35 things to do in Pitlochry, Scotland: a highland escape

Things to do in Pitlochry, Scotland | PACK THE SUITCASES

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Here are 35 of the best things to do in Pitlochry, Scotland, a pretty stone-built Victorian town known as ‘the gateway to the highlands’. This guide should give you a good flavour of Pitlochry and the surrounding area, and of course plenty of ideas for things to see/eat/drink. Pitlochry has loads of attractions within easy reach if you’re driving. And if you’re coming by rail, the town has its own station and you can experience some gorgeous scenic lines. 

Pitlochry is located in Perthshire, on the River Tummel. It’s in a unique setting, surrounded by big rivers, lush glens and imposing mountains, including Ben Vrackie and Schehallion with its cone-shaped summit. Breathtaking scenery aside, the town is idyllic in its own right. Pretty Victorian-style covered shopping areas are lined with colourful, overflowing hanging baskets of flowers. Stylish independent cafés sit side-by-side with quaint old pubs, all serving good local food and a surprising amount of excellent vegan options. And Pitlochry has some cute independent shops where you can buy unnecessary nice things as souvenirs for friends back home (or for yourself; let’s be realistic). There’s also the hydroelectric dam and two whisky distilleries.

If this all sounds up your street, read on for more detail on some of my recommendations for lovely things to do in Pitlochry, Scotland. Pour yourself a whisky (if you don’t hate the stuff as I do!) and get planning…

Things to do in Pitlochry, Scotland

1. Explore the picturesque town centre 

I had to start this list with the most obvious but important thing: taking in the town. If you’re anything like me, you’ll do a lap of a new place when you arrive to get your bearings. Pitlochry’s pretty Victorian centre is full of bright floral displays, covered shopping areas, and small green spaces.

When I visited recently, there was a lot of ‘yarn bombing’ going on. If you’re not familiar with that trend, it’s when people cover things in colourful crocheted patterns to make an art installation. There’s quite a bit around the war memorial and garden, so look out for that.

Wherever you are when exploring the town centre, you’re never far from a view of the surrounding mountains. If you hadn’t noticed the wonderfully clear and fresh air, the hills peeping through chimney pots as you wander the side streets will remind you you’re properly up in the highlands now, even if there is a Greggs right next to you.

2. Do the short but steep hike up Craigower 

One of the best things to do in Pitlochry early on in your trip (while you still have plenty of energy and haven’t eaten your own bodyweight in local grub yet) is to tackle Craigower. I decided the bigger and mildly daunting Ben Vrackie wasn’t for me as it’d have taken the best part of a day. Craigower is much more achievable but you still earn yourself a cake afterwards for effort. It’s steep, okay?

Most websites say the walk takes about 2 hours but it took me less than that. I’m not really a speedy walker, either. The route takes you through pretty woodland owned by the National Trust for Scotland, up to a summit with good views across two lochs. It starts at Craigower car park, which is more of a small clearing for about four cars next to the road rather than what I’d call a car park. You cross a golf course to start the walk but don’t let that put you off. It gets better. Unless of course you get hit by a golf ball and die. Try to avoid that.

Once you’re into the woods, the ascent begins. I’m not going to talk you through the whole route as I’m not best qualified and would probably make you get lost. I really recommend a two-pronged approach of using the excellent Ordnance Survey app on your phone and following the instructions from Walk Highlands, one of my favourite blogs (should I be mentioning a rival blog?! It’s great but please don’t abandon Pack The Suitcases for it).

3. Enjoy the best lunch and cake at Cafe Calluna

Like most popular Scottish towns, Pitlochry has more than its fair share of cafés and tearooms to choose from. It can be overwhelming trying to pick somewhere for lunch or for tea and cake. What a terrible problem to have, eh?

My favourite is definitely Cafe Calluna. You have to try it, but I recommend you come wearing a loose dress or elasticated trousers. I was drawn to it by its fairy lights twinkling through the window when I first walked past and when I saw the number of vegan treats on the menu, I was sold. (It also does plenty of gluten-free food too, if you need that). 

The soup of the day is always vegan and comes with bread, oatcakes (when in Scotland…), or various panini. There are also plenty of sandwiches/toasties and salads. But the main deal is the cake, of course. I highly recommend the carrot cake but I’ll be sampling the Lotus Biscoff cake next time too. The café is also dog-friendly so as well as people-watching while you eat, you can also dog-spot, which is even better.

4. See what Queen Victoria loved so much about Queen’s View

Queen’s View is, as the name suggests, a specific view over Loch Tummel that Queen Victoria took a liking to back in 1866. It’s either named after her or Queen Isabella of Scotland, who enjoyed it about 500 years before she got there. Either way, it’s royally pleasing to the eye and definitely worth a visit.

Queen’s View has even got its own visitor centre, run by the National Trust for Scotland, where you can learn about the area or visit the café for sustenance before a walk. You can head off on several different walks of varying lengths and difficulty from it. While at the visitor centre, keep an eye out for the bench amusingly engraved with the words ‘The Queen’s Pew’. A photo opportunity if ever there was one.

The view itself is reached by trotting from the visitor centre (about a minute’s walk, nothing exciting) to a little viewing platform where you can elbow other tourists out of the way. It really is a pretty spectacular view, especially if you get it on a clear day. The loch is perfectly framed by lush green forests and the cone-shaped Schehallion mountain. And although it’s an obvious tourist area, this does at least mean you have people around who might be willing to take your photograph with it. Instant profile picture, I promise.

