Dunkeld is well known to be the site of an early religious settlement of the Culdees and relics of St Columba are said to have been here until the Reformation in the 16th century. The original fabric of what is now the cathedral – dedicated to St Columba – was built over a long period between 1260 and 1501. In the 17th century it became Crown property and came into the possession of the Earls of Fife. Although still used as the town’s parish church it is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.
Dotted around the beautiful churchyard overlooking the banks of the river Tay are a number of yews, including Irish yews. Two of them were noted by Robert Hutchison in 1890 and one described as ‘peculiar looking’. Unfortunately at present there is no girth measurement data available but it is thought these yews could be 400 years old.
In the Cathedral Grove, a fenced off area to the west of the cathedral, are a number of fine yews with 400 cm plus girths. The largest was approaching 500 cm when measured in 1986 by Allen Mitchell founder of the Tree Register of Great Britain and Ireland. This would suggest these yews are at least 400 years old and perhaps these and the ones in the churchyard were planted at the same time.