From the Pictish words for stones, or stepping stones, Pitlochry is one of Scotland’s most enchanting places to visit.
With clear sparkling air, beautiful scenery, rich clan history, fine food and drink, and plenty of space for everyone, Pitlochry is known as a holiday destination, but boasts plenty to see and do throughout the year.
That’s why we picked Pitlochry for our new Ginspired Day Trip! So, step we gaily along to the heart of Scotland and ‘Pick Pitlochry’.
Getting here is easy. Connected by the A9 trunk road, rail (Perth – Inverness line) and routes to both east and west, Pitlochry really is located in the heart of the country. Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow are all less than 2 hours away, so it’s a perfect place to pick for your Ginspired Daytrip!
Situated as it is, Pitlochry blends charming shops and cafes, with open countryside for highland and lowland walking, lochs, rivers and fabulous viewpoints. A Castle or two, some fascinating tales from history, and a range of activities from relaxing retail therapy to adrenalin-stimulating bungee jumps!
The centre of town offers coffee shops, gift shops and many independent retailers. Robertson’s of Pitlochry sells a selection of Scotch Whisky and an especially wide range of fine Scottish Gins. Macnaughton’s ladies and gentlemen’s outfitters dates back to 1835 and is one of Scotland’s oldest retailers. The Melt Gallery stocks a tempting collection of largely silver jewellery, made to contemporary designs, as well as art work and a variety of gorgeous ‘objets’. There’s also ‘Heather Gems’ where jewellery is crafted from the stems of the moorland heathers creating unique patterns and designs encapsulated in resin.
The town is also host to one of the oldest legal whisky sites in Scotland, Blair Athol Distillery, which is still in operation today offering distillery tours and tasting sessions. It’s just re-opened for visitors, so that’s great timing!
More recently, the area has also inspired a number of gin producers, who have taken the local pure waters and plentiful botanic offerings to create a varied range of Scottish gins.
Badvo Gin, founded by Helen Stewart in 2018, is foraged, distilled, bottled and labelled entirely on the family farm just outside Pitlochry, using Scottish juniper as a key ingredient. There’s no visitor centre just yet, but the gin is available to buy at Robertson’s of Pitlochry and also at Drinkmonger.
The Gael gin, distilled in nearby Dunkeld, was born from a love of music and gin, and heavily inspired by Dougie MacLean’s Scottish fiddle tune, ‘The Gael’. Malted barley and Scottish heather are combined to create a smooth gin with a citrus/heather aroma followed by a subtle juniper/slightly spicy flavour and a warm finish. Again, no visitor centre (yet!), but you’ll be able to get your hands on some of this tuneful liquid at Robertson’s and at Drinkmonger too.
A little way out of town, via the charming A924 road through pretty Kirkmichael, you’ll join the A93. This is the old Military Road from Blairgowrie in the south, over the heights of Glenshee, into Royal Deeside. It’s known as the Snow Road, as it’ll take you from the soft-fruit growing farmland of the Carse of Gowrie, up into the ski zone of Glenshee. In fact there’s a chair lift right by the roadside to take you even higher if you wish!
At the foot of Glenshee , you’ll find the charming Persie Gin Distillery, which is open to the public from Saturday to Thursday. Discover these Scottish gins, distilled from pure water from the local hills, using carefully chosen local botanicals: sharp citrus for
the fruity gin; fresh herbs for the savoury gin; and almonds and vanilla pods for the sweet gin. Visitors can book a 30-minute liquid tour of the distillery, and enjoy a gin flight and gin based cocktail afterwards. Make sure you have a designated driver for this one, or take the gin back to base instead.
Back to Pitlochry itself with Loch Faskally & Faskally Woods. The woods offer a beautiful space to wander, whatever the season, and are also home to the Enchanted Forest, a spectacular pioneering sound and light show held in October. The next one is scheduled for 2021. Loch Faskally has a selection of walks alongside or close to the shore, and at the end of the loch is a small café with boat and fishing gear hire. It’s walkable from Pitlochry town. Don’t forget to bring something for the ducks (not bread though, porridge oats perhaps?)
The gentle circular walk around Pitlochry and across the flowing River Tummel will lead you to the Salmon Ladder and Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre, where you can watch salmon ‘climb’ the ladder over the dam and head upstream to spawn from April through to October.
The fast paced River Tummel also offers adrenalin seekers the opportunity to enjoy white water rafting, while the bravest visitors can experience a free fall bungee jump towards the river from a bridge platform 40 metres overhead at the Highland Fling Bungee Jump in
There’s lots to explore just a short distance from Pitlochry too. The Queen’s View, less than 20 minutes’ drive away, is a stunning viewpoint overlooking Loch Tummel and the Tay Forest Park. Said to be named after Queen Victoria, following her visit to the area in 1866, some say that it was in fact named after Queen Isabella of Scotland, wife of King Robert the Bruce, over 500 years beforehand. The nearby Visitor Centre offers a café and information about the area, which has many woodland walk trails to enjoy. (check opening times as they are currently affected by Covid.)
Head north to beautiful Blair Castle & Gardens. On offer are castle tours, an impressive walled garden, sculpture trail, ruined kirk and red deer park, whilst also being home to abundant wildlife including red squirrels, peacocks and grazing Highland Cattle. There’s a pleasant café within the Castle too. The Blair Horse Trials are usually held here in summer, which showcase the lovely Castle backdrop and parklands.
The nearby House of Bruar stocks an impressive collection of traditional Scottish Tweed and cashmere, as well as a stunning selection of locally sourced Scottish food and drink, with a wide range of Scottish gins including their own brand House of Bruar Sloe Gin, and Raspberry liqueur.
Heading south from Pitlochry will take you to the Highland Chocolatier, where award-winning artisan chocolatier Iain Burnett creates an internationally renowned range of fresh cream truffles and spiced pralines, including the multiple awarded Velvet Truffle. Enjoy a Tasting Masterclass, a sensory experience not to be missed! Take away a Chocolate Pairing box, which offers expertly paired gourmet chocolates with an exclusive range of Scottish malt whiskies, as well as gins, champagnes and teas. When something tastes this good the calories are incidental!
Mind your ‘Rs’
Just across the road, the River Tay tumbles across rocky rapids beside the Inn on the Tay. If you like the idea of being in a washing machine on a spin cycle, book up for a ride down the rapids in a rib (roll your ‘r’s like a Highlander when you say this – it sounds much better!). Alternatively, take an outside table at the Inn and order a Scottish gin to enjoy while you watch the eejits on the boats!
So, do ‘Pick Pitlochry’ when planning a day trip. There really is something for everyone here, and much of it’s available year round. The whole range of accommodation from five star luxury spa hotels to simple B&Bs so every body and every budget is sorted. And of course, whilst in town, make sure to enjoy the local gins!
Here are a few more ideas for things to see and do, places to stay, eat and drink. Just click through the links on each one to learn more.
Do let us know what you enjoyed the most, what you’d recommend to others, and if you have some secret discoveries to share with us.
Have a great #ginspireddaytrip!