5. Treat yourself to fish and chips

I think fish and chips end up being an inevitable part of any local UK-based trip. Even though you can easily get them at home, it’s somehow better when you’re away. And if you’re doing self-catering, a chippy tea on your first night is the law. As you can probably tell from my face in this picture, I’m very pleased about this law.

There are two options for chippies in Pitlochry:

  • Try McKay’s on the main road in good weather because you can sit outside and watch the world go by while stuffing your face. 
  • The Plaice to Be is a reliable choice and always has a queue, for good reason.

You can also get fish and chips as an option in pretty much every pub in Pitlochry but there’s something infinitely better about having them from a proper chippy, isn’t there? Both of those places do gluten-free options too. Unfortunately, neither do vegan options (vegan sausage and chips might appear one day maybe, seeing as Pitlochry is so good for vegan options generally). But McKay’s does a veggie burger, and the chips and mushy peas are big portions so you’d likely be okay with just those.

6. Sample a wee dram of local whisky on the Blair Athol Distillery tour

I’ll admit I can’t stand whisky. But when in Scotland, and especially in the highlands, you have to get into the spirit (pun intended) of things.

Pitlochry is home to one of the oldest distilleries, Blair Athol, which has been whisky-ing since 1798. And yes that’s Blair Athol with one L, despite the nearby town having two. You find out about this deliberate typo on the tour.

Pitlochry is a good place to make whisky due to the beautifully clear water flowing from highland springs. Blair Athol’s water source is the Allt Dour (the ‘burn of the otter’). This burn runs through the grounds of the distillery, and apparently you can sometimes see otters there. Their logo even has an otter on it. I think I was more interested in the prospect of cute otters than the whisky, tbh.

I definitely recommend doing a tour though, even if you hate whisky too. It smells nice, and the history and process are interesting. Amusingly, when I did the tour recently, almost everyone else on it also didn’t like whisky and was just there out of interest. We all still forced the three samples down at the end, though. This was the £14, 45-minute tour. You get a wee shot glass to take home (which will never see whisky again in my house). I really enjoyed it. It’s a good thing to do on a cooler day as a lot of it is indoors, and the 4pm tour could fill time in the late afternoon/early evening before you go to eat. Make sure to call into the on-site bar as well; it’s a really attractive setting for a drink.

Check the official Blair Athol Distillery website for opening times and to book tickets.

7. Visit the beautiful Blair Castle and Gardens 

As a horsey person, I’ve known Blair Castle and Gardens for years as being home to the massive Blair International Horse Trials. This is one of the highlights of the UK’s equestrian calendar and I’ve always wanted to go. It’s still on my list, but at least now I’ve actually visited the beautiful grounds and castle where it takes place.

I really recommend going to Blair Castle, even if you’re perhaps on a longer trip through Scotland and are feeling a bit castled-out. The castle is such a stunning white building, not grey stone like many other Scottish castles. And it’s set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains. There are gorgeous red deer on the grounds as well as some fantastic walled gardens to wander through.

Anyone with an interest in Scottish history will enjoy finding the slightly eerie ruins of St Bride’s Kirk in the grounds. This is where the grave of Viscount Dundee, known as Bonnie Dundee, is. He was killed at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689. The castle interior is also excellent and has the usual massive room full of antlers, which as we all know is as prolific as an open-plan kitchen for any ancient Scottish castle.

I’m dead into gardening so the walled garden is my thing, and I’m particularly impressed by their excellent shady borders, which gave me a few ideas for my own garden. The big pond in the middle makes it a relaxing place to sit for a bit and watch the ducks (featuring adorable ducklings at the right time of year).

8. Try the incredible vegan tasting menu at Saorsa 1875: one of the best things to do in Pitlochry for foodies

Oh hello, unexpected vegan fine dining in small Scottish town. Who needs a big city to have an exquisite five-course tasting menu? I honestly cannot recommend this enough. Even if you’re not vegan and don’t normally dabble in the plant-based life, you need to experience this if you’re in Pitlochry. 

I was completely blown away by Saorsa 1875. It’s actually a boutique vegan hotel (slightly out of my price range tbh) but you can just go for the tasting menu of an evening and don’t have to be staying there. This is £50 a head for five courses. I’ve probably had more vegan tasting menus on my travels than I care to admit, but this means I can confirm it’s well worth the money. I hate to think how much it’d cost in Manchester or London.

All the ingredients are fresh, local and carefully chosen by an incredibly talented chef. It’s clearly heading towards a Michelin star if it carries on like this. And because of the food being so good and the chef coming out at the end to chat, you might end up talking to other diners like I did, which sounds like it’d be awful but is actually lovely, trust me.

You can wash all the amazing food down with some local beer from Wasted Degrees Brewery (see further on in this list) or some gorgeous wines and cocktails.

Consumables aside, the restaurant is beautiful. I loved the styling and slightly fancy but relaxed feel to it. You’d be fine putting a dress and heels on but equally okay in jeans. There are plants everywhere and lots of mid-century furniture. Don’t miss the ‘naughty corner’ chair by the front door!  Oh and there are dogs in reception. Have you booked it yet?

