Impressions from the Road: Perthshire

by Keith Savage · 10 comments

The Pass of Killiecrankie in the morning mist

I have just returned home from a week touring around Perthshire by the invitation of Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust under the auspices of experiencing the autumn colors. It was my first visit to Scotland in the month of November, and I expected short days, chilly temperatures, and a thin stream of tourists. By and large those expectations were met, though it was busier than I’d anticipated because of the concurrence of Dougie MacLean’s Perthshire Amber music festival. In a nutshell: It was a wonderful trip and I’ll have loads of posts in the future interspersed with yet more of my North Coast 500 wanderings from earlier this year.

I’ve been to Perthshire (or Perth & Kinross, if you prefer) many times in the last ten years. I love its forested hills, wide lochs, and snow-capped peaks, but things change and so I wanted to give my impressions from the last week exploring Perthshire’s nooks and crannies. It’s a strange situation Perthshire finds itself in. It lies directly on the tried and true Edinburgh-Inverness-Skye tourist triangle but is often overlooked as people speed past it toward the northerly highlands, a feat that seems impossible for the A9 between Perth and Blair Atholl is so stunningly beautiful I simply have to pull over.

What did I notice on this trip?

Autumn is a glorious time to visit. My goodness, Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust got it right when they invited me for this particular time of year. As soon as I passed Perth the hills rose up around me in gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown, not to mention the evergreens. I learned later that we had gotten somewhat lucky because they had yet to have a winter storm and the winds had not been bad throughout the autumn so many of the leaves were still on the trees. The forests were carpeted with the copper leaves of Beech trees and climbing the hills I could spot Larch with their yellow needles. October is generally considered the best time for autumn color, and I can’t wait to return for more colors that put the USA’s highlights on notice.

Perthshire makes a good base. Perthshire bills itself as “The Heart of Scotland” and it’s an apt moniker. Beside being centrally located within the country, it’s also loaded with things to see and do (see below) and near a great many places. I spent a week here and there was a lot I left unaccomplished. Especially in the autumn when the daylight is scarce, you’ll want multiple days to explore. I like the triangle created by the towns of Pitlochry, Dunkeld, and Aberfeldy. All three of them are pleasant places to visit, with Dunkeld being particularly high on my list (though it has gotten a bit busier in the last several years). Pitlochry is firmly entrenched as a tourist mecca, and while it is quite busy there are plenty of good accommodations and restaurants there. Aberfeldy is up and coming. I was really impressed by the town’s vibrance and shops.

There is a unique mixture of natural splendor, history, and culture. Pitlochry is apparently the town farthest from the coast in all of Scotland, but that doesn’t impinge on the beauty of Perthshire. Rolling hills, deeply forested and curated by Dukes of yore, great lochs, and long-range views abound in this region. Layered on the natural beauty are eras of history, from the Dark-Age Picts, who founded a kingdom here and have left their mysterious graven stones behind, to the Jacobite rebellions of the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, you’ll find local festivals and events like folk music festivals, farmers’ markets, and theatre happening throughout the year. Few places in Scotland offer such a wealth of options for all interests.

Beautiful drives abound. While you can visit both Dunkeld and Pitlochry on the train, you’ll want a car to experience the best of Perthshire. Turn off the A9 just about anywhere in Perthshire and you’ll quickly find yourself on some beautiful highland backroads. In particular, the roads to Aberfledy and Kinloch Rannoch are amazing, though take care as they are narrow and very winding. It’s often in the back country and small towns that you get a true sense for a place.

DebbieNo Gravatar December 6, 2016 at 5:54 AM

Will be following your posts over the next year. We have booked a self-catering outside of Pitlochry for part of our 14 day trip to Scotland next year. We are golfing and touring, so like hearing anything you and others have to suggest.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 6, 2016 at 2:09 PM

Welcome, Debbie!

Elaine FrenchNo Gravatar November 21, 2016 at 2:18 PM

Keith – I am visiting my in-laws over the holidays who live in Edinburgh. While I’ve been to Edinburgh many times, my husband and I have done very little exploring in Scotland over the years, as we usually are short on time. A few years back we did road trip to the west coast – Oban, Fort William and Glen Coe, which were lovely. We’ve also done St. Andrew’s. This year, I specifically thought we should take 2-3 days during the holiday week to see another part of Scotland. As our time is limited and we were thinking of driving, we were considering Stirling, Perth, Cairngorm National Park, and possibly the coast between Aberdeen and Dundee. Any recommendations on cosy inn’s or B&Bs to stay at in this region or towns to visit? Or other recommendations on 2-3 day road trips from Edinburgh? Thanks!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 21, 2016 at 2:28 PM

I recommend Perthshire and/or the Cairngorms National Park. Love them both. Dunkeld, Pitlochry, and Aberfeldy are wonderful towns in Perthshire. There are many great B&Bs and hotels here, places like Cuil-an-Duin Country House, Torrdarach House, Ballintaggart Farm, Knockendarroch Hotel, The Old Mill Inn. Up in the Cairngorms, I really like Grantown-on-Spey and The Dulaig is one of my all-time favorite B&Bs. Enjoy the trip!

Gagan ChauhanNo Gravatar November 11, 2016 at 9:25 AM

Brilliant post, Keith! Scotland seems lovely in November but might just be a little too chilly for me. Did you take that gorgeous picture? Fantastic. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. Cheers

MariaNo Gravatar November 10, 2016 at 6:26 PM

Great report, pictures remind me of our travels in autumn in Scotland a few years ago, in fact, it was in the same area, the colours are absolutely beautiful in autumn. Thanks for reminding me again of how beautiful Scotland is.

PaigeNo Gravatar November 10, 2016 at 12:13 PM

hi keith –

thank you for your perthshire post. love seeing scotland’s autumn colors!

can you please give me the locations of the two pictures? they seem familiar and i want to see if they’re places we visited this summer.

cheers & kind regards,

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 11, 2016 at 9:04 AM

Hi Paige. The first (small) photo is from the Pass of Killiecrankie and the second photo is The Queen’s View. Cheers!

Deborah Ridley-KernNo Gravatar November 9, 2016 at 3:26 PM

This sounds like the perfect place to not just visit, but perhaps stay for a good 2 weeks. I’m still desiring to stay in Scotland and England for 3-6 months, visiting family and traveling/staying in different places. I’d be great if I could do this next year!

Thank you for you great posts. I’ve collected them throughout the year.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 9, 2016 at 9:03 PM

You could easily spend two weeks in Perthshire, Deborah.

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