Your Complete Weekend Guide to Pitlochry
Pitlochry is a small Victorian town in the heart of the Perthshire Highlands in Scotland. During our Scottish Road Trip, we chose to stay in Pitlochry for the weekend because the town had so many places to explore. In addition to breathtaking scenery and traditional Scottish hospitality, the walks, distilleries and waterfalls had me hooked. And not forgetting the Pitlochry Dam Salmon Ladder; that really had set off my curiosity!
Pitlochry is located close to the Cairngorms; the largest national park in the UK, so plenty of outdoor pursuits await your arrival. It also sits on the River Tummel, and the circular walk from town past the hydro dam and theatre is a beautiful way of getting a feel for the area and was one of my favourite things to do in Pitlochry.
The high street is lined with artisan shops, restaurants, cafes and an amazing ice-cream shop called Scotch Corner of Pitlochry; I would recommend the delicious whisky ice-cream!
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How to get to Pitlochry
We had arrived at Pitlochry by car from the Isle of Skye via Spean Bridge and Newtonmore. It took us just under 4 hours as we had taken the picturesque route on the A82, A86 and A9 with stops for photographs along the way. By taking the straight A9 route, your journey will be reduced to around 3 hours.
By Car, Pitlochry is situated on the A9 (Scotland’s longest road) which runs from Thurso in the far north through the central areas of Scotland to Stirlingshire.
By Coach, Megabus offer routes including Glasgow and Edinburgh to Pitlochry.
Pitlochry Hotels and Accommodation
There are plenty of places to stay in Pitlochry as it is a really popular location. Numerous Pitlochry hotels, bed & breakfast properties, guest houses and hostels cater for the demand. It is advisable to book a place to stay in Pitlochry well in advance in the peak summer season.
Based on my experience, I personally recommend Craigatin House, an award-winning boutique bed & breakfast hotel, a short 5-minute walk from the centre of town. The beautiful Victorian house has been decorated in a modern style but keeping with its Scottish heritage. My en-suite room was large, with a picture-perfect view of the surrounding countryside.
Breakfast is taken either in the conservatory or the dining room and offers traditional and Scottish options. The buffet includes continental meals and homemade whisky and cream porridge (it is amazing!). Coffee and tea are served by the owners, who are more than happy to have a chat about the hotel and recommend the best things to do in Pitlochry during your stay.
photo credit @Craigatin House
Things to do in Pitlochry
The Queens View #1
This is a wonderful place to view the Scottish countryside from the River Tummel and the Tay Forest out to the stunning peak of Schiehallion. It is said to be named after Queen Victoria who visited the area however Scottish legend says that it is actually named after Queen Isabella, the wife of Robert the Bruce. Whichever story is correct the Queen’s View is one of the most popular tourist spots in Pitlochry.
You will be able to capture the most beautiful photographs of Pitlochry from this lookout and afterwards indulge in some traditional Scottish fayre from the visitor centre next to the car park.
Pitlochry Dam and Salmon Ladder #2
The powerful Hydro-Electric Dam at Pitlochry may not sound particularly exciting however when you are walking across its bridge and can hear and see thousands of gallons of water thundering beneath you then you realise it is something special.
And of course, it is here that you will also find the ingenious “Salmon Ladder“. Built to keep the salmon moving on their journey upstream from the Atlantic to the River Tummel during their spawning season of April to October.
The flow from the bottom of the fish ladder attracts the salmon into the first pool, and from there they rise through connecting pools until they have climbed the height of the dam. Over 5,000 salmon travel to the River Tummel in this manner each year!
Dam Visitor Centre #3
To find more out about the Pitlochry Dam then the visitor centre will give you an insight into the dam, the life cycle of the salmon, green power and energy in Scotland and local habitats and wildlife.
With free entry and a state of the art café, this is a great place to find out some interesting information about Pitlochry.
Festival Theatre #4
Named Scotland’s Theatre in the Hills and offering the visitor the chance to see theatre plays and creative works during a stay in Pitlochry. With an award-winning restaurant and views along the River Tummel, this is the perfect place to spend an evening if you are a lover of the creative arts.
Explorers Garden #5
The unique Explorers Garden is next to the Festival Theatre. It celebrates the findings of some of the most successful plant hunters in Scotland and is divided into different areas. These include gardens from Australia and New Zealand, North America and Japan as well as bridges, streams and beautiful vistas.
Faskally Forest and Loch #6
Discover the 1.2km walk following the shore of the loch, past a picturesque boathouse and an unusual wooden footbridge. This is an easy walk but wear decent footwear if it is wet. Faskally Forest is just off the B8019, about 1-mile north-west of Pitlochry.
If you are visiting in the winter, then one of the most beautiful things to do in Pitlochry is to experience the Enchanted Forest. Using the Faskally Forest as a natural backdrop, you will experience lights, music and incredible visuals. An evening out for all the family.
Eradour Distillery #7
Dating back to 1825, Eradour distillery is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries. A great way to enjoy a couple of hours in Pitlochry is to join a tasting tour at this quaint historic distillery in Scotland. Eradour is a few minutes drive from the town centre in the surrounding countryside.
Blair Athol Distillery #8
Blair Athol Distillery is one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland. Enjoy a leisurely tour, and then sample a wee dram of Blair Athol 12-Year-Old Whisky.
Blair Castle and Gardens #9
Blair Castle is one of Scotland’s most well-known historical monuments and for a good reason. The oldest part of this castle dates to 1269 and is the Clan Murray’s ancestral home and the seat of their chieftain, the Duke of Atholl.
Thirty rooms are open to the public and contain furniture, paintings and weaponry from a bygone era.
The castle gardens are set in a sprawling 9-acre estate. The “Hercules Gardens” are listed as one of Scotland’s most beautiful gardens with a life-sized Hercules statue watching over them. Visitors can stroll around the orchard, landscaped ponds, flower gardens and discover a Chinese bridge. The Blair Castle sculpture trail is a big attraction which incorporates 18th century and contemporary art forms.
The castle is 6 miles from the town of Pitlochry, and if you arrive on the hour, you will experience the castle bagpiper and get a real taste of life in the Scottish highlands.
House of Bruar #10
Located 10 miles from Pitlochry, the House of Bruar is a huge shopping complex but with a twist. It sells outdoor wear and mainly local Scottish products, much from the nearby Atholl Estate. It is a perfect place to visit if you want to take some local Scottish souvenirs home with you. The start of the walk to see the “Waterfalls of Bruar” also begins here.
The Waterfalls of Bruar #11
The walk starts behind the House of Bruar and is well signposted. Make your way along the river bank and over two stone bridges to see the wondrous Falls of Bruar. If it has been raining the route can be muddy so be prepared by wearing the correct footwear.
Highland Safaris #12
If you are looking for an exhilarating experience during your stay in Perthshire then why not book with Highland Safaris, winner of the “Best Visitor Experience” in Scotland. From animal encounters, walking, and cycling, there is a Scottish outdoor activity to suit all interests.
Explore the Cairngorms #13
Pitlochry is on the doorstep of the Cairngorms National Park. Explore the landscape by car or foot and discover why visitors return time after time to discover Scotland’s hidden gems.