The twin towns of Dunkeld and Birnam lie on opposite banks of the River Tay;
Dunkeld to the east/ north, and Birnam to the west/ south. They are connected by a bridge built by a chap called
Thomas Telford as part of his main road to Inverness from Perth. It is a very fine bridge and one of its arches
frames this picture.
Dunkeld is the properly historic one of the two. It is home to several agreeable
hotels, various handsome buildings and (a rarity in Scotland) a cathedral. The cathedral was completed, after several
centuries of construction, just in time for the Reformation. In England the Reformation meant a refresh of the
interior decor and telling the Bishop not to send his tithes to the Pope any more. The Scots did the Reformation
properly, which meant the Bishop was sacked and the building maintenance reduced to cover what was necessary for a
small parish church. The cathedral therefore comes in three bits - a tower, a ruin and the current working cathedral
(in that order). The tower of the cathedral can just be seen poking up through the trees left of centre on the picture.
Notable burials include Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch (whose burial in a cathedral was
a notable achievement, seeing as Elgin had a very nice one until the Wolf burnt it down to annoy the Bishop).
There was also a bit of a battle here in 1689 over a constitutional crisis that was then ongoing.
Birnam is a more recent development. The name was appropriated from the wood which
occupied the river bank and adjacent mountain - until one day it went to Dunsinane and seems to have preferred it
there. (The circumstances of the Wood's move to Dunsinane are covered at some length in the magnum opus of that leading
author of historical drama - William Shakespeare, or The Bard of Stratford-on-Avon.) One or two trees and a few red squirrels remain by the banks of the
Tay to remember it by. The Forestry Commission has more recently replanted it in conifers.
Aside from the squirrels, other notable points of Dunkeld and Birnam include
its annual fiddle festival (which is a jolly affair, and makes booking hotels difficult), the former residence of
Beatrix Potter (for those who are interested) and some rather nice lochs up a hill to the north. Visitors to the district
tend to prefer to bypass all of this and head up to Pitlochry, which has no Shakespeare connections worth speaking
of but is much prettier.