9. Spot the salmon heading up the fish ladder at Pitlochry Dam

You might have already seen photos of Pitlochry Dam as it’s quite a landmark. It’s very close to the centre so will naturally be one of the first places you explore on your visit. When the hydroelectric dam was constructed (between 1947 and 1951), people worried it would ruin the quaint town. But the opposite has happened and it’s become an attraction in itself. It’s really impressive and worth spending a bit of time in. 

The dam obviously blocks the way up the River Tummel for the fish who live in it, namely the thousands of salmon who leap their way upstream to breed. That’s why it also has a special ‘fish ladder’ as part of it. This is a series of 37 steadily rising pools, a bit like a lock for boats to go up through a canal, where the fish can ‘climb’ up to the top and be on their way.

You used to be able to watch the salmon through glass panels inside the dam building, but sadly this has been closed due to safety issues. You can still watch on live webcams, but it’s not quite the same. Hopefully they’ll sort it out at some point. Even without this, it’s still good to see.

There’s also an excellent café and a visitor centre on site. This has loads of information and exhibitions on hydroelectricity, the local area, and – of course – salmon.

10. Walk round the tranquil and picturesque Loch Rannoch: one of the best things to do in Pitlochry on a sunny day

Loch Rannoch, about a 40-minute drive from Pitlochry, is a must-do. The drive there is stunning in itself and the loch is truly spectacular. 

There are walks of varying length that you can do to take it in from various angles and heights, most of which are listed in detail on the Perth and Kinross Country Trust site as well as the OS Maps app (my trusty friend).

If you want to drive around the 22-mile circumference of the loch, you can stop off at various points (going anti-clockwise) to follow the Clan Trail. The trail features different information boards that tell the stories of clans that used to live in the area, with interesting and sometimes bloody and grim insights. You’ll spot various clan-based scenery as you go, such as an artificial island on the west side of the loch, which was built in the 18th century for the MacGregor clan to hide out in.

Even if you’re not up for walking or learning about clans, it’s vital that you at least go and look at Loch Rannoch. It’s a magical place and, if you get a quiet spot, a haven of tranquillity where you can only hear nature and the water… Until you give in to temptation and start skimming stones, of course.

11. See the soldier’s leap and trains going over the viaduct at Killiekrankie 

In the Pitlochry area, leaping is a big hobby. Originally coined by salmon, it was later picked up by soldiers. If you’re wondering whether I’ve completely lost the plot, bear with me.

Killiekrankie Pass is a beautiful wooded gorge over the amusingly named River Garry. I think Garry is a great name for a river.

The pass is at its best in autumn, when the trees lining the gorge are just on fire with red, gold and orange. It’s a photographer’s dream. But it also has an interesting history (of leaping).

Start off at the visitor centre, which has good info on local wildlife and geology. It’s then a short walk to the Soldier’s Leap. In 1689, during the Battle of Killiekrankie, a Redcoat soldier called Donald McBane was legging it from the Jacobite army. As you would. He found himself with no choice but to leap across an 18-foot gap over the raging river (our Garry). Remarkably, he made it. Now tourists flock to see where his inconceivable feat took place. Poor Donald was deffo born in the wrong era. If he’d been around today, we’d be seeing him compete in the long jump at the Olympic Games.

Although the Leap is interesting, it’s not the most spectacular thing scenery-wise in Killiekrankie. If you continue along the path, you’ll pass a viaduct where you can get down to the river. Wait about 15 minutes there and you’ll hopefully catch a train going past. Give it an obligatory wave and the driver might toot back (they did for me, anyway!).

Carry on along the path and in about a mile you’ll reach a footbridge over the river. The views from the bridge are glorious. From there, you can actually walk the 3 miles to Pitlochry, or turn round and follow the river back.

12. Stuff yourself with cheesecake at Hettie’s Tearoom

Things to do in Pitlochry, Scotland | PACK THE SUITCASES

It’s impossible to miss the blue facade of Hettie’s Tearoom on the main road in Pitlochry. I was drawn in by the signs for homemade scones and cheesecakes, which are both essentials when you’ve been doing loads of walking.

The cakes are huge and they do plenty of vegan options (and some gluten-free). There are SO many varieties of tea on the menu, sadly wasted on me as I only really love normal English breakfast tea. But if you were more adventurous, you could have a field day. They also do savoury food, which looks great, but I’ve only sampled the cakes so far.

Like many places in Pitlochry, it’s dog friendly so you can hopefully spot a few pooches while you tackle your delicious cake(s).

13. Stock up on foodie treats from House of Bruar 

The House of Bruar is an independent Scottish department store, which looks more like a repurposed stately home than your average Debenhams (RIP). Like most department stores, it does clothes, homewares and food. But not as you know it. This is all country style to the max. If it doesn’t feature tweed, antlers and/or Fair Isle, it probably won’t be in stock here.

Tweedy clothing is very much not my cup of tea. But as a horse person, I clocked that House of Bruar stocks a few equestrian brands (Ariat, Dubarry, Musto). They don’t sell their riding stuff but they have the ‘country’ lines, including yard boots. If you’re horsey too, I recommend having a browse.

Anyway, most people can easily ignore all the eye-wateringly expensive tweed and head straight for the food hall. The food hall is where it’s at.

