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Issue 69 - Perthshire and Kinross

Scotland Magazine Issue 69
June 2013


This article is 5 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Perthshire and Kinross

Local history, where to go and what to do

One of the most important aspects to bear in mind about the county of Perthshire is the sheer size of its hinterland, extending from the sea port of Dundee and Strathmore in the east, to the Pass of Drumochter to the north, to Rannoch Moor in the west, and to Aberfoyle in the south. In total, the county boundaries, taking in its accolyte county of Kinross, encompass 5,286 square kilometres.

Roaring up past the small town of Kinross from the Forth Road Bridge, is the M90. Turn left at Kinross, skirting around the giant ivorycoloured NATO communications golf ball and you find yourself entering the quirky Ochil foothills of Strathallan and Strathearn, fringing onto Clackmannanshire. Here are destinations such as Rumbling Bridge, the Wicks o' Baiglie, the Yetts o' Muckhart and the Crook of Devon, as the roads snake up into the hinterland of Gleneagles, Auchterarder, Blackford, Dunning and Forteviot.

Kinross still basks in the celebrity of being on the shore of Loch Leven where in 1567, Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in its island castle. It is always interesting to speculate on the much higher level of the water which, in the 16th century, enabled her to escape from a window into a boat below, assisted by the sons of her captor.

Loch Leven is nowadays a National Nature Reserve but during the summer months provides a boat service to take visitors to the ruined fortress on the island. In July, the area resounds to the sounds of rock bands at the annual T in the Park, held at the Balado Activity Centre.

The luxurious Gleneagles Hotel, which is in Strathearn, retains its international celebrity status as a resort for golfers. At Ardoch, nearby, is the little village of Braco where Roman centurians once guarded the approach roads to the Antonine Wall.

Nowadays the M90 bi-passes the villages Milnathort, Glenfarg and Bridge of Earn, providing an unexpected tranquility to the rich farmland of the surrounding landscape.

For centuries, the city of Perth served as a frontier town between the Scottish Lowlands and Highlands, a flourishing market place for the cattle drovers of the north, south, east and west of Scotland. Overlooked by Kinnoull Hill, the River Tay maintains its stately progress through the residential suburbs towards its eastern confluence at Dundee.

With its open green spaces known as the North and South Inches, modern Perth provides a holiday location in addition to accommodating a lively local community.

Its one-way traffic system can be a trifle confusing, but there are attractive shops, restaurants and bars to discover. The Perth Museum & Art Gallery houses collections of fine and applied art and natural history. In a former Waterworks is housed the Fergusson Gallery comprising a collection of the works of the J. D. Fergusson (1874-1961), the renowned Scottish colourist.

Enthusiasts for military history will want to visit Balhousie Castle in Hay Street which houses the regimental museum of the Black Watch Regiment raised by the British Government in 1739 to police the Highlands.

Horticulturalists will favour the Branklyn Gardens in Dundee Street, managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Over the summer months this haven of greenery provides a blaze of colour from its plantings of rhododendrons, herbaceous and peat-garden plants.

On the north aside of the River Tay is the Gothic-style Scone Palace, begun around 1803 and situated in close proximity to Moot Hill, and Scone Chapel occupying the remains of Scone Abbey. A replica of the Stone of Destiny is on display here. The “official” original (some say that it was replaced with a lump of red sandstone and removed for safekeeping at the time of Edward I's invasion in the 13th century), was returned to Scotland in 1996 and can now be seen on show at Edinburgh Castle.

Scone Palace is the ancestral home of the earls of Mansfield and Mansfield (the title dates from two confirmations) and the red sandstone building has remained largely unaltered since its completion in the early nineteenth century. In the Long Gallery here in 1842, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert first witnessed a demonstration of curling upon the polished wooden floors, and Prince Albert later agreed to become the first president of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Open to the public, the house is filled with priceless treasures: fine Dresden and Sèvres porcelain, paintings, ceramics, clocks and furniture, acquired by this enormously influential sept of Clan Murray.

Held annually in the grounds are the Scottish Game Fair, the Central Scotland International Horse Trials, and a series of energetic tournaments organised by the Perth & Dundee Polo Club. Scone Palace is also a popular venue for antique fairs and weddings.

