5 Top Attractions in Perthshire – Scotland
Whether driving south over Drumochter, leaving the mountainous Highlands behind, or coming north from the sandy beaches and spreading fields of Fife, you cross over into the county of Perthshire, also known as the “Heart of Scotland”.
Too often people just drive through it, en route to the more cosmopolitan call of the Big Cities, or to the rugged and weather-beaten Highlands, but it is really worth slowing down and taking some time, even just a little, to explore. Perthshire’s life-blood is variety, and with dramatic mountains, serene glens and endless expanses of lush forest, its bleakly beautiful moors, rushing rivers and tumbling waterfalls, ancient castles and unspoilt nature; golf, fishing, walking and adventure, Perthshire as the main artery to the rest of Scotland, is a culturally exciting and “wanderlust must” proposition. The “heart” because it is located at the geographical heart of Scotland, Perthshire is within easy reach of busy cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.
It boasts some of Europe’s most remarkable woodlands, all easily accessible on dozens of waymarked paths and trails, and the picturesque towns and villages of Pitlochry, Aberfeldy, Dunkeld & Birnam, Blair Atholl and Kinloch Rannoch are all within short drives of each other offering independent shops, quaint museums and delicious local fare and produce. So why not stop a while? Perhaps take in a show at one of Scotland’s major theatres; or take a drive to the lower slopes of one of Scotland’s highest mountains; or a train ride to Rannoch Moor, one of the most remote areas of Scotland, which cannot be reached by road. Stop, look and listen to the silence, broken only by the call of the curlews. Take any of these journeys, passing through some of Scotland’s most breathtaking scenery, making the time to explore our top attractions in Perthshire.
The largest loch in Perthshire and one of the deepest in Scotland, Loch Tay is flanked in the North by the impressive bulk of the Ben Lawers mountain range, much of which is designated as a National Nature Reserve. A magnificent deep and dark stretch of water, Loch Tay is 15 miles (24 km) long and around 508 ft deep. It’s hard to believe that ancient settlers once lived on Loch Tay, inhabiting artificially created islands known as crannogs (more on that later!) Loch Tay is popular with sailing and watersport enthusiasts and there are plenty of activities in and around the loch itself. Splash White Water Rafting do what it says on the tin, as well as canyoning and stand up paddle boarding, and are based in the scenic town of Aberfeldy. And if it’s dry land you prefer then try your hand at paint balling or abseiling instead. Alternatively, the Loch Tay Boating Centre, situated at the east end of the loch, count motorboat hire, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and mountain biking amongst the activities on offer. Or perhaps golf is your thing, so glove up and try your hand at the Mains of Taymouth Golf Course or the Killin Golf Club, both nine holes. And if you have done so much walking that your legs require a break, then head to Mains of Taymouth Stables situated just over the bridge from the picturesque village of Kenmore and enjoy a very special horse riding experience on a myriad of stunning forest tracks amidst spectacular mountain, loch and river views. Or, perhaps you yearn for some quiet downtime, so if the sun is shining, then head to the the small shingle beach near Kenmore, it is perfect for sunbathing. Or take a picnic and drive to Dalerb, 1.5 miles west of Kenmore and set up for lunch with a view from picnic tables close to the water. However you want to fill your holiday, Loch Tay and it’s beautiful surrounds have something for whatever your mood, be it adventure or a quieter relax.
Crannogs are a type of ancient loch-dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland. Assumed to have been built as individual homes to accommodate extended families, there are similar settlements been found throughout the rest of Europe. The earliest loch-dwelling in Scotland is some 5,000 years old but people built, modified and re-used crannogs in Scotland up until the 17th century AD. The prehistoric Perthshire crannogs were originally timber-built roundhouses supported on piles or stilts driven into the loch bed. In more barren environments, tons of rock were piled onto the loch bed to make an island on which to build a stone house. Today, the crannogs appear as tree-covered islands or remain hidden as submerged stony mounds. Several hundred have been discovered so far in Scotland although only a few have been investigated. There are eighteen crannogs on Loch Tay, most are now submerged but a large crannog near the northern shore at Kenmore can be clearly seen. This was the ancient burial place of Queen Sybilla, wife of Alexander King of Scots. The Scottish Crannog Centre gives a real insight into life on Loch Tay 2,500 years ago. It boasts a full sized reconstruction of a crannog, based on the the excavations carried out by the Scottish trust for Underwater Archaeology. Enjoy an exhibition of some of the items discovered before a guided tour where tour guides in period costume explain how and why the house was built giving you a vivid picture of daily life at the crannog. Then enjoy hands on demonstrations of some iron age crafts and technologies such as wood turning and weaving. A well stocked gift shop completes the trip, as does a welcome cup of tea! This unique experience offers a first hand experience of life in this once remote part of Scotland, 2,500 years ago.
Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery, located on the outskirts of picturesque Aberfeldy and just over 20 minutes from Pitlochry, was first planned in 1896 by the sons of John Dewar and is the only Scotch whisky distillery built by the Dewar family. Set amid the majestic scenery of the Scottish Highlands, there were a number of reasons behind the decision of Tommy and John Alexander Dewar to build their whisky distillery in the heart of Perthshire. The Pitilie Burn which runs past the distillery into The River Tay was a superb natural water source and the gold-rich waters are used to make Aberfeldy whisky to this day. Another notable factor was the excellent transport links by train to nearby Perth that transported fuel and barley to the distillery, returning the finished product to be blended and bottled, efficiently bringing the whisky to market. And although the line is no longer open a steam engine with a carriage bearing whisky barrels remains on the site. Taking a guided tour of the distillery is wonderful way to fully understand the craft that has so shaped the Scottish culture. Scotland is internationally renowned for its whisky and a tour, along with some whisky tasting, brings it fully to life. Also of note is the Dewars building itself. The architect Charles Doig, was the foremost distillery architect of the period, whose signature pagoda roof still dominates the distillery’s skyline. All about streamlining the process for efficient production, Aberfeldy is an excellent example of logical design with the various processes of whisky making laid out in a linear fashion. And when you are fully informationed-out then take the opportunity to relax in the Whisky Lounge and cafe, where you will find friendly and knowledgeable staff to chat about the whisky and purchase a dram. If you have worked up an appetite then the cafe, using the finest local produce, serves freshly prepared lunches including soup, thick fill sandwiches and afternoon tea. And to finish with a gift for those at home, pop to The Distillery shop that boasts an exclusive single cask ‘fill your own’ bottle.
Situated on the banks of the River Tummel, Pitlochry Fish Ladder and Dam are extremely popular with visitors to the town. The centre features a gift shop and café with jaw dropping views of Pitlochry Dam and Loch Faskally. The dam was constructed between 1947 and 1951, part of a series of amazing engineering feats that first brought hydro electricity to the Highlands in the 1950s and transformed lives forever. At the time people felt it would destroy the tourist town, yet what happened was in fact is the opposite, with the town now known for its Dam and fish ladder. The River Tummel was dammed, flooding the then Highland Games field to form Loch Faskally, a now jewel in highland Perthshire, 5km long and very popular with anglers. With such a massive dam across the River Tummel it was necessary to create a way for the 5,000+ salmon each year to pass upstream when they return to their native Perthshire rivers to spawn. The ladder as it is known is 310 metres in length and has 34 pools which have been crossed by over 250,000 salmon since it was built in 1952. The Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre tells the story of hydro electricity in the north of Scotland and how it transformed lives. Thanks to its innovative design, the new centre appears to ‘hover’ off the ground, providing breathtaking views of the working hydro station, dam and River Tummel below. The interactive exhibits demonstrates how energy is harnessed from nature using wind and water and turned into electricity and there are a number of fascinating artifacts that show how generations of homes have been transformed by electrical appliances. All ages will love the wonderful views whilst enjoying a cup of tea and a sandwich from the amazing balcony that projects eight meters from the river bank.
For over a century, the Atholl Palace Hotel and estate has welcomed guests and visitors. Perched above the town of Pitlochry, within the Valley of the Tummel River, the hotel has extensive views of unrivalled Scottish scenery and landscapes. And a list of What to Do in Perthshire would not be complete without a visit to the The Atholl Palace Museum, the only museum in Scotland to celebrate the social history of a hotel, and when it first opened in 2005, the first of its kind in the UK. Set in the old servant’s wing, the museum tells the story of the Atholl Palace Hotel from its opening as a Hydropathic establishment in 1878 to its reopening after World War II and beyond. Be intrigued by tales of bankruptcy, colourful entrepreneurs, Victorian servant’s, unusual and torturous spa treatments, renovations, and war time evacuees turning hotel to school. Start your journey in a rail carriage; nosey through the doctor’s cupboards; dress up as a hotel servant, and listen to the dramas unfold enjoying an array of photographs from the hotel’s archive. Explore room settings with exhibits full of exciting historical insights and anecdotes from the past; and enjoy a 23 minute film which includes original footage and charts the story of the Atholl Palace celebrating those who built, worked and visited the hotel. Once you have had your fill of history take some fresh air in the award winning gardens, overflowing in abundance with wildlife, flowers, specimen trees, playground and walks. And if you are peckish, take afternoon tea in the lounge or perhaps indulge in a light lunch in the Stag’s Head bar. The perfect end to a step into the past.
So what are you waiting for? Get your trip to Perthshire booked and go and explore these places and many more, as the great news is we, have but scratched the surface of the exciting and vibrant Perthshire. There is truly something for everyone, every age and stage, whether you love golf, hydro power or Victorian Hotel museums, the scope for adventure is endless in the Heart of Scotland. Visit our website for our full list of holiday homes in amazing Perthshire today.