Who knew you could fill a whole wall with different types of honey?! There’s a great gluten-free section and plenty of vegan things too. I stock up on lots of amazing cakes/biscuits/crackers/preserves (all long use-by dates) from independent Scottish brands. You can even get clootie dumplings, a traditional Scottish pudding you never see anywhere. There’s local fish/meat/cheese etc on the deli counter, and a whole room of booze.

I can easily spend a few hours at House of Bruar perusing jars of fig jam. I’d say it’s one of the unmissable things to do in Pitlochry for foodies. And if you’re staying in a self-catering cottage, you could do a shop at House of Bruar and eat like royalty for the week.

14. Treat yourself in Pitlochry’s independent shops

Pitlochry could easily just have shops selling tourist tat, given the footfall of visitors. But instead there are a very nice handful of independent shops selling proper local stuff that you can’t get anywhere else. You don’t have to buy a(nother) novelty tartan hat as your only souvenir. Phew.

I always have to pop into these lovely places and buy something for friends and family myself:

  • Honest Thistle – this is my favourite shop in Pitlochry, selling independent/artisan pretty things; stock changes but look out for the most gorgeous dressing gowns/kimonos, handmade greeting cards, and tea-towels with prints on by Scottish artist Cath Waters (I have one hanging in my kitchen as we speak!). There’s a resident Westie dog too.
  • Flùr – this is actually a florist, but it also sells gorgeous plants, candles and plant-themed books. Definitely worth a browse.
  • Handam – this is the local zero-waste shop and refill station, which also sells fresh fruit/veg/eggs. If you’re staying in a self-catering cottage and you need anything, you could get your shampoo, herbs and spices, rice, tea etc here. They sell oat milk in glass bottles too, which is brilliant. If I was a local, I’d be in here all the time.
  • The Highland Soap Company – I always go in here to buy a soap or shampoo bar or two; everything is handmade and beautiful but the wild raspberry and honeysuckle ranges are the best-smellers if you ask me.
  • Robertsons of Pitlochry – if you’ve developed a taste for local booze, this is the place for you. It’s a whisky/gin/spirits shop, but it also sells some of the local craft beer from Wasted Degrees and ale from the Moulin Brewery just down the road.

There are other independent shops in Pitlochry too, but these are the ones I like. If you have opposite tastes to me – for example, silver jewellery and tartan jackets! – you’ll still find plenty to buy.

15. Take in the varied scenery on a walk through Glen Tilt

One of my favourite but possibly lesser-known walks in the Pitlochry area is the Glen Tilt viewpoint walk. As I said earlier, I won’t risk getting you lost by attempting to describe the exact route so I’ll leave that to the OS Maps app and the fabulous Walk Highlands site.

It takes just over two hours and you start by walking just above the raging River Tilt, so you can look down on the rapids from your forest track. You then head upwards past some gorgeous cottages until you eventually come out to see glorious views of Glen Tilt. Finally, you mooch through some beautiful woodlands, with only the sound of birds around you. When I did it, I didn’t see another soul; well, other than three very cute ponies. If you’re there at the right time of year (August is ideal), your way will be punctuated by rowan trees dripping with bright-red berries.

I love the variety of landscapes on this walk, which make it a bit different from the usual forest or hill routes.

16. Gorge on delicious Indian tiffin and local gins at Cidsin

As regular readers will know, I live near Stockport in Cheshire. Manchester isn’t too far away and that probably has the highest concentration of Indian food anywhere in the country on its famous ‘Curry Mile’. So I very rarely seek out an Indian restaurant on my travels.

But Cidsin Indian Bistro and Gin Bar caught my eye in Pitlochry because it does Indian tiffin, the street food from Mumbai that workers get delivered in silver stacking containers. This is the best way to sample loads of different delicious stuff and wow, they do it so well at Cidsin. I had one of the best Indian meals I’ve ever had, and definitely the best naan bread. The fact that they also specialise in my favourite tipple, gin, is a bonus. There’s a whole gin menu, which has plenty of Scottish options on it.

Don’t be put off by the short uphill walk to the hotel where Cidsin is located. It doesn’t look much from the outside – just a normal hotel – but once you’re inside, it’s one of those places where you just know it’s going to be good. The staff are lovely too. I definitely recommend trying it, especially as it’s easy to get sick of very similar pub grub when you’re on any UK countryside break, no matter how good it is. Cidsin is a nice change and I’d be a regular if I lived in the area. For the sake of my skinny jeans fitting, I’m sort of glad I don’t.

17. Get yourself a bargain at Pitlochry Station Bookshop

If you’re anything like me, the prospect of rummaging around a secondhand bookshop will fill you with joy. Even more so when you know that most of the books are mostly £1 or a couple of quid tops and the money all goes to charity.

Pitlochry Station Bookshop is the perfect place to pass some time while waiting for your train if you’re doing a day trip somewhere. It’s located on the railway station’s platform 1, so once you’ve downloaded your train tickets you can head in and find something to read on the journey.

It’s a real treasure trove, despite being small, with a great Scottish section. You might find some bargains about the local area. Oh and you can also bring your own used books to donate, so if your luggage is feeling full you can make room (for more books?).

18. Spot a cute red squirrel

I grew up in Formby, Merseyside, which is home to one of the few remaining red squirrel reserves in England. Our house was very close to it so we had red squirrels in our garden every day and I loved watching them. Unfortunately, I now live somewhere inhabited only by the hideous grey ones, and it’s a daily disappointment. So if I’m on my travels around the UK and have even a minuscule chance of spotting an adorable red squirrel, I am ALL over it. One of the reasons I like Pitlochry so much is that it has loads of places you’re almost guaranteed to see them.