From Perth, either from the town or from the south over a bridge from the M90, there is the option of joining the A93 an A90 travelling north to Blairgowrie and Rattray, passing the world's largest beech hedge on the Marquis of Lansdowne's Meiklour estate, or east to Inchture, Invergowrie and Dundee. From the A90, roads finger north into the glens of Angus.

At Blairgowrie and Rattray, which straddle the Ericht River, a visit to the Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum is to be recommended. From the road can be seen Craighall Castle, the dramatically situated ancestral fortress of the Rattray Clan. To the west of Blairgowrie is Ardblair Castle, seat of the Blair Oliphant family and seting for the annual Blairgowrie Highland Games in early September. Nearby is Newton Castle, home of the Chief of Clan Macpherson. At the Spittal of Glenshee is the ancient gathering ground of Clan MacThomas.

Skiing began here at Glenshee in 1957 when Dundee Ski Club built its first ski tow. The Glenshee Chairlift Company was formed in the 1960s, and although climate change has interfered dramatically in the snow falls ever since, the sport still flourishes on a seasonal basis.

For those choosing to motor west on the A85 from Perth, the road leads through Methven to Crieff, Comrie and Lochearn. Crieff is the principle town of Strathearn and has been a popular holiday resort since the Victorian era. Situated in 900 acres, Crieff Hydro, one of Scotland's most celebrated health spas and dates from 1868. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the town was one of Scotland's most important cattle “trysts”, and the Crieff Visitor Centre naturally features a Highland Drovers exhibition. Just outside the town, is the Glenturret Distillery which houses the Famous Grouse Experience. Also in the vicinity are the glorious gardens of historic Drummond Castle and MacRosty Park, with its specimen trees and children's play areas.

Meanwhile, the A9 heads north, where a stop-over must, five miles up the road, is the Scottish Liqueur Centre at Bankfoot.

This originated from the west coast island of Mull in 1982 and today retails a vibrant range of Scottish liqueurs and whiskies.

Next stop is Comrie, which lies astride a geological fault line, but don't panic. Tremors are unlikely.

Nevertheless, the “Shaky Toun” as it is sometimes known, boasts an Earthquake House housing record from 1597. All around these hamlets is superb walking country, a notable excursion being from Lednock to the Deil's Cauldron with its thrilling waterfall. Loch Earn, and Lochearnhead village, where Pertshire spills into Stirlingshire, are superb destinations for angling and water sports enthusiasts.

From Perth, take the A9 north alongside the banks of the River Tay, perhaps turning east towards the small towns of Stanley, Murthly and Dunkeld. On one side, the Kinnaird esate, home of the Ward family, provides luxurious bed and breakfast accommodation, and on the other side, Balathie House, once home to a branch of the Robertson family, is today a fine country house hotel.

Murthly Castle on the west side of Birnam Hill, featured prominently in William Shakespeare's Macbeth and once a Royal Hunting Lodge, is today owned by the Steuart Fotheringham family. In close proximity is the little village of Birnam, beloved as a holiday escape by the writer Beatrix Potter.

Dominating the town of Dunkeld is Dunkeld Cathedral which allegedly once contained the relics of St Columba, and there is a castle museum housed within the grounds.
The Hermitage which is accessed on the western side of the A9, is a renowned pleasure park maintained by the National Trust for Scotland.

Created by successive dukes of Atholl as a tribute to the mythical blind poet Ossian, it contains his cave and a hall of mirrors.

At Ballinluig, the A827 leads to Aberfeldy, an attractive and busy market town which features the Dewar's World of Whisky Visitor Centre. The bridge over the Tay here was built in the eighteenth century by General Wade as part of his strategy to police the unruly Highlands. The Birks of Aberfeldy, celebrated by the poet Robert Burns, consists of a gorge designated a Site of Specific Scientific Interest and which provides a challenging scenic walk. At the mouth of Glen Lyon is the village of Fortingall, once a Roman settlement and alleged to be the birthplace of Pontius Pilate whose father is thought to have served with its Legions.

On the road to Kenmore on the banks of Loch Tay, the road swings past Menzies Castle, hereditary home of the Clan Menzies and which is open to the public. The opening of the salmon season is celebrtated annually in January at Kenmore which sits in close proximity to the magnificent Taymouth Castle, ancestral seat of the Campbells of Breadalbane. It was here in 1842 that Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert stayed as guests of the Marquess of Breadalbane.

