Grand hotels, castles and country homes reside alongside impressive examples of Victorian engineering in a truly stunning mountain setting amidst forests of pine and oak and beech and alder and more. With glistening Loch Faskally and the tumbling Tummel River right at the heart of this spellbinding picture, the allure of Pitlochry is patently obvious to see. It’s no wonder that this town is one of Scotland’s most popular visitor destinations outside of Edinburgh. Besides the usual attractions of spas, a distillery, fine restaurants and quality accommodation Pitlochry also boasts a theatre which is responsible in itself for many of the towns’ visitors. The theatre keeps the punters rolling in all year round with many acclaimed productions to see performed by theatre companies from near and far.
Blink and you miss it. Well that’s almost true. Despite having a hotel, Killiecrankie is really no more than a hamlet perched on a steep slope overlooking the River Garry. It’s best known for its role in Scottish history as the site of a famous battle between a Jacobite army and government forces in which the Jacobites were victorious. A government soldier fleeing the Jacobites is reputed to have leaped from one bank of the River Garry to the other at a location now known as Soldier’s Leap. This act is appreciated as no-mean-feat by visitors to the site on witnessing the distance spanning the raging torrent below.
The peaceful village of Blair Atholl sits on the northern bank of the River Garry and southern flank of the Cairngorm Mountains. It’s a largely Victorian settlement that grew up around an old water mill that’s still operational today. The magnificent Blair Castle has been around for considerably longer dating from 1269 AD. The castle is defended by its own private army of Atholl Highlanders, the only legally recognised private army in Europe. Happily they don’t stop you entering as visitors are welcome at the castle today.
Blair Atholl is a pushing off spot for many expeditions into the Cairngorms. Glen Tilt running northeast from the village features in many mountain bike and walking routes. And further along the road Glen Bruar is the site of some delightful trails.
Kinloch Rannoch is a quiet Highland village straddling the River Tummel at the eastern end of Loch Rannoch. It’s most spectacular view is that of Schiehallion, a fine mountain to the south. The scene down the loch is one of tranquillity and one that might be sought by those seeking peace and solitude. Although small Kinloch Rannoch is the largest settlement in the whole valley and can boast two hotels and a shop complete with post office.
Kenmore is blessed with some tremendous views over Loch Tay towards the Ben Lawers group of mountains on the loch’s northern shore. The village itself is pleasing on the eye too with a picture postcard bridge crossing the River Tay. And then there’s the pretty main square with rows of cottages running down two sides and shouldering the Kenmore Hotel on one of the sides. At one end on a promontory sits the village kirk overlooking both loch and square. Opposite is the grand arched entrance to Taymouth Castle Estate. The castle is currently being renovated and its new owners plan to open an upmarket hotel. Guests might even be able to arrive by plane using the loch as a landing strip.
Killin is a pleasant Highland village corralled by two attractive rivers that flow into Loch Tay. The Falls of Dochart formed on the river bearing the same name are a wonderful site and draw many visitors to the area in themselves. The River Lochay is a more serene beast that gently meanders around the village, conveniently providing mooring for boats adjacent to properties along its bank. There are several shops in the village including an outdoors shop that hires out mountain bikes and Canadian Canoes. For sleeping, eating and drinking there are also several options in the form of hotels, inns, B&B’s, guesthouses, restaurants and bars.
Bridge of Balgie
Bridge of Balgie is set amidst the middle reaches of what has been described as Scotland's 'Longest, loneliest and loveliest' valley, Glen Lyon. It is a remote glen perched high above and to the north of Strath Tay. Access is via narrow single-track roads sometimes with steep drops to ravines and rivers below. It’s a wild and stunning location and one that certainly shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Scotland.
There’s little to speak of in the way of the village bar a few pretty private dwellings nestling amongst the trees. That said there is a village eatery in the form of Glenlyon Tearoom that is also a shop and post office too.
Fortingall is a stunning wee village famed for its’ ancient yew tree estimated to be as much as 3000 years old. This would make it the oldest tree in Britain. The village sits amidst lush green meadows a short distance from where Glen Lyon runs into Strath Tay. It is undoubtedly the largest settlement in Glen Lyon but does not boast a shop or post office like Bridge of Balgie. Instead though there is an ample hotel that can satisfy many a traveler’s needs.
The Highland town of Aberfeldy is a bustling centre of activity. Along the main drag traditional Victorian buildings house shops, banks, hotels, and tea rooms. Step away from here and you’ll find yourself in residential streets full of Victorian terraces and villas many with gardens full of brightly coloured flowers, mature trees and sumptuous hedgerows. At the northern end of town the five arches of General Wade’s Bridge span the River Tay below four sculpted obelisks protruding skywards near the centre of the bridge. It is a simple yet stunning piece of architecture.
Grandtully is a beautiful wee village on the south bank of the River Tay. And despite its size boasts a primary school, chocolatier, hostel, inn, coffee house and a water sports centre. From the inn it’s possible to watch white water rafters and kayakers careering down the rapids below. Less than a minute’s stroll across a bridge adjacent to the inn and water sports centre car park is Grandtully’s nearest neighbour Strathtay, also very attractive. What Strathtay lacks in chocolatiers and inns it gains in a village shop and golf course. And like Grandtully has some fabulous Victorian houses.