shows her passion for buying an unrivalled, exclusive range of clothes, jewellery and fashion accessories, along with wonderful gifts for the home. Friendly staff are always there to offer helpful advice and provide the perfect shopping experience. And there is more in Doune… Discover Cheryl’s other hidden gem, Chez Moi, a beautifully stocked shoe shop next door to Woodlane. This will satisfy the desire of any shoe lover with exquisite and practical shoes sourced from all over Europe. They let your feet do the talking!
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