Fifty Things to do in Perthshire
Meikleour Beech Hedge
Black Spout Waterfall
Throughout all of Scotland, there is only one Second World War PoW camp open to the public, and it’s located just a mile outside of Comrie. Cultybraggan Camp had a holding capacity of 4000, and quickly gained a reputation for harsh conditions, even being dubbed the ‘Black Camp of the North’. Bought by the community in 2007, the camp is now divided up into several different spaces such as allotments, bakeries, and workshops.
The Falls of Archarn
When exploring the Falls of Archarn, walkers traverse an enchanting pathway through a Victorian folly and climb one of Scotland’s iconic glens. The falls are found just outside the village of Kenmore, and the walk itself takes around an hour – but the views might make it last longer! As the fascinating Hermit’s Cave can be rather gloomy, it is recommended that a torch be taken for safety.
Glen Lyon Praying Hands
The Neolithic population of Scotland left future archaeologists and historians with countless uncrackable mysteries to puzzle over. One of these is the number of standing stones dotted across the country, such as this pair in Glen Lyon. Sometimes referred to as Fionn’s Rock, these stones are arranged similarly to a pair of hands praying towards the heavens.
Like a prototype Alcatraz, Lochleven Castle sits atop an island in the centre of its namesake loch. While the isle and ruined castle lie peaceful now, in 1567, Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned within the walls by William Douglas, who kept her in custody for eleven months. When Mary finally escaped in 1568, she would never return to Scotland again.
Loch of Lowes
One of the more unique walking routes in the north, the Cateran Trail has no beginning nor end. Instead, this 103km (64 mile) track begins and ends wherever the walker decides, making it an incredibly flexible journey for tentative hikers. As the entire route is waymarked and continuously maintained by the local council, the Cateran Trail is a great way to explore the Perthshire landscape.
Beatrix Potter Garden
Although the author was born in London, Beatrix Potter was intrinsically connected with Perthshire following her family’s long holidays spent in the county. Stepping into the quaint cottage of Hill Top, there is undeniable magic at play, primarily thanks to the intrepid work of gardener Pete Tasker who has replanted the lawn back to Potter’s original vision.
Birnam Oak and Sycamore
Immortalised forever in the witches’ prophecy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the Birnam Oak and neighbouring Sycamore are all that survives of the legendary Birnam Wood. The sprawling limbs of the oak tree are an incredible site that pays tribute to its staggering age, dating back at least 500 years to the playwright’s Perthshire visit.
Phone Box Library
Operating from an obsolete phone box, the library in Bendochy is one of the smallest in the country. The villagers are firm believers in the sharing of literature, meaning the system works purely on trust, with individuals borrowing and donating books voluntarily. In the summer months, members of the community plant fruit and vegetables in the phone box, ensuring there is always a healthy and vibrant space in the village.
A little over a century ago, the merchant Archibald Birkmyre constructed the Dalmunzie Railway as a means of escorting hunting parties up and down the hills of Glenshee. The lodge is now a ruin, yet the railway line still serves as a walking route for those in the area. Like the Royal Deeside line to its east, many of the community hope to see this hidden track restored to its former glory.
Cluny House Gardens
Gardening runs in the Masterton family’s veins. During the 1950s, partners Betty and Bobby began arranging what would turn into Cluny House Gardens around a few exemplar trees in the area. Now tended by their youngest daughter, the green space has only expanded over the decades, encompassing countless species of trees and smaller flora.
Fittingly for the jewel in Perthshire’s crown, Scone Palace was the location of dozens of Scottish coronations over the centuries. The immense red sandstone castle is infused with more history than perhaps any other place in the country. However, there is more than historicity on offer at Scone: visitors can also traverse the pentangular hedge maze created by internationally acclaimed designer Adrian Fisher.
