historic village


OS Grid NO 027 427
Banks of the
River Tay


Dunkeld Cathedral
Dunkeld Ell


Visit Dunkeld
National Trust


Dunkeld Town

the famous 'ell" in dunkeld, the standard for measuing cloth

The Dunkcld "Ell"

We stayed in Dunkeld for a night, and walked along the pretty main street and along the shopfronts to see Dunkeld Cathedral. On the corner of one of the buildings was this strange cast-iron bar and a plaque, always a sign of something interesting.

An 'ell' is a measure of cloth, with the actual length set by law for each city. Each city in England was required to have an ell-wand (a rod of an ell's length) in a public place, so that any tailor or seller of cloth could be held to the standard measurement.

Of course, they aren't always the same length. Scotland's ell is roughtly 37", the French ell is 54", and an English ell was 45". Some types of cloth were sold by English ells, others by Flemish or French. It seems the purpose of the posted ell-wand was a bit vague! The ell-shop, as well as most of the main street, have been restored by the National Trust.

Quick History

The town was founded some time before 700 CE by the Picts, who most likely buit a religious foundation here, and was at one time the joint capital of Scotland by Kenneth MacAlpin. It was sacked by Vikings in 903, and flourished as an ecclediastical town throughout the middle ages, featuring the impressive Dunkeld Cathedral. Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, the diocese grew wealthy and expanded the cathedral and land holdings until the Reformation,when the cathedral was taken by the crown.

The town itself was destroyed during the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689, and the current town was rebuilt -- making it a fine example of 18th century architecture.

The Dukes of Atholl have a long history with the town, and they are responsible for the man-made, forested hill (Stanley Hill) that surrounds part of the town.

Surrounding the Town

But there is much more to see in Dunkeld than just the cute shops and cafes. From the outside wall of Dunkeld Cathedral, we sat and waited for the gates to open, and took some gray, foggy pictures of the bridge across the river, and the incoming fog over the impossibly green fields.

stone arched bridge over the river Tay

The bridge is a seven-arched stone bridge build in 1809 by Thomas Telford, who also designed the Clachan Bridge near Oban, and the cast-iron bridge in Craigallachie, among many, many others. It was originally a toll bridge.

sheep, rain, and fog. A perfect Scottish morning!