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Sir Walter Scott referred to Perthshire as “the fairest portion of the northern kingdom”, and he made a good point!
Perthshire lies in the heart of Scotland and welcomes you to explore its impressive countryside of woodland, lochs, rivers and hills. Tame in comparison to the Highlands, Perthshire is a sophisticated and well-groomed part of the land where trees grow tall, rivers flow full and flowers bloom bright.
Often going by the nickname of Big County, Perthshire is the fourth largest historic county in Scotland. It has a variety of landscapes from the rich agricultural straths in the east to the high mountains of the southern Highlands. The city of Perth was once Scotland’s ancient capital and is now the country’s newest city with historic buildings, modern structures, castles and museums to enjoy. The region is home to Scone Palace, which is the ancient residence of the Scottish monarchs and plays a huge part in attracting visitors to the area to admire it.
Perthshire boasts plentiful wilderness areas that are just waiting to be explored. Whether you take to two wheels and explore country lanes by bike or jump in a canoe and ride the River Tay, Scotland’s longest river, there is something for you to try here that you have never tried before. Outdoor adventure is prolific in this part of the country with many coming year on year to get their fix of the great Scottish outdoors. With many towns, villages and hamlets dotted throughout Perthshire complete with lovely self-catering cottages, we can offer you wonderful bases to get out and explore from.
Read on to discover some of the many things to see and do in the area of Perthshire in Scotland.
The towns and villages of Perthshire
Perthshire is home to some of the bonniest towns and villages in Scotland and many come to experience their welcoming atmosphere and peaceful demeanour. Here are three of our favourites…
Dunkeld is fondly known as the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’ and it offers its visitors a wealth of wildlife and scenery. A site of natural beauty, the village is steeped in significant cultural and Scottish heritage. Just over the river is the town of Birnam which is usually referenced along with its neighbour - ‘Dunkeld and Birnam’. The two towns together make double the fun with a variety of things to do. For those who admire the work of the children’s author Beatrix Potter, there is a beautiful exhibition centre based here honouring Mrs Potter as she spent a lot of time holidaying here in Perthshire. The museum is idyllic and the children will love pottering around the garden spotting Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Peter Rabbit.
Dunkeld Cathedral quietly shadows the town and welcomes you in for a visit while the 500-year-old Birnam Oak tree stands proud as the last remaining oak tree from the great Birnam Wood. Dunkeld has a delightful array of quirky shops and galleries and visitors flock to the area every year for its impressive arts and culture events. Hours can be spent browsing the shops and then stopping into a local café for a hot coffee and a spot of home baking.
Stay in Dunkeld: Pinegrove Cottage, sleeps 4. This is a charming stone terraced cottage 1 mile south of Dunkeld set on the bonny banks of the River Tay. 2 dogs welcome.
Pitlochry is one of Perthshire’s most popular tourist attractions due to its rich history, culture and picturesque landscapes. Queen Victoria famously visited the site and put it firmly on the map, claiming the air was ‘cleaner’ and singing high praises of its spectacular scenery. Well, we certainly agree that these parts of Scotland have the cleanest air around! Whether you’re looking for adventure, a woodland walk, some history or culture, Pitlochry has it all.
For those adventure hunters, white water rafting on the River Tummel or bungee jumping in Killiecrankie might suffice. For the history buffs, get a trip to Atholl Palace on the cards; it is bound to immerse you in its fascinating history and informative exhibitions. And for a peaceful spot to wind down – The Queen’s View is a famous, stunning vantage point from which you can see one of the most iconic panoramas in Scotland, lying along the River Tummel.
Stay in Pitlochry: Lower Oakfield, sleeps 10. This is a large house, perfect for groups with spacious living areas and a pretty garden for outdoor socialising. 2 dogs welcome.
Blair Atholl is a lovely village in Highland Perthshire, home to the famous Blair Castle. Steeped in history with its beautiful scenery, fine food and plenty to do, Blair Atholl is the perfect location for a holiday in the Scottish Highlands. This is a welcoming village with a friendly atmosphere and the locals, pubs, eateries and culture all make it a place you will never forget. No trip to Blair Atholl is complete without a visit to Blair Castle, the home of the Atholl family for over seven centuries and a sprawling estate steeped in history. For those who like to explore on foot or by bike, there are a number of walking and mountain biking routes which offer hours of fun exploring in the wilderness.