Here are some spots the little cuties frequent in the Pitlochry area:

  • Blair Castle and Gardens, which is where I saw one on my most recent Pitlochry trip! He was scampering around by the edge of the nearby caravan site. I managed not to scream.
  • Faskally Woods, if you hover around where they have the feeders on trees.
  • Black Spout Woods, especially near the waterfall area as people leave nuts for them.
  • Killiekrankie, where they’ll probably be doing some leaping.

If you like red squirrels as well, you might also like to read about another of my favourite places in Scotland, Dumfries & Galloway, which happens to be another good area to see them.

19. Walk round the dramatic Falls of Bruar waterfalls

Image credit: Nicolesabrina via Wikimedia Commons; edited by Pack The Suitcases

The Falls of Bruar are a set of very dramatic waterfalls on Bruar Water, which if you’re a Scottish poetry geek you might recognise from the works of Robert Burns. After visiting the area, he wrote ‘The Humble Petition of Bruar Water‘ as a request to the 4th Duke of Atholl to do some serious landscape gardening ASAP. He was unimpressed with the barren stony countryside around the Falls and told the Duke to tidy the place up and ‘shade my banks wi’ tow’ring trees, and bonie spreading bushes’. The Duke took Robbie’s gardening advice and did some heavy planting. Unfortunately, this was a) after Robbie had died and b) all cut down in WW2 for timber. Thankfully, it was later replanted. And so we get to enjoy rowan, birch and willow trees as we walk up.

The Falls of Bruar are about a 20-minute walk from the House of Bruar, so you can combine a trip to both in one. The ever-helpful Walk Highlands explains the route. It only takes about an hour, even if you stop for plenty of photos, so you get a lot of stunning scenery for relatively little effort. Excellent.

Oh and apologies for the stock image in this section. My photos all came out absolutely dreadful due to mizzle and gloomy skies, and I’d have been embarrassed to use any on here. I can assure you the falls are beautiful in any weather but go on a clear day if you want to do any decent photography.

20. Make use of the picturesque train line and do a day trip to Perth

The fact that Pitlochry has its own train station should not be taken for granted. There are so many wonderful places in the Scottish countryside that can only be accessed by car. In this age of needing to travel in a greener way, a train station is a real plus. As an added bonus, Pitlochry Station is very pretty, with lots of massive colourful hanging baskets of flowers, and is also home to the aforementioned bookshop. Any day trip on the train from here is a joy.

There’s some breathtaking scenery on the Highland Mainline. One of my favourite quotes is ‘happiness is a journey, not a destination’ and this is definitely true when you’re watching gorgeous countryside roll past from a train window. Lovely stuff. 

There are several small places you can get the train to and explore for a couple of hours: Dunkeld, Dalwhinnie, or Kingussie to name a few.

But my pick for a proper day trip would be Perth, known as the ‘fair city’, which is about 30 minutes away. It’s a decent size for a full day out: not too big, not too small. Perth is quite picturesque with its riverside location. It has lots of places to eat and drink, including an independent craft beer bar and shop and an amazing vegan cafe called 269 Vegan. There are a few good museums and some independent shops (look out for my fave, Boo Vake), so it’s good for a rainy day. And if it’s a warm day, you can walk up to the gorgeous hillside garden, the National Trust’s Branklyn Garden, by following the river and crossing the bridge.

I’m considering writing a whole other blog post about Perth, so do keep an eye out for that.

21. Admire the cone-shaped Schehallion: one of the best things to do in Pitlochry for keen photographers

Schiehallion is known as ‘the fairy hill of the Caledonians’. How magical and lovely is that? You can spot it by its almost perfect conical shape when viewed from the west, and it’s set a bit apart from the other mountains so really stands out.

Schiehallion forms an important part of the aforementioned Queen’s View but it’s spectacular to view from a few different places. I took this photo of it with the clouds encircling the cone while on the drive back from Loch Rannoch. It was one of those moments where you have to pull the car over because something is THAT good. 

If you want to climb Schiehallion, it’s apparently one of the easiest Munros to ‘bag’. If you’ve never heard of Munro-bagging, this is something hill-walkers call getting to the top of as many of Scotland’s mountains as possible, as long as the summit has an elevation of 3,000 feet minimum. At a six-hour round trip, if that’s one of the easiest then I don’t think Munro-bagging is for me… I bet the views are cracking though.

22. Drink some local craft beer from Wasted Degrees Brewing

If you think there’s even one city, town or village in the UK that has yet to have its own hipster craft beer, think again. Even diminutive Blair Atholl has a really cool brewery in a warehouse on an estate (Sawmill Yard) a short hop (pun intended) from the village.

Wasted Degrees does small batches of very high-quality beer. Quality over quantity for sure. Their name comes from the two owners being accused of ‘wasting’ their uni degrees by going into brewing, which amuses me. 

Naturally, I was very happy when I spotted Wasted Degrees, and even happier when I found their shop was open when I was passing and there was a cute dog. They also have an on-site taproom where you can go for drinks, which is open on Fridays and Saturdays over the summer.

I really like their Kveik Session IPA, as you can tell from the empty glass in the photo. I definitely recommend calling in, especially if you’re tired of pretending to like whisky and want to try a local drink that tastes nice.

