Perched Over Pitlochry

by Keith Savage

Torrdarach House B&B, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland

This past spring I spent four nights in one of my favorite areas in all of Scotland: Perthshire. Being in the southern foothills of the Cairngorm Mountains, the region is dominated by rolling hills blanketed in thick, old-growth forests. This combination, shot through with large rivers like the Tay and Tummel and their associated tributaries, makes it one of Scotland’s most visually stunning regions (in my humble opinion). It also provides a sense of what the rest of northern Scotland may have looked like before many of the hills had been completely deforested.

I chose the town of Pitlochry for my home base, even though regular readers of Traveling Savage will know Dunkeld, just 10 minutes south, is one of my favorite towns. Pitlochry gets knocked as an over-touristed place because it has too much of the things tourists love – an orderly main street with plenty of restaurants and accommodation options – but the criticism falls flat for me. Pitlochry is loaded with restaurants, B&Bs, distilleries, gorgeous views, and a golf course, but it doesn’t have the off-putting kitsch of a place like Fort William, for example. It’s a beautiful place to stay, and so is the B&B that is the focus of this post: Torrdarach House.

Visitors to Pitlochry are spoiled for choice at the top end of the accommodation spectrum. There are a good handful of options that you can’t go wrong with, but when I saw that Torrdarach House had a earned a “gold” designation from Visit Scotland I made up my mind to stay there. (I’ve found that the “gold” designation is the most reliable indicator of an excellent stay). The drive from Edinburgh to Pitlochry is a quick hour and a half, and my dad and I found the red Torrdarach House perched over Pitlochry on grounds that slope up to the golf course and beyond to Craigower Hill.

Laying my eyes on Torrdarach House for the first time, it was clear the owners had put in a lot of work on the property. The steep street led to a wrought-iron gate that opened onto a gravel driveway and lot. The sound of gravel crunching under car tires adds a certain romance to the place. After meeting the amiable Struan and Louise, I ambled around Torrdarach’s park-like property, which included gravel walking paths, a small burn, and loads of incredibly tall trees. The late afternoon sun was a welcome addition after all the rain in Edinburgh, and we enjoyed tea and biscuits in the common room with a stunning view down the hill toward town.

Days later we enjoyed a couple beers on the outdoor patio and took in the sun and silence. Torrdarach’s position above town provides plenty of peace and quiet, and were it not for the appointments I’d scheduled I could have easily whiled away the days relaxing at the house.

The interior of Torrdarach has received just as much love and attention as the grounds. A large common room with an airy ceiling looks out over the front garden. Comfy, oversized furniture fills the room and whisky bottles for the guests line a couple of shelves near the fireplace. I spent many of my late nights down here in the common room, writing, Skyping with Sarah, and doing work without interrupting my dad’s sleep patterns. While I didn’t have the chance to chat with other guests, I did have a nice long chat with Struan one evening. It’s often overlooked across Scotland, but a nice common room like the one at Torrdarach House is such a huge bonus. I’m starting to think it’s crucial.

The breakfast room is a glass house with views of Torrdarach’s wooded grounds. We got lucky with mostly sunny weather, and I’m pretty sure our experience eating breakfast in that room was exactly what Struan and Louise had envisioned. Cold breakfast options lined one side of the room, including an apricot-honey compote so tasty I sat down with a bowl full and happily made it disappear.

Over the course of four mornings I had the opportunity to taste all of Struan’s hot breakfast handiwork. The man knows what he’s doing. Everything in the Scottish breakfast was hot and not too greasy (feats more difficult than you might think) and the haggis was especially delicious. Even the porridge – a food item not normally known for its succulence – was remarkably delicious. Louise came out of the kitchen more than once to check on us, and make sure we were enjoying the meal. No problems there.

The salmon and eggs were a definite highlight. The buttery eggs enveloped chunks of salmon that Struan smokes on the grill he’s rigged up as a smoker. None of the breakfasts were too big, which I appreciated since I grew up as a kid that was forced to clean his plate and I have yet to shake the habit (in light of the American obesity epidemic parents may want to revisit such dictates).

All the bedrooms are on the second floor behind a soundproof (and fireproof) glass door. Our bright, twin bedroom packed in two plush beds, a desk, an armoire, and the same gorgeous view down the hill toward town. With our bags the room was a bit snug, but given there was a spacious common room downstairs I didn’t think much of it.

Our bathroom was outfitted with stainless steel fixtures, rich porcelain, and a glass shower. It’s my kind of style so it was just another tick mark in favor of Torrdarach House. The water pressure on the shower was fantastic, a detail which has risen in importance the more I travel around Scotland and find the opposite.

Struan and Louise aren’t new to the B&B business. They came south from Kylesku in the far northwestern highlands where they ran a much larger operation, and the tricks and touches they learned there show through in Torrdarach House. There’s very little to criticize about the place; it’s comfortable, homey, gorgeously appointed with gorgeously maintained grounds, and it hovers over a picture-perfect town just inside the official highland border. I read that Torrdarach now has a bothy that guests can reserve. Struan converted an old shed next to the house into more private quarters.

You are spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodations in Pitlochry, but you should look at Torrdarach House before you make up your mind. Why not look at it first?

Disclosure: I received a discounted rate for my stay at Torrdarach House. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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