Historical Dunkeld with its ecclesiastical origins may have begun as early as the sixth century with the founding of a Columban monastery, the 'keld' of the place name being taken by some as signifying the presence of Celtic monks, later known as Culdees. There is also evidence that around 820 the Pictish king, Constantine 1, founded a church here. The church appears to have been elevated to the status of cathedral by David 1 in 1127. Construction began in the mid 12th century with the choir at the east end and finally completed in 1501 with the 96 foot clock tower.
Early in the 15th century, towns such as Dunkeld were essentially frontier outposts on the very edges of civilisation.
At the Pass of Killiecrankie where the opening battle of the Jacobite campaigns was fought, Dundee was shot at the very moment of his victory. The Jacobite army moved south under a new commander but was soundly defeated art Dunkeld the following month. The military action was so intense it also resulted in the near destruction of the ancient cathedral city.
Birnam on the other hand is of more recent origin. It is an essentially mid-Victorian village. Its making was the arrival of the steam engine and the fact that the northern terminus of the Highland Railway was situated here for seven years before continuing on to Pitlochry. Growth dropped away quickly after 1863. To this day there is the spaciousness and genteel baronial granduer of a village built for leisure, not commerce or industry.