Strewn with lochs, valleys and mountains, the vast expanse of Perthshire encompasses a wide variety of terrains. Perthshire proclaims its beauty in every season, but come autumn it is even more spectacular; its wooded gorges ablaze in a show of iridescent arboreal fervour guaranteed to touch poetic sensitivities.
Our guide focuses on points on or west of the A9 and covers both the rolling landscape of the south and the peaks of the north, separated by the Highland Boundary Fault. The three areas explored are replete with autumnal flare, sparkling rivers and wonderful wildlife. Add in market towns, pubs with log fires and castles, and the scene is set for a rejuvenating break high on romance.
Here is our travel guide to Perthshire, with advice on what to do, what to see and where to stay.
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Best things to see and do in Perthshire
1. Kinnoull Hill
Start with a wander through the woods of mature beech to the panorama at the top of Perth’s Kinnoull Hill. Gaze over the Lomonds, the Ochils, the Trossachs and the mountains of Perthshire and the Grampians, as the mighty Tay winds its way across the valley floor. Perthshire is said to be “where the Highlands meet the Lowlands” and from here you can see why.
2. Scone Palace
Head for Scone Palace a couple of miles to the north, from where Edward I whisked away the Stone of Scone to Westminster Abbey. Maple, lime and oak trees susurrate in the breeze – a blur of reds and yellows, contrasting with the geometry of the copper and green beech maze.
3. Glenturret Distillery
A visit to Perthshire wouldn’t be complete without sampling some single malt. Stop for a wee dram at Glenturret Distillery and explore the cute village of Comrie, which has the dubious distinction of being earthquake capital of the UK. There’s even a four-mile Earthquake Walk passing Earthquake House, the world’s first earthquake observatory.
4. Falls of Dochart
In ‘Highland Perthshire’, head up steep-sided Ogle to Killin, where the cascading Falls of Dochart – set amid a fiery, citrusy display of autumn foliage – are the stuff of postcards. The River Tay, Scotland’s longest at 119 miles, flows eastwards from the slopes of Ben Lui through Loch Tay, a compelling dark stretch of water surrounded by slopes of brownish bracken and the greens, golds and reds of larch, birch and rowan.
The enormous success of the North Coast 500 scenic drive around the north of Scotland has prompted other Scottish regions to come up with their own versions. Perthshire’s is the Heart 200, a 200-mile (322km) route that is described as taking in “Perth, Stirling, the Trossachs and Highland Perthshire”. With the NC500 now receiving huge numbers of visitors, the Heart 200 is a great alternative: easy to reach, drivable in just a few days and with an established infrastructure. heart200.scot
5. Fortingall yew
Pay homage to the Fortingall yew, the oldest living tree in Britain, if not Europe, having stood here for at least 3,000 years. These days it is surrounded by a protective cage to deter visitors from taking cuttings. ‘Look but don’t touch’ is the rule.
Country clothing shops, a refurbished art-deco cinema and Dewar’s distillery can be found at Aberfeldy, which is renowned for the famous Birks (Scots for birch) walk that inspired Robert Burns. It’s also a place of pilgrimage for book-lovers, who come to browse the Watermill Bookshop’s shelves (and menu). Offering a toasty woodburner, scrumptious café and wall-to-wall books, it was recently included in a list of the world’s top 75 bookshops by New Yorker magazine. You could hole up here for hours.
From Aberfeldy, follow the Tay 18 miles to charming Dunkeld, where the riverside cathedral, restored merchants’ houses and pleasing main street ooze an air of well-to-do country living. Spend your days along the Tay or in the hills, then indulge in tea and scones and hunker down in the local pubs. Music is a significant part of local life. Famed 18th-century Scottish fiddler Niel Gow hailed from these parts; pass the Tayside oak under which he composed and played many of his ‘Strathspeys’ and reels on the 5.5-mile Fiddler’s Path. The Taybank Inn is popular for riverside drinks and music, while the annual Perthshire Amber Festival in November brings in a host of musicians and entertainers.