Representing one of the triumphs of Mary’s reign, Huntingtower Castle housed the Queen and her husband as they fought off the rebels’ Chaseabout Raid. The twin tower houses establish Huntingtower as a strange castle architecturally, with various hidden alcoves and secret spots used to shield some of the royals’ more precious artefacts. Dating from 1540, the beautiful hand-painted ceiling is another of the castle’s highlights.
Hidden deep within the fields northeast of Killin lies an abandoned mine, initially dug by men in search of precious materials such as sulphur and copper. Although these endeavours proved unsuccessful, Tomnadashan has nevertheless become famed for its alter-ego: the Cave of Caerbannog as encountered in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Whether visitors confront a killer bunny or not, the location is not to be missed for fans of the Pythons.
The tranquil state of Drummond Castle belies its tumultuous history, with the building playing major roles in both Cromwell’s invasion and the Jacobite uprising. Although the privately owned castle is not open to the public, the opulent gardens are. The grounds encompass a huge amount of land, and every inch has been meticulously crafted to enchant visitors with dazzling colours and exotic flora.
Glen Tilt Walk
Lain across the very northern tip of Perthshire, Glen Tilt is a route formed on a fault line that stretches for around 11 miles. Glen Tilt is enclosed by the immense Atholl Estates, meaning that the surrounding areas are equally perfect for those searching for idyllic walks or cycles. Following the Glen’s path, walkers will often be accompanied by the beautiful River Tilt, whose rockpools and falls are simply enchanting.
The Fergusson Gallery
Located centrally within Perth’s city centre, the two-tiered cylindrical Fergusson Gallery is a celebration of one of Scotland’s most influential artists. J.D Fergusson, born in Leith in 1874, rapidly became a leading figure in the Scottish Colourist movement. This gallery holds his own immense collection of work and archival documents, all viewable free of charge.
The chalk-white walls of Blair Castle stand out brilliantly against its surrounding sea of dark-green trees. The ancestral seat of Clan Murray, the castle passed through various hands since its construction began in 1269. Though still in private possession, the stately home offers tours and visits to tourists, giving people a chance to glimpse the truly opulent interior design of Scottish nobility.
Bringing a small glint of fairy-tale whimsy into the Perthshire landscape, the ‘twinned’ stones lie some distance apart on the sides of the A85. Although it’s arguable just how lifelike the Frog stone is, the Crocodile stone bears significant resemblance to its namesake. Standing high above the motorway, the painting is thought to be around a century old and makes a wonderful landmark for the various walking routes in the area.
Even in the ancient era of the Picts, the Dunkeld area was held as a site of holiness. By the 7th century, Saint Columba was said to have established a monastery on the land, and even his bones were kept buried inside. Over the centuries, the cathedral evolved with the contemporary styles, meaning Dunkeld is a fascinating amalgam of varying architectural visions and movements.
First built in the 16th century, the spectacular Castle Menzies was restored into its current state during the 20th century after 500 years of warfare and weather damage. By 1957, the castle was a ruin, having been hotly contested during the Jacobite rebellion, until it was elevated by the Menzies Clan Society. Now in the hands of a charitable trust, the restored castle is freely available for public visits.
Blair Atholl Waterwheel
Although first turning in 1590, the Blair Atholl Waterwheel is a rare example of a working wheel in the 21st century. The mill produces a variety of flours and oatmeal, which in turn are crafted into delicious baked goods in the on-site café. The wheel is spun by water from the River Tilt, meaning it is one of only three operating waterwheels in the country.
Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery
There are fewer exports as intrinsically linked to Scotland than whisky. Scotch is part of the country’s lifeblood, and Dewar’s is one of the most celebrated producers. Aberfeldy was where Dewar’s first came into being, establishing their first distillery on the site in 1898. Visitors to the spot can join one of the frequent distillery tours that explore each step of the process (including the drinking).