Nowadays there is an 18-hole golf course in the grounds which is open to membership.

Both the Queen and her husband were inspired by the glorious scenery on all sides, and returning to Scotland two years later to stay as guests of Lord Glenlyon at Blair Castle, determined to have a home of their own in the Highlands. Within six years they had purchased the Balmoral estate.

Following the death of Prince Albert in 1861, the Queen set off on a picnic with her personal ghillie John Brown and the Royal party settled to enjoy the breathtaking view of Loch Tummel with the distant Glencoe hills in the far distance. This spot, which features on the road north, is known as The Queen's View.

The earls and dukes of Atholl descend from a Flemish nobleman who came to Scotland in the 12th century and, for his services, was granted extensive lands by David I of Scotland. He married into the old line of the Mormaers of Moray from whom the family name of Murray originates. Freskin's descendants consistently supported the Royal House of Stewart, and are still in possession of the same lands, even though one of their number, Lord George Murray, younger son of the first Duke of Atholl, played a prominent part in the 1745 Uprising.

In the nineteenth century, the picturesque town of Pitlochry became a popular holiday resort. In 1947, a dam was built here as part of the Tummel Hydro Electric Power Scheme and since then a fish ladder has been introduced, a popular visitor attraction.

There are two distilleries to be found here – The Blair Atholl Distillery and Edradour, which is Scotland's smallest. Both provide visitor centres and manufacture distinctive single malts.

The innovative Pitlochry Festival Theatre was opened in 1851 by John Stewart, and the current building built at Port-na-Craig opened its doors in 1981.

On 27th July 1689, a great battle was fought at Killiecrankie by the army of William of Orange against the Jacobite-supporting Scottish clans. Although the Jacobites won, their leader John Graham of Claverhouse, known as “Bonnie Dundee”, was killed in action. It is recorded that the night before the battle, a haunting red glow appeared over the landscape, and this is said to return each July as a warning of doom.

On the slopes of the Grampian mountains can be seen the Murray stronghold of Blair Castle. Built in the thirteenth century, it was the last castle in Britain to come under siege.

Over four days in August it is home to The Blair Castle International Hourse Trials, and the Glenfiddich Fiddling Championships, created in 1989, take place here in October.

Close by is the remarkable House of Bruar, opened in 1995, and which provides a luxurious retail experience for thousands of visitors.

Where to stay
Crieff Hydro
Large country resort, with plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to keep you busy. Five on-site restaurants and a great reputation.
Tel: +44 (0)1764 651 670

Dalmunzie Castle
Idyllic country manor, complete with turrets in spectacular rolling countryside. The restaurant is Michelin-recommended.
Tel: +44 (0)1250 885 224

Craigatin House & Courtyard
Stylish and beautiful bed & breakfast, with a simply stunning vaulted lounge for where a delicious breakfast is served.
Tel: +44 (0)1796 472 478

Rock House
Light and airy bed and breakfast with heart stopping views over Loch Tay.
Also available are two luxury cottages complete with woodburner and underfloor heating.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 830 336

Ruchil Cottage
Sweet, two-bedroom cottage available for self-catering hire. The building dates from 1747, when it was used to house troops during the Jacobite rebellion.
Tel: +44 (0)7403 327 474

The Four Seasons
St Fillans
Lovely small hotel in a spectacular lochside setting. Excellent service, pet-friendly, and has a surprising place in pop-history (the Beatles stayed here in 1964).
Tel: +44 (0)1764 685 333

Knockendarroch House Hotel
Welcoming and luxurious small hotel, winner of coveted Traveller’s Choice award on Tripadvsor.
Tel: +44 (0)1796 473 473

The Green Hotel Golf & Leisure Resort
A busy resort hotel and 5,000 acre estate offering plentiful golf and leisure facilities.
Tel: +44 (0)1577 863 467

Dalqueich Farmhouse
Lovely country b&b with a superfriendly welcome. Delightful.
Tel: +44 (0)2577 862 599

Fortingall Hotel
Small country house hotel with 20 lovely bedrooms, log fires, and excellent dining.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 830 367

Murrayshall Hotel
An undiscovered jewel of Scottish luxury hotels. Set within a stunning 350 acre private estate.
Tel: +44 (0)1738 551 171

