Celtic Saints, Jacobites and Andy Murray
Dunblane is an ancient place settled and fought over by Celts, Romans and Vikings and one of the cradles of Scottish Christianity. It’s easy to get to by both train and car and there is free parking around the Cathedral. Dunblane means Blane’s Dun or Fort. It was founded in the late 800s on Holmehill (right next to the cathedral) by followers of the Celtic St Blane (who died in AD 590) and was burnt down by the Vikings in AD912. As Dunblane has a cathedral it’s really a city. Entrance is free, and it contains the best collection of medieval carved wood in Scotland (can you spot a Green Man?). Before you go in, walk round the building and look at the odd angles and different stones that reveal the ancient history of the cathedral. Its east side is covered in hundreds of pock marks from musket balls fired at the building over the centuries. Inside the cathedral are fragments from two 1000 year old Celtic crosses.
After the cathedral make sure to drop into the Dunblane Museum and find out more about its ancient story. Leave the museum and walk towards the narrow medieval High Street, but make sure you stop at Bishop Leighton’s Library dating from the late 17th century, this is Scotland oldest purpose built library. Opposite the Leighton Library is Andy Murray’s Golden Post Box which celebrates his gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. If you’re hungry there are lots of cafes and two award winning butchers right next to each other. Carry on along the High Street and then turn right and walk back towards the cathedral along the river path, there is a small playpark here if your kids need to run around whilst you have a rest.
If you’ve got time why not visit the Sheriffmuir Battlefield: the key event of the 1715 Jacobite Rising. Leave the centre of Dunblane by following the High Street, up to the roundabout on the B8033 and follow the sign for Sheriffmuir along Glen Road. At the top of Glen Road turn left just before the ‘dead end’ signs and follow the road up the hill. Stop at the MacRae Monument. You are now in the heart of the battlefield where in 1715, 7000 Jacobites fought 3500 government troops to regain the Scottish Crown for the ancient Stewart line, a real Game of Thrones! The result was a draw but ended the rising and it was to be 30 years before Bonnie Prince Charlie tried to reclaim his ancient birthright in 1745.
Carry on along the road and turn left at the Sheriffmuir Inn, in 1944 this was a top secret military research and training ground and you could not have entered without an official pass. Following the conquest of much of Europe by the Nazi’s, Hitler built a massive series of concrete defences, often with slave labour, along Europe’s Atlantic Coast. Ahead of the allied invasion of occupied Europe, the British built a series of top-secret replicas to research how to breach the so-called Atlantic Wall. The biggest and best preserved of these is at Sheriffmuir and lies over the site of a series of World War 1 practice trenches. Look for the large concrete blocks to your right as you carry on the road. This was one of the key training grounds for D-Day, the end of the Nazis started here which was an event of genuine world significance. Wear boots and watch your eyes for bits of sharp metal if you do explore the ruins, they were bombed for decades.