A few miles north of Pitlochry, the coursing flows of the River Garry begins its journey into the River Tummel. By extension a tributary of the River Tay, the Garry is not to be overshadowed by its larger family, especially given its scenic location and idyllic walking route. Queen Victoria, a noted lover of the Scottish landscape, commented that the river is “very fine, rolling over large stones, and forming perpetual falls”.
Birks of Aberdeldy
Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre
Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Built to keep up with the burgeoning performance art scene in the north, the Pitlochry Festival Theatre opened its doors in the late 1940s at the behest of promoter John Stewart. The theatre has remained a hotbed of up-and-coming performers, directors, and producers, who are constantly pushing the boundaries with cutting-edge scripts and breathing new life into old favourites.
The Scottish Crannog Centre
Croft Moraig Stone Circle
Travel northeast from the River Tay and down the rocky hillside and you will come across another set of enigmatic stones. Using shards of pottery found on the site, archaeologists date the circle to at least 2000BC, although they may have been arranged even earlier. There are various fascinating practices visible at Croft Moraig, from the traditional recumbent stone to what some theorize is a deliberate astronomical alignment.
Weem Wood Walk
Tucked away in the Perthshire forests, the cosy Weem Wood Walk takes visitors through the titular wood and around the surrounding landscape. This walk is excellent for viewing Perthshire from new perspectives, giving climbers fantastic panoramas of nearby Aberfeldy. The trail ends at St. David’s Well – a spring found at the back of a deep cave, where St. Cuthbert reportedly spent many nights praying.
The stunning autumnal beauty of Killiecrankie may give the impression of a tranquil area of countryside, but its dramatic history is anything but. The Battle of Killiecrankie was an incredibly violent episode in the Jacobite uprising, occurring on the 27th of July 1689. Visitors can also appreciate Soldier’s Leap – the 18-foot gap across the frothing River Garry that a Redcoat soldier cleared to escape certain death.
Castles in as good condition as Elcho are few and far between, especially ones dating back as far as the 16th century. Both the interior and exterior are fully explorable, standing as a testament to the architectural prowess of Scottish builders at the time. Even the decorative plasterwork can be viewed inside, as the incredibly fortified nature of Elcho meant little damage has stripped away the interior’s beauty.
Fortingall Yew Tree
The world’s leading botanists struggle to identify exactly how old the Fortingall Yew Tree is. However, at between 2000 and 3000 years, it is possibly the oldest living thing in Scotland. The Yew has changed shaped frequently over the centuries – in fact, its current state is far smaller than previously noted, with the trunk first being recorded as 52ft wide in 1769.
Comrie’s Earthquake House
Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre
One of the most expansive of its kind in the country, Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre has entertained locals and tourists alike for over a decade. From farmyard animals to more exotic creatures, there are over 50 species calling Auchinarrich their home, each with their own eccentric personality. Maxine and Shona, the park’s full-time keepers, are experts in the field and are always excited to teach visitors about their favourite animals.
Maggie Walls Memorial
Kenmore lies at the natural end of the 14-mile River Tay, where all its dozens of tributaries coalesce into one pool. The town itself is a wonderful hub for exploring the rest of Perthshire, as well as for water-based activities across the River Tay. Elsewhere, visitors can try out some of the local golf courses or indulge in the seaside spot’s incredible fresh cuisine.
Battle of Luncarty
In the shadow of the Trossachs lies the extensive freshwater Loch Katrine. At 13km long and 1km wide, the loch seems to stretch its way infinitely into the horizon, creating a gorgeous effect when viewed from afar. For those looking to explore the loch further, the Sir Walter Scott ship offers visitors a chance to sail up and down the water, letting the crisp fresh air blow away any stresses.
Loch Katrine Aqueduct
Kellie Castle is a wonderfully eccentric clash of two distant time periods. The exterior, looming over its rolling grounds of pristine green, remains faithful to its original 14th-century construction. However, falling a restoration and overhaul in the 19th century, its interior is a beautiful example of Victorian design, making Kellie Castle a must-see for anyone fascinated by unusual architecture.