Where To Visit
DUNBLANE CATHEDRAL (Click on the photos for a larger display)
For many centuries the focal point of Dunblane has been its magnificent cathedral, which dates back in part to the 12th century and is one of Scotland's few surviving medieval churches. 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 alter lies 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 Dunblane's magnificent Cathedral would be incomplete without a wander round its ancient graveyard. Look out for some rather quaint epitaphs on the tombstones. A particularly 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 "
Surprisingly, a quarter of the churchyard is quite devoid of gravestones. However, many bodies are reputed to lie beneath the soil, for this spot is thought to be the local plague pit. To this day, no-one dares to open for fear of releasing the disease that ravaged Scotland in 1645. In the South West corner of the graveyard can be found the ruins of the once splendid Bishop's Palace. That corner of the Cathedral graveyard, presently free of gravestones and reputedly the site of a plague pit, has recently been modified in the way of a landscaped garden. Onlookers have noticed that fresh soil was provided for the borders, whilst the garden contractors took care not to dig too far into the ground. Near to the site of the graveyard (opposite the Cathedral) is a quality drinking house called the Tappit Hen.
NO VISIT to Dunblane's magnificent Cathedral would be complete without a wander round its ancient graveyard. Look out for some rather quaint epitaphs on the tombstones. A particularly notable one reads:
Remember man as you pass by As you are now,
Visitors come from all over the world in search of the last resting place of ancestors. Fortunately records of the lairs are kept in a register available in the City & Cathedral Museum across the road.
JESSIE THE FLOWER OF DUNBLANE
One of Scotland's finest love songs is undoubtedly 'Jessie, the flower of Dunblane'. The words were composed by the famous weaver-poet, Robert Tannahill. On Tannahill's untimely death in 1810, a search began to identify the girl immortalised in the poem. Although there were many contenders, the real 'Jessie' was not known until some sixty years later. Jessie had in fact been Tannahill's sweetheart for some three years, yet the poet believed she had been unfaithful. Tannahill composes another poem to Jessie, this time entitled 'Farewell'. Jessie was born in Braeport, Dunblane. A cottage, erected in 1808 on the site of her birthplace, can still be seen.
The Leighton Library is the oldest purpose built library in Scotland. It was founded by Robert Leighton (1611-84), the then Bishop of Dunblane. The library building was completed in 1688 and housed the Bishop's own private book collection. The cost of the building was kept to a minimum by using fallen stone from the nearby Bishops's Palace. The rare collection of books has since grown from the original 1,400 books bequeathed to some 4,500 volumes on a variety of subjects and printed in 80 different languages. 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. The collection includes Samuel Johnson's Dictionaries, and many first editions, such as Sir Walter Scott's 'Lady of the Lake'.
The Cathedral Museum situated in the Dean's House 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.
BATTLE OF SHERIFFMUIR
There was great unrest in Scotland in 1715. The Union of the Scottish and English Parliaments in 1707 had brought hardship and a loss of industry north of the border. People began to recall the 'good old days' when a Stuart monarch had sat on the Scottish throne. The unrest came to a head in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, which finally petered out following the Battle of Sheriffmuir, on the remote moorland East of Dunblane. Before dawn on Sunday 13th November 1715, the Jacobite army led by the Earl of Mar whose cause was to return James VII (known then as the Old Pretender) to the throne, assembled at Sheriffmuir ready to fight Government forces under the control of the Duke of Argyll. The battle was inconclusive as is recalled in the lines of an old ballad: A battle there was that I saw man, And we ran, and they ran, And they ran, and we ran, And we ran, and they ran awa' man. Although the Government side suffered the greater losses, the Jacobite force never recovered momentum and the Rebellion crumbled.
PARKS IN DUNBLANE
Dunblane is close to some of Scotland's finest scenery. However, there are two park lands within the city itself that deserve a special mention. Ochlochy Park, once common land for cattle grazing, was gifted to the people of Dunblane as a children's play area in 1942. The park's name derives from the Gaelic, meaning 'The Little Loch in the Field'. This definition aptly sums up Ochlochy Park and a popular pastime for the local children is feeding bread to the families of ducks on the miniature loch. The Leighills, a major fortified camp in pre-historic times, nowadays offers excellent walking opportunities as well as a children's play area.
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. Along the walk look out for the remains of Pictish houses and the cave associated with the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson was thought to have composed many of his literacy masterpieces here and described the cave as 'a cavern by the side of a wide meadow which has been part of me the last twelve years or so'.
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