8. Ossian’s Hall
The wild gorge of the River Braan spumes and froths as the waters thunder down the rocks. Revel in a riot of autumn colour in a landscape nurtured by successive Dukes of Atholl since the first trees were planted in 1757. It is in part thanks to their efforts to reforest Scotland that Perthshire is now known as Big Tree Country, with more champion trees than anywhere else in the UK in its 81,000 hectares of woodland.
9. Loch Faskally
Pitlochry Dam is a fine piece of engineering with a 310m, 34-pool salmon ladder up one side. From the walkway, gaze up man-made Loch Faskally, surrounded by wooded slopes of metallic colours that glow in the sun. Grayling, rainbow trout and perch are some of the freshwater fish found here. Keep an eye open for herons, goosanders, buzzards and, if you’re lucky, ospreys. The ultra-modern visitor centre on the hillside looks like a Bond villain’s retreat and has imaginative displays, plus an eyrie-like café balcony.
10. Queen’s View
Call in at Queen’s View (go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds) to take in the magnificent vista down Loch Tummel. If you have the time, we recommend to keep going all the way along Loch Tummel, past Dunalastair Reservoir, on to Loch Rannoch and beyond to the end of the road at Rannoch Station. It’s a bit of a haul – 41 miles along narrow roads – but it’s worth it for the lochs, the forest, the hills, the colours and the sheer beauty of it.
Best walks around Perth
Follow the white water of River Braan through a fabled woodland of giant Douglas firs, fairy-tale bridges and an ancient oak immortalised by Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Experience the floral and arboreal fruits of the Scottish plant hunters’ bounty in Big Tree Country near Perth then take a walk past the glorious Linn of Tummel waterfalls
Experience a jaw-dropping gorge path that inspired Scotland’s national bard, ending the walk with a pub dinner at a local inn.
A 12.5-mile walk from Blair Atholl into the Cairngorms National Park, passing beneath the summit of Carn Liath before returning through Glen Tilt.
Where to stay in Perthshire
The Kirkstyle Inn, Dunning – Perth and Strathearn
Four comfortable rooms in an early 19th-century building on the main square in a picture-postcard village. Next door is the pub – a country inn in the best tradition.
From £115 a night
Atholl Arms Hotel, Dunkeld – Loch Tay and Dunkeld
A wide range of sumptuously decorated rooms, some with river views, in the heart of Dunkeld. Splash out on the enormous master suite with marble fireplace.
From £79 for a double room
Dunalastair Estate Cottages, Kinloch Rannoch – Pitlochry and Loch Rannoch
Nine gorgeous cottages sleeping 2–8 on a country estate. Comfy sofas, woodburning stoves: a complete escape. Bring the dog, too.
From £278 for three nights
Where to eat in Perthshire
Moulin Hotel, Pitlochry
Escape to the hills above Pitlochry to the perennially popular Moulin Hotel, which boasts its own microbrewery in a converted coach house and stables. Choose from Light Ale, Ale of Atholl, Old Remedial and Braveheart.
The Old Mill, Pitlochry
There’s no shortage of choice in Pitlochry. The difficulty is knowing where’s best. The Old Mill is worth it for its atmosphere in an extraordinary converted mill, complete with wheel. Plenty of Scottish-sourced options and Scottish recipes: beef, fish, cheese, Cullen Skink, smoked salmon, haggis with Erdadour whisky cream, and much more besides. Mains from around £15. There are rooms here, too, and live music most weekends.
Head for the delis in Crieff; there are many on the High Street. McNee’s has pastries, supersweet tablet, fudge and handmade shortbread.
The Crieff Food Company, Crieff
The deli on the High Street offers artisan bread, pies and sausage rolls and local cheese.
Highland Chocolatier, Grandtully
Indulge in handmade chocolates galore at the chocolatier in Grandtully. Sample tempting truffles, Florentines, pralines and raspberry bars. highlandchocolatier.com
Dunkeld Smoked Salmon, Dunkeld
Pick up some award-winning smoked salmon (as served to the Queen) at The Village Shop in Dunkeld on Bridge Street.