Pitlochry

Last updated:
Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Pitlochry railway stationSome highlights that Pitlochry has to offer.


Pitlochry stands as a vibrant town surrounded by picturesque Perthshire landscapes. The largest town in the county, it has remained a consistently popular tourist destination since Queen Victoria’s celebrated visit in 1842. However, Pitlochry’s history dates back far earlier than the Victorian age, despite the era’s architecture predominating the town itself.

Historical records suggest the area’s importance within Scotland as far back as 1180, while we also know that passenger ferries have been connecting various riverbank settlements since the 12th century. No one thing makes Pitlochry so special – it’s the town