One of the most attractive inland villages in Scotland, Dunning is an ancient settlement on the south side of Strathearn at the point where the river valley begins to climb towards the Ochil Hills. Dunning was bypassed by the railway in the 1800s and the dual carriageway A9 in the 1900s, and it is easy to overlook the fact that for centuries it lay on the main route between Stirling and Perth.
The history of human settlement in and around Dunning can be traced back some five thousand years, with a number of sites, remains and artefacts unearthed from the neolothic, bronze and iron ages. The importance of the site now occupied by Dunning is reflected in the discovery of a Roman marching camp measuring 115 acres or 46 hectares. This lay immediately to the north-east of the village, and today's Dunning could easily fit within the fort with a large amount of room to spare. It seems to have been built during Julius Agricola's campaign in AD83. The fort, which was large enough to accommodate 20,000 troops, seems to have been briefly reoccupied during the Romans' final excursion into Scotland in AD209. (Continues below image...)
The next set of residents to have an impact on Dunning were home grown. Strathearn lay at the heart of Pictland, the homeland of the Picts, the people who occupied much of Scotland north of the Forth-Clyde line from the late Roman era until the formation of Scotland in the 800s (see our Historical Timeline). Two individuals from this era have left their obvious mark on today's Dunning. The first is Saint Serf, a missionary who spread the Christian message amongst Picts in the 500s. At Dunning Saint Serf is said to have slain a dragon that was terrorising the residents. His tradition was given continuity when St Serf's Church was built here in about 1200.
The second individual to have left his mark, indirectly at least, was Constantine, King of the Picts from 789 to 820. He ruled from a palace at Forteviot, three miles north-east of Dunning. The only physical remnant of the palace at Forteviot is the Dupplin Cross, a 3m high stone cross, which spent most of the last 1200 years on a hillside overlooking the site of the palace. In 1999 it was removed for conservation, and since 2002 it has been on display in St Serf's Church, in a beautiful setting beneath the tower. During conservation a Latin inscription came to light dedicating to cross to "Constantine, son of Fergus".
Beside the B8062 just under a mile west of Dunning is a stone cairn topped with a small cross, accessed through a gap in the wall. The painted inscription reads: "Maggie Wall burnt here 1657 as a witch." Maggie Wall's Memorial is one of Scotland's spookier monuments.
Dunning was a thriving community when, at 9pm on the evening of 28 January 1716, Jacobite troops apparently under orders from the John Erskine, 23rd Earl of Mar, destroyed most of the village's houses, farms and barns. Why they did so is unclear. The 1715 Jacobite uprising had been waning fast since the Earl of Mar's failure to take advantage of a narrow victory at the Battle of Sheriffmuir on 13 November 1715. Two days after they sacked Dunning, the Jacobites abandoned their headquarters in Perth, and on 4 February James Stuart, "The Old Pretender", and the Earl of Mar, sailed out of Montrose, bound for France. Neither would ever return.
Dunning recovered only slowly, with the major growth coming after a plan for what amounted to a new village was produced for Lord Rollo in 1792. By the 1850s the village was thriving, and today there are 108 listed buildings in Dunning.