Prior to the construction of the present bridge, there had been many wooden bridges over the River Tay at Dunkeld that were regularly demolished when the river was in spate. By the start of the 19th century, the advantages of a more solidly constructed bridge became so obvious that an Act was passed to build a road bridge at Dunkeld and the necessary approach roads to it. Thomas Telford, the famous Scottish engineer, was commissioned to build a bridge that was both functional and elegant and the present bridge opened on 29th March 1809.
The design of an arc rather than a hump-back was an innovative new design, and the Tay was 'moved' to allow the construction of parts of the pillars. The bridge measured 685ft (over 200m) with seven spans - a central one of 90ft (27.4m), two of 84ft (25m) two of 74ft (22.5m) and tow land spans of 20ft (6m). The spandrels (between the arches) are not filled with rubble stone but with internal longitudinal walls constructed on rafts of spruce and larch timber to take the trust of the arches without overloading the external spandrel walls. The sandstone for the arches was quarried at Gellyburn on the nearby Murthly Estate.
Construction costs were estimated at £15,000 and the Government provided a grant of £7,500. Unfortunately the actual cost was around £40,000 and the greatest part of the difference was met by the 4th Duke of Atholl, who was allowed to levy a Road Toll in order to recover his investment. Then, as now, Road Tolls were not popular and there were periodic Toll Riots, with the toll gates being lifted and thrown into the river on several occasions. Road Tolls were paid until the bridge was taken over by the Country Roads Authority in 1879 and the large white toll gate was then removed for the last time. The Town Jail was once situated under the bridge on the Dunkeld side and the door can still be seen today.