If you fancy a spot of golf, the Blair Atholl golf course is a challenging, classic style nine-hole course set in the village surrounded by sprawling hills and greenery. Pitlochry also boasts some great places to eat including the all-time favourite, House of Bruar restaurant. Along with a country clothing and home store selling the best of Scottish produce, the café and restaurant serve up slap up meals and wonderful cakes!
Stay in Blair Atholl: Tulach, sleeps 4. Set on the banks of the River Tay, this is a charming cottage with an open fire, enclosed gardens and splendid glen views. 3 dogs welcome.
Other towns and villages around Perthshire which are worth exploring include Grandtully, Aberfeldy and Blairgowrie which all offer up different activities and attractions for you to enjoy, not to mention great establishments in which to eat, drink and relax!
Things to do in Perthshire
Visit a Perthshire loch for some much-needed rest and relaxation
Perthshire boasts some lovely lochs that offer up many opportunities for picnics, waterside walks and nature spotting. Whether you are planning a day out as a couple, a family or a group of friends, a loch can fill hours of fun with both the water and shore being nice places to ‘play’. Lochside walks can be really relaxing, exploring through woodland listening to bird calls and the sound of lapping water.
Find yourself a hidden beach to sit on and spy birdlife through your binoculars, challenge yourself to a skinny dip or read your book while you soak up the sun. Here are some of the most idyllic lochs to visit in Perthshire.
This loch is over 15 km long and at its deepest point is 130 metres deep. Kinloch Rannoch is a small village at the end of the loch, about 18 miles west of Pitlochry. Here you can hire boats, kayaks and canoes to explore the loch properly.
This is the largest loch in Perthshire at 23.3 km long and is great for salmon fishing. It is one of the deepest lochs in Scotland and is flanked by the impressive Ben Lawers mountain range. For a full insight into the loch and its history, visit the Crannog Centre at Kenmore – an authentic recreation of an Iron Age loch dwelling.
This is a long narrow loch in Perthshire and the area around it is known as Strathtummel, one of the most beautiful parts of Perthshire’s ‘Big Tree Country’ where the seasons change so beautifully throughout the year. This is where you can find Queens View Visitor Centre which has a tearoom and shop.
For more information on Scottish lochs, check out our guide to the largest lochs in Scotland.
Plan a fun and educational visit to a historic Perthshire castle
There is nothing quite like an afternoon spent admiring historic architecture and discovering the lives and traditions of those from the past. There are many castles throughout Perthshire that all have a unique history and story to learn, so why not plan some day trips to visit them when staying in the area? Visiting a castle can be the perfect escape as you learn about the history, traditions and local culture of Perthshire.
Here are some of the most impressive castles in Perthshire…
Dates back to 1631 and is home to the Black Watch Museum which tells the story of Scotland’s elite military regiment. It is just a few hundred metres from the bustling city of Perth and makes for a great day out. Join a guided tour to learn all about it and take a nice stroll along the North Inch, then refuel at the Copper Beach Café with a cuppa and cake. Location: PH1 5HR
The ancestral home to Clan Murray and home to Europe’s last remaining private army, the Atholl Highlanders. The castle is said to have been built in 1269 and has played its part in history including royal visits and its crucial role in the Jacobite rebellion. There are over 30 rooms on display in the castle for you to explore and they are full of fascinating features. This will be an interesting and informative day out. Location: PH18 5TL
A Perthshire castle that should definitely be on the bucket list. The crowning place of Scotland’s kings, the palace is now a treasury of furniture, paintings, porcelain and other antique treasures. Fantastic audio-visual exhibits, gift shops, food shops and coffee shops are all within the grounds of the visitor attraction. The palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens and peaceful woodlands that are ideal for a picnic or a stroll in the sun. Location: PH2 6BD
If you are into the slightly spookier history and tales of Scottish castles, make sure you check out our guide to the haunted castles of Scotland.
Head to the city of Perth to sample the local city culture
Part of the fun of visiting a new place is sampling the local culture and trying new things. Even when staying rurally, it is nice to nip into a nearby city for a lively vibe so here are some of the fantastic places you can soak up some Scottish atmosphere and have a great time. Perth is easily reached from all of the Perthshire towns and villages with the main train line linking them all up smoothly.
