The first stone church was built on the site of what later became the Cathedral in about 1150. It was not the only church in the area: a very much smaller one lies just to its east. In the 1960s the row of old houses and cottages on the east side of the square overlooking the Cathedral, having only just escaped demolition, were converted into Scottish Churches House. This serves as an ecumenical centre and retreat.
During conversion work, a single chamber barrel-vaulted stone chapel was discovered set into the rising ground behind the houses. This has been beautifully restored to serve as the chapel for Scottish Churches House and has a simplicity that makes a striking contrast with the grandeur of the nearby cathedral. It is tempting to suggest that this long forgotten chapel might have had some direct link with St Blane, but it is generally believed to date back to the 1200s.
Another name that features large in Dunblane's past is Robert Leighton, who was Bishop here during the 1660s. On his death he left his library of 1400 volumes to the town, together with funds to build a home for it. The library, now world-famous, remains in Dunblane following restoration work in the late 1900s.
Like many Scottish towns with access to the power afforded by fast flowing water, Dunblane saw a boom in textiles in the early 1800s. A woollen mill near the town centre was established, as was a silk-dyeing mill.
The arrival of the main line railway from Stirling to Perth in 1848 transformed the town, in part by the demolition of its brewery to make way for the station, but mostly because it allowed visitors to flow in, and commuters to flow out. Later it became the junction that connected the Callander and Oban Railway to rest of the network. Dunblane is at the northern end of both the Network Rail Edinburgh-Glasgow rail electrification project.
Dunblane's growth as a resort resulted in developments like the Dunblane Hydropathic Hotel, usually known as the Dunblane Hydro, which first opened its doors in 1878 and still enjoys magnificent views west from its lofty position on the east side of Dunblane.
From a visitor's point of view, the main axis of interest runs along the narrow High Street, aligned almost north south. Beyond the southern end is the dual carriageway Perth Road, which, unusually, provides much of the town's parking. Nearby is the railway station on Stirling Road. The High Street climbs away from the bridge over the Allan Water, hemmed in tightly and attractively by shops and cafes on both sides. As you reach the upper part of the town the High Street curves around on itself, leaving visitors to continue up The Cross as far as the cathedral precinct, which dominates the upper part of the town.
The town has seen rapid growth in recent years. The old town centre retains a number of historic buildings in addition to the cathedral, including the 17th-century Leighton Library, the oldest private library in Scotland open to the public (on selected days in summer). A well-preserved late medieval town house nearby (which was probably built as the manse of the Dean of the medieval cathedral) houses a local history museum (open in the summer). A modern extension has recently been completed within its interior courtyard to provide additional exhibition space and allow disabled access.
The Dunblane Hydro Hotel dominates the north side of the town. The Victorian building sits in wooded grounds on the top of a steep and wide grass slope. Dating from late Victorian times it has been redeveloped and extended several times but still retains its main building relatively intact. It originally housed extensive spa and therapeutic bath facilities (Like the other Scottish "Hydros", such as Crieff and Peebles).
Since the early 1970s the town has grown extensively and is now regarded as a highly sought after commuter town due to its excellent road and rail links to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and nearby Stirling. This, coupled with the fact that the local high school consistently turns out some of the best results from a state school in Scotland, means that the town is not only sought-after by commuters but also by families of school-age children. How much of the school's performance is affected by the population bias, which is largely made up of middle class commuters, is subjective. Dunblane is close to the University of Stirling's campus at Bridge of Allan, and is a popular location for academics.
Over the course of 6 years, a small group of young local boys and their parents have been raising money to build a skatepark in the Laighills. The skatepark was completed on the 23 February 2007 and has already been visited by Death skateboard team and by the Vans UK Tour.
As the hometown of tennis player Andy Murray, this is the perfect place to take up the game at the Dunblane Sports Club or enjoy a round of golf at the Dunblane Golf Club.
Dunblane is only a short drive from any of Cooper Cottages self-catering holiday cottages and a visit to the town would provide a good family day out while staying in the central Scotland area.