First settled as a missionary post around 730 AD, Dunkeld was where Celtic monks set about converting the Pictish tribes to Christianity. By the middle of the ninth century, the town was Scotland's capital and the base of Kenneth MacAlpin, widely recognized as the first King of the Picts. Over the following centuries, a massive gray sandstone church was built in Norman and Gothic styles to house the bishopric of Dunkeld, one of the most powerful in Scotland. Its tower once stood 96 feet (30 meters) high, but this, along with the rest of the cathedral, was destroyed in the Protestant Reformation of 1560. Today the photogenic ruins sit in manicured grounds above the banks of the River Tay; the choir at the eastern end of the cathedral was restored in the early 20th century and is once again used for services.
Dunfermline was once the capital of Scotland and its grandiose abbey and palace were built on the remains of a Benedictine priory founded by Queen Margaret in the 11th century; she went on to become Scotland’s first royal saint and was canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1250. The foundations of her priory lie under the abbey’s monumental 12th-century Romanesque nave, which is the final resting place of King Robert the Bruce in 1329 as well as seven other Scottish monarchs. Repeatedly destroyed and repaired during centuries of territorial skirmishes with the English, the abbey was eventually sacked during the Scottish Reformation of 1560. Just 27 years later its fortunes changed again when a splendid palace added by King James VI for his queen, Anne of Denmark. When the English and Scottish monarchies unified in 1603, Dunfermline ceased to be of political importance and the abbey fell into disrepair.