Not everyone can afford a luxury £400-£500 a night hotel, but as one of the finest in all the UK, it is undeniably sublime.
Tel: +44 (0)1764 662 231

Where to Visit
Famous Grouse Experience
Scotland’s oldest distillery, and one of its best visitor attractions. Take a tour and explore the history and culture surrounding this most famous drink.
Tel: +44 (0)1764 656 565

Pheonix Falconry
Splendid way of getting close to Scotland’s wildlife and exploring the scenery. From hour-long falconry lessons to full day hunts with the raptors.
Tel: +44 (0)1764 682 823

Scottish Crannog Centre
South Loch Tay
Scotland's only authentic recreation of a Celtic loch-dwelling.
Artefacts, wet-tanks, ancient crafts and friendly staff bring the past to life.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 830 583

Dewar’s World of Whisky
This top class visitor attraction uses only the latest technology in its exhibits, but still makes whisky in the time-honoured way.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 822 010

Black Watch Castle & Museum
The award-winning museum of one of Scotland’s most elite military regiments.
Tel: +44 (0)1738 638 152

Blair Castle
Blair Atholl
Perthshire’s premier historic home, filled with countless treasures from more than 700 years of history.
Tel: +44 (0)1796 481 207

Scone Palace
A beautiful stately home occupying a unique and powerful position in Scotland’s history.
Explore the art, antiques, architecture or spectacular gardens and grounds.
Tel: +44 (0)1738 552 300

Beatrix Potter Exhibition
A beautiful garden, dressing up for kids, and exhibitions for grown-ups interested in the Scottish influence on one of Britain’s most famous authors.
Tel: +44 (0)1350 727 674

Highland Safaris
An array of off road driving, Landrover safaris and wildlife watching tours from an award winning operator.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 820 071

Castle Menzies
Spectacular 16th century castle, swat of the Chiefs of the Clan Menzies for more than 400 years.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 820 982

Drummond Gardens
Delightful formal gardens surrounding an ancient fortress.
Scotland’s most important formal gardens, and among the finest in Europe.
Tel: +44 (0)1764 681 433

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Unique rural theatre with a varied programme of plays and events.
Tel: +44(0)1796 484 626

Where to Eat
The Laird’s House
Simply splendid tea, coffee and cake, informal lunches or slightly more formal dinners. Some local produce is available in the attached shop.
Tel: +44 (0)1250 872 292

Fern Cottage Restaurant
Very pretty cottage restaurant artfully combining Scottish and Mediterranean flavours.
Tel: +44 (0)1796 473 840

Good Food Takeaway
Delicous stonebaked pizzas, burgers and fast food to grab and go. A million miles away from your usual takeaway fare.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 822 686

Roost Restaurant
Kintillo, Bridge of Earn
Smart restaurant offering expertly cooked and beautifully presented dishes, all homemade using a variety local ingredients.
Tel: +44 (0)1738 812 111

Apron Stage
Tiny, but utterly charming restaurant offering French inspired cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere.
Tel: +44 (0)1739 828 888

Yann’s at Glenearn House
Bistro-style restaurant with French flair, also five double rooms. Great service ensures this establishment is highly recommended.
Tel: +44 (0)1764 650 111

Andrew Fairlie @ Gleneagles
This restaurant is always included in our listings of this area. It’s one of the best for fine dining in all of Scotland.
If you can afford it, go.

The North Port Resturant
Perth Stylish city centre restaurant serving up contemporary British cuisine in an historic building.
Tel: +44 (0)1738 580 867

Logierait Inn
Honest pub food in a cosy atmosphere, complete with wooden tables and log fires.
Tel: +44 (0)1796 482 423

Sophisticated Parisian-style brasserie in the heart of the town. A truly French dining experience.
Tel: +44 (0)1738 248 784

Restaurant at Ailean Chraggan
Seafood specialities, a relaxed atmosphere and five ensuite rooms.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 820 346

Jon and Fernanda’s Restaurant
Intimate and atmospheric dining experience, food simply superb.
Tel: +44 (0)1764 662 442

The Rooftop Restaurant Knock Castle Hotel,
First class food and breathtaking views of the Perthshire countryside.
Tel: +44 (0)1764 650 088