Welcomes some of the biggest names in music and entertainment from the UK and beyond. The venue plays host to everything from pop concerts to famous events such as Southern Fried Festival and Perth Festival of the Arts – and it looks pretty architecturally spectacular too! Location: PH1 5HZ
A lovely place where you can kick back, relax and lose yourself in the world of books. The library opened its doors in 1995 and has been a cultural hub in the city centre named after Arthur Kinmond Bell, a man who has played a big part in Perth’s history. You can also enjoy a refreshment in the fantastic café. Location: PH2 8EP
Based in the city centre just a few hundred yards from the concert hall and is the main museum and exhibition space in the city. One of Scotland’s oldest established museums, it’s home to a range of inspiring collections as well as welcoming touring exhibitions, talks and events. Location: PH1 5LB
An independent cinema situated in the city centre and has been the heart of the community since opening in 1933. There are seven screens, including the brand-new IMAX screen in theatre room one. The cinema showcases some of the world’s biggest blockbusters and is a real hit with locals and tourists alike. Location: PH1 5PJ
Sample a Scottish dram in a Perthshire distillery
Here are some of the best distilleries in Perthshire which you can visit to learn all about the process and history on guided tours with local professionals. Of course, all tours undertaken come with the bonus of sampling some malts at the end! Here are some of the best distilleries in Perthshire…
Supplying pubs and bars in Perth and beyond with some of the finest craft beer around, the Inveralmond Brewery is an absolute delight. The brewery and shop are open to the public Monday to Friday and there you can learn all about the beers and buy some of your favourites!
This is a newer distillery based just outside of Perth which began distilling in November 2017. Aberargie is designed as a ‘barley to bottle’ operation – every process apart from the malting takes place on-site. Every drop of spirit produced at the distillery is destined for Aberargie single malt.
This is Scotland’s oldest working distillery and is at the heart of whisky in Perthshire. Situated in Crieff, the distillery provides guided tours, tasting sessions and even has its own on-site restaurant. For whisky and history lovers alike, this is not one to miss!
Blair Atholl Distillery - Founded back in 1798, Blair Athol Distillery is one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland. The distilleries visitor centre opened in 1987 and attracts thousands of visitors each year and it is open all year round. Take the interesting tour here and enjoy the complimentary dram to finish.
Strathearn Distillery - Strathearn Distillery is known as Scotland’s smallest distillery and opened its doors in 2013. Located in Methven, the distillery offers one-day, three-day and five-day experiences and produces whiskies, gins and rums. This is a unique opportunity to get hands-on in Scotland’s smallest distillery.
Take in nature at a beautiful Perthshire garden
Quite often we all need to take some time out to reconnect with ourselves, and one of the best places to do that is amongst our natural world and the beauty that comes with it. Whilst landscaped gardens are not exactly wild, the plants, trees and shrubs that are beautifully displayed create attractive, peaceful zones which can help you unwind and relax in ways that are not possible anywhere else. People love to meet up and potter around flower borders, and the educational values for children make gardens a nice place to take the family too.
Take a trip to Blair Castle and enjoy the magnificent Hercules Garden where there is an impressive colourful display of plants and trees. The gorgeous walled garden has recently been restored to its 18th-century form featuring landscaped ponds, a Chinese bridge, vegetables and an orchard. The Explorers Garden is set in the Highland Perthshire countryside and showcases many of the different plants from across the globe and celebrates their contributions with great exhibitions and tours. For a woodland garden, head to Cluny House Gardens which is home to exotic plants and trees originating from the Himalayas and North America. The gardens overlook the scenic Strathtay Valley and are home to red squirrels and a variety of different bird species. Most public gardens in Scotland welcome the dog but politely ask you to keep them on the lead and clean up after them.
Pottering around a garden is a lovely day out with the family!
Stay in a self-catering cottage in Perthshire
If we have inspired you to come and visit the wonderful land of Perthshire in Scotland then why not make a full event of it and stay in a self-catering cottage? We have a great selection of Perthshire cottages that can provide you with the perfect base from which to get out and explore. Whether you are looking for a family-friendly cottage, romantic cottage for two or a dog-friendly cottage to explore from, we will have something to suit you. View the full collection today!