23. Walk to Black Spout and Edradour for spectacular views across farmland and Pitlochry

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For a fairly short walk with loads of stunning views for relatively little effort, head past the Black Spout waterfall and Edradour Distillery, ending next to the Atholl Palace Hotel. You could call in at the hotel bar for a drink to reward yourself for doing some exercise.

This walk takes about 1 hour 30 minutes, or about 2 hours if you keep stopping to take photographs of the scenery…

Black Spout Wood, as mentioned earlier, is a good place to keep your beadiest of eyes out for a red squirrel. And the Black Spout Waterfall has its own viewing platform, which is a lovely photo spot. You’ll pass the tiny Edradour Distillery too. At the time of writing, this is sadly closed for visitors due to the ‘rona. But it’s still nice to see from the outside as it’s made up of gorgeous whitewashed buildings with red details.

I think the best bit of this walk, though, is the view across the fields over Pitlochry with the forests and mountains framing it. 

24. Have a drink in the Old Mill Inn beer garden

What could be better than sitting in a cosy pub garden, listening to the river roaring past while supping a pint? Doing that with a heater next to you? Well, the Old Mill Inn in Pitlochry centre very wisely has plenty of heaters. Even in the height of summer in Pitlochry, you may want heaters blasting you. I’ve started judging all pubs by their heating arrangements these days. What a time to be alive.

I’m really impressed by the Old Mill outdoor drinking area, which you get to over a small bridge strewn with fairy lights. It has a proper buzz to it and always seems to be busy but not heaving. You can get local beer, brewed just up the road in Moulin. It’s a lovely place to pop in of an evening. 

25. Learn about local history at the Atholl Country Life Museum

As soon as I saw the large statue of a horse above the Atholl Country Life Museum, I knew I had to go in. Anything with an equestrian element to it, and I’m like a moth to the flame.

This small but jam-packed museum will take you about 30 minutes to walk around. It costs £5 to get in. It’s something worth doing early on in your visit because it gives you a good idea of the history of the area, from the agricultural past to the impact of the railways. It’s very well done and gives you a proper insight into what normal local people’s lives were like, rather than just focusing on the rich lords and whatnot like many museums do. Fellow horsey people will like seeing the old harnesses and details of the famous Highland ponies from the area, some of whom were important in Highland-breeding history. Another interesting bit is the reconstructed old Post Office, which was once a big part of village life.

And there’s a Perthshire Sports Hall of Fame, featuring local successful sportspeople. You’ll notice that lots of them are curlers due to the area once having a curling rink. My favourite was Jean (pictured above), who smashed it in both highland dancing AND volleyball. What a combo. I hope she found a way to do both at once.

Oh and if you’re not sold on all this, there’s a stuffed Highland cow. You’re welcome.

26. Keep an eye out for pretty toadstools

This is a bit of a weird one I know, but the Pitlochry area is known for its fungi and I photographed loads of really unusual ones on my recent trip to research for this guide. I actually started looking them up to find the names. Perhaps I’ve been locked up in the house for too long, but many of them are really pretty, so keep your eyes peeled on walks. 

Pitlochry has plenty of damp and humid woodlands, which obviously make the ideal conditions for these little ‘fun guys’ to thrive. I’ve seen fairy circles on the way through Faskally Wood and some great red spotty toadstools en route up Craigower. And Killiekrankie visitor centre informs me that the gorge is a hotspot for rare mushrooms.

Good luck becoming a champignon (!) mushroom hunter.

27. Have a meal at Fern Cottage Restaurant

Right in the centre of Pitlochry, Fern Cottage Restaurant does Scottish food with a bit of a Mediterranean twist. It’s definitely a restaurant and not a pub, which is a nice change if you’re spending a few days or a week eating out in the area (there are a lot of pubs!). The atmosphere is really good and because it’s not a pub, you can wear a dress/jumpsuit and heels and not feel overdressed, which I obviously love. 

I recommend the veggie kebab, which comes with delicious bulgar wheat, something I LOVE but haven’t seen in a restaurant since I was in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. They have a full vegan menu as well as the main menu (which features some local Perthshire venison and smoked salmon from Dunkeld). The food is delicious.

You can book online, so if you’re like me and want to avoid making a phone call at all costs, you’ll be happy.

28. Pick a beautiful cottage or house you’d like to move to

Who doesn’t find themselves staring at an estate agent’s window while on holiday? Ooh, I can see us in a converted barn here, Keith. Etc etc.

Well in Pitlochry, you can do that and then go and spot gorgeous cottages on all the walks in the area. There are SO many beauties. They probably won’t be for sale, mind, but we’re living in a fantasy here so it doesn’t matter.

I think this cottage I saw on the walk through Glen Tilt was probably the winner for me. It was the stunning landscaped garden complete with small orchard that did it. The sage-coloured door was a real selling point too. Imagine that with pink roses growing around it in summer… Straight off a Pinterest board.

29. Do brunch at the Escape Route Cafe

Escape Route Cafe is part of a bike shop in the centre of Pitlochry. It’s one of the best places for breakfast or brunch, with really decent vegan options. As you might imagine, the interior is all quirky, bicycle-themed and really nicely done. The lunch menu and cakes look great but I can only vouch for the exquisite vegan breakfast, which features a potato scone: my favourite thing about Scottish brekkies.

It’s a good one to do maybe on your last morning there so that you round the trip off nicely and leave with a (very) full stomach if you have a long drive home. 

30. Go for a walk in Faskally Woods: one of the best things to do in Pitlochry with dogs

Faskally Woods is a beautiful place for a walk. For a short visit, either the 30-minute Dunmore Trail or the hour-long Forester Trail are perfect. The woodland is absolutely stunning, with plenty of pine trees for the local red squirrels, and Loch Dunmore with colourful wildflowers blooming on its shore. If you’re there at a quiet time, you might even spot a kingfisher hunting for fish. 

The woodland has an interesting history, being human-made and very much not as ancient as it feels. In the 19th century, Faskally House was used as a Forestry Commission School, where aspiring foresters were trained to repair woodlands that had been destroyed by felling for the war. The wood was used for testing their ideas for forestry.

I always wish I had a dog with me when I’m here as there are loads of places for them to explore, sniff and rootle in. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Pitlochry if your four-legged pals are visiting with you. 

In the autumn, Faskally Wood is home to The Enchanted Forest, a light and music show among the trees. I’ve never been while this is on, but think I’ve said I’ll have to return to Pitlochry in autumn about 100 times during this post. So there’s another reason to.

31. Drive some of the scenic roads and pull over to gawp at the views

Regular readers of Pack The Suitcases will know I’m a very reluctant driver and hardly ever drive, preferring to walk and do trains. I’ll do anything to avoid a road. But even I quite enjoyed some of the magnificent scenic drives in the area.

The best I’ve experienced is definitely the route from Pitlochry to Loch Rannoch, with breathtaking mountain scenery all around. I have to pull over several times for photo opportunities and just to take in the fresh air and silence. Magical.

You can apparently drive past Loch Rannoch and carry on to visit the well-known Rannoch Station, a wild and remote outpost on the West Highland Railway. It looks absolutely stunning, with mountains and moorland stretching as far as the eye can see. Annoyingly, I’d run out of daylight to go further on my recent trip but it’s on my list for next time (apparently it also has a tearoom, so I’m there).

32. Mooch around Kinloch Rannoch

Kinloch Rannoch, meaning ‘end of the loch’, is a picturesque village on the edge of Loch Rannoch. The main draw is the striking scenery and peaceful remote-ness. Photographers will be in their element. Kinloch Rannoch has a number of walks you can do from the centre, including an hour-long nature trail that would be good for a short visit.

In the village itself, you’ll find a church, a café, a small shop selling some local baked and smoked goods, and the rather swanky Dunalastair Hotel Suites, which would be a fabulous place to stay (sadly a bit out of my price range). Tucked away down a side passage, don’t miss The Shed Gallery. This is where local photographer Ian Biggs showcases his fantastic work, and where I purchased a book of Rannoch-based photography on my recent trip because it was so stunning. The gallery also does calendars, which would be a nice souvenir to take home. 

You’ll most likely want to head straight to the shore of Loch Rannoch once you’ve explored the small village; this is only a short stroll away. The bridge you walk over to get to the loch is an excellent photo spot to capture the river and stone cottages. You’ll also walk past an old church and graveyard, which is very atmospheric with the mountains looming behind it. What a place.

33. Visit the tiny Edradour Distillery

As mentioned earlier, at the time of writing, the tiny Edradour Distillery is sadly closed for visitors due to the ‘rona. But it’s still nice to see from the outside. As you can see from the photo, the picturesque whitewashed buildings and red doors make it look like a wee fairytale village next to the stream.

In normal times, you can do an hour-long tour of the distillery and find out about the history and process behind their whisky. It used to be the smallest distillery in Scotland and it’s still a real dinky one. They focus on small-batch, high-quality whiskies and friendly service. I’ll definitely do a tour next time I’m in Pitlochry as it looks really interesting (although I can’t promise I’ll ever stop hating the taste of whisky).

34. Have lunch at Blair Atholl Watermill

Blair Atholl Watermill is a working watermill built in the 1590s. Well, I say working. It was actually not running when I visited as part of the research for this guide. Typical. Flashbacks of the Vatican being shut when I went to Rome, albeit on a slightly smaller scale! I’m assured that the mill is very often going though, depending on the river’s water level. And it’s a good place to visit anyway as it’s mainly a tearoom these days. I can’t say no to a tearoom.

Everything in the tearoom is homemade fresh and much of it is from local produce. Of course, the baked treats are made with grains from the on-site mill. You can get a local (Dunkeld) smoked salmon bun and delicious lentil soup for lunch. If it’s a nice day, sit out in their pretty cottage-garden seating area, which has several bird-feeding stations. These were teeming with sparrows and bluetits when I was there, which was a nice distraction from writing up notes for this blog post.

35. Tackle the climb up Ben Vrackie for the views

Image credit: Neil Williamson via Wikimedia Commons; edited by Pack The Suitcases

Ben Vrackie (‘speckled mountain’) is just north of Pitlochry and forms part of the beautiful view from the town. I’m afraid I’ve used a stock image for this (something I very rarely do!) because I have not yet managed the Ben Vrackie hike myself so don’t have any of my own photos from it. I usually only recommend things I’ve actually done myself, so I nearly left Ben Vrackie off this guide. But I think I’d be crucified by commenters and emails if I didn’t include it in a list of great things to do in Pitlochry, so here it is.

According to the internet, Ben Vrackie takes about 4 hours to complete and has some bits described as ‘quite steep’. But it does have decent paths, which always make walking up steep ascents easier (and paths also encourage people not to stray from them and erode more of the ground, which is good). Perhaps I’ll conquer it on my next trip to Pitlochry, especially if that happens to be in the autumn. It looks like there are some absolutely brilliant views and the autumnal photos I’ve seen from it are outstanding. I know I need to do it!

If you’ve climbed Ben Vrackie, please do let me know in the comments below so I can feel inadequate. Many thanks.

Things to do in Pitlochry, Scotland – useful information for your trip

Where to stay in Pitlochry

Pitlochry has loads of accommodation to choose from. As it’s so popular and a good base for exploring the highlands, hotels can be rather on the expensive side, so doing some research (or reading an excellent travel blog, ahem) will pay off.

Here are a few of my hand-picked options for you.

  • If you’re after self-catering, I massively recommend booking the lovely, cosy Oakbank Cottage. It’s an easy walk into town and perfect if you want to feel like you live in Pitlochry. It’s so much like a real little home rather than a soulless space designed for tourists. The kitchen has everything you need, including oil (which is often missing from self-catering places, I find). Most importantly, there’s a chair by a mirror to do your face/hair in the morning and the shower gets a 10/10 from me. It’s just over £100 a night and worth every penny.
  • If you want a B&B, Ellangowan House looks great for around £99 a night.
  • A traditional guesthouse, Cuil-An-Daraich, is a great budget option at around £60 a night.
  • A hotel option with the wow factor is Fonab Castle Hotel. I think I could get used to staying in an actual castle. It’s a bit of a splurge at about £280 a night but for a special occasion, it’s ideal. 
  • Another hotel that’s a bit kinder to the bank balance would be Tigh Na Cloich Hotel, which is around £135 a night.

How to get around Pitlochry

Once you’re there, everything in the town itself is walkable. For getting out and about to local attractions, you’re sadly best with a car. However, there’s the excellent trainline and a few bus services for doing things nearby, so a public transport holiday is entirely doable with a bit of planning.

When to go to Pitlochry

Autumn is the obvious time to visit Pitlochry for the amazing colours in all the woodland and moorland. But summer is also great, as long as you avoid school holidays with a bargepole for obvious reasons. Remember that Scottish school holidays are different times compared with Wales and England, so check online. Summer is when all the photos for this post were taken, and I loved it in the sunshine.

Even more things to do in Pitlochry, Scotland…

I’ll end this guide by saying that of course I’ve only covered some of the things to do in Pitlochry. There will be many more! I only ever write about things that I’ve tried and tested myself so that I know they’re good enough to recommend to you, my lovely readers. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have your own favourite things to do in Pitlochry, whether that’s a walk or a pub or whatever. I might check them out whenever I next visit, which I’m sure will be soon as I love it so much.

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15 Comments

  1. Last time I was in Scotland I didn’t get a chance to really explore the highlands as much as I wanted to. Saving this for when I get a chance to go back!

  2. So many fab things to do! I would love to explore this area, do a few hikes and pop into Blair castle. Such a scenic place. It seems that Scotland is sometimes harder to get to from within the UK, than some places on the continent, but I must make more of an effort to get up there and check it out.

  3. Pitlochry, Scotland is so charming and beautiful! Love this guide of the top things to do. I would love to hike around for those stunning views…and the red squirrels are so cute!

  4. Oh wow never heard of Pitlochry but there really seems like so much to do! I loveee finding secondhand bookshops in travels too—I try to find at least to visit in every town/ city I go to 🙂 Problem is, I have way too many books as a result haha. But won’t keep me from stopping by this one if I’m ever in the area 😉

  5. So many great options…especially for food! The waterfalls look absolutely amazing. I would love to spot a squirrel as well…any animal is super cute!

  6. I had no idea there were so many things to do here! I pass through Pitlochry every time I go for a drive in the Cairngorms, but I only ever walk through the town centre. Next time I’ll have to check out some of the things on your list!

  7. As usual a really useful and witty guide. We have been to Pitlochry and completed about half of your recommendations so loads to do next time! A few that we would add
    Pitlochry Festival Theatre,
    Aberfeldy (short drive after Queens view) for a great walk immortalised by Burns “The Birks o Aberfeldy” and a wonderful Bookshop / cafe at the Watermill.
    Dunkeld a few miles south has some good independent shops and an old church by the river
    The Hermitage is just before Dunkeld and is a National Trust site with a roaring river, short walk and a unique building over the river (find out why for yourselves)

  8. Haha you ate at a LOT of places. 😉 I absolutely love Pitlochry! But this has made me realise there’s lots more I need to do. I haven’t even been up Craigower. I also never knew about the clan trail around Loch Rannoch, will have to check that out. A walk around Faskally wood is always a delight, especially this time of year… might have to stop off there next weekend now as we’ll be passing. And the Hermitage too, which is another good place to see red squirrels. 🙂 Great guide, as always!

  9. Did Ben Vrackie several years ago when somewhat younger and definitely fitter.
    Do it on a fine day — you can literally see for miles: with binoculars, I even say the outline of Buchaille Etive Mhor, some 50 miles away.
    Definitely worth the effort and you can reward yourself with a pint in the Moulin pub on the way back into town

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