We have had a tremendous April up here in Highland Perthshire. The sun has been shining from morning until night (with the occasional random hail storm – it is Scotland!) and it has given me the perfect excuse for some exploration around the area!
Inspired by our recent visit from the #SmallCityTourist who threw herself from the Highland Bungee and relaxed her cares away at Spa Uniq, I thought why not follow her lead and put together some Great Days Out in Perthshire. Like so many locals I seldom take the time to visit and soak up the atmosphere of our own visitor attractions. Caught up in day-to-day life, I will chat at length about our beautiful walks and cycle routes which I use all the time for walking the dog or hacking with the horse. But actually taking the time to plan a local day out just never seems to hit the top of my priority list. So I have now made it ‘official work’ and I’m delighted to say, I’ve never spent such an enjoyable day in the office!
To kick things off, this month I started with the perfect combination of history and shopping! Right on the doorstep of many of our properties, it’s easy to see why a day out to Blair Atholl is a popular choice for many of our guests. I set off around 9am as I wanted to squeeze in a few different stops. The first of these was at Blair Castle which, in my opinion, is one of the most stunning attractions you will find in Perthshire. It dates back to 1269 but throughout the ages it has been transformed from its bare beginnings as a strategic stronghold through to a fine Georgian mansion and finally as the Victorian castle in the baronial style you see today.
There are 30 rooms available to visit and as I walked through these fantastic displays of seven centuries of history I discovered the tales of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl and was taken on a journey that includes a visit by Mary Queen of Scots, the Civil War, the Jacobite cause and the disaster of Culloden following Bonnie Prince Charlie' stay in the castle. Interestingly, what I didn’t know was that it was Queen Victoria' stay that led to the creation of the Atholl Highlanders, Europe' only private army.
I thoroughly recommend taking the tour – without it I feel I might have missed some of the finer details. The place is abundant in fine pictures and furniture, embroidery and lace, Masonic regalia, Jacobite relics, arms and armour and many family treasures. And as well as finding out about the visiting Royalty and Scottish nobility you’ll also hear about the ordinary people who have lived and worked here. Foresters and gamekeepers, gardeners and maids, butlers and estate managers have all left their mark and have an equally fascinating tale to tell.
Blair Castle has breath-taking grounds which I only breezed round on this visit, determined as I was to make my next stop of lunch at Blair Atholl watermill. I am, however, planning a return trip and if you are making a day of it then I suggest you leave yourself time to wander the gardens which are a day out in themselves.
Hercules Gardens is a magnificent 9 acre walled garden and after visiting here you can enjoy a peaceful wooded grove and a ruined kirk. Animal lovers will be in seventh heaven; I spotted several of the castles wonderful peacocks which roam the grounds and the fields nearby are dotted with the bonny Highland Coos that we all love so much up here Perthshire. There is a Red Deer Park and I have it on good authority that our native red squirrel can often be spotted amongst the trees.
I arrived at Blair Atholl Watermill around 1.30pm and found the busy café already full of locals and visitors. I felt I had to include this quirky tearoom on my day out as it is set into the working water mill where stoneground oatmeal and flours are milled and sold. The mill dates back to the 1590’s and is one of just eleven working mills in Scotland. I just find it fascinating to know that as I’m tucking into a scone and jam, the flour that was used to bake it was ground just feet away from me.
The tearoom serves delicious home-baking including the aforementioned scones and there is also homemade soup and light lunches on offer. You can buy all of their delicious breads, cakes and rolls to take away and enjoy back at your holiday home and keen bakers will love that their flour and oatmeal is available to buy from the shop – it has an amazing nutty flavour that I just adore!
Satisfied after my bowl of soup and scone, I head for The House of Bruar, a shopping mecca dropped into the Highland Landscape. Still independently owned, this vast shopping experience started life twenty years ago in 1995 as a country fashion retailer, and still offers an impressive collection of traditional Tweeds and cashmere garments. Over the years it has expanded to offer Ladieswear and Menswear collections, Sporting accessories and equipment – I have friends who visit just for the fishing shop! - and a fabulous Home and Kitchen range.
For me though, it is the foodhall and butchery that draws me back time and again. Sourcing locally produced goods from small, artisan producers, it is packed wall to wall with tasty treats and the most tempting of ingredients. I challenge you to leave empty handed!
I know I was meant to be out doing something different but I can’t resist a wee wander round the Falls of Bruar; and as I was tempted in for another coffee at the Foodhall’s café I seemed a perfect way to walk off some of my day’s treats! This wonderful walk starts in the House of Bruar Car Park and is short enough to pace round after a shop. The views of the gorge and falls from the two stone bridges are quite simply breath-taking and you must, must take a camera to capture the Perthshire landscape at its very best. The paths are clear as it’s a popular walk but it is quite hilly and there are sheer drops at the gorge edge which look stunning but must be handled with care.
I absolutely loved my day out as a tourist in Highland Perthshire and returned home tired out and happy with new found knowledge on the Atholl Highlanders, some tasty bread from the Watermill, a selection of cheese and a little bag of chocolates from House of Bruar and a lovely glow in my cheeks from my gorgeous walk.
Please do send us your own perfect day out experience – we’d love to hear about them. Watch out next month for Aberfeldy and Loch Tay when I plan a visit to Highland Safaris, The Birks Cinema, The Crannog Centre & Lochside beach at Kenmore. And of course, Strathearn is bound to come into play with The Famous Grouse Experience, The Sma Glen and Auchingarroch all on my list!
Happy Exploring, Bea X
Very spacious and immaculately clean cottage surrounded by trees and streams. Very cosy lounge with the log burner especially when it’s freezing outside! So quiet, peaceful and just a few minutes drive from Ben Lawers and the wonderful Glenlyon road to Fortingall. Loch Tay is always stunning no matter what the season and recommend exploring the south side of the Loch via the single track road if you have time.
This cottage is the most peaceful haven, cosy and warm with everything you need. Lots to do in the surrounding area and lovely places to eat in town. Looking forward to our next visit for sure.
What an amazing holiday rental this was. Extremely spacious with high quality fixtures and fittings. There's a large open plan kitchen, lounge, diner complete with Sky TV and grand piano. Fabulous views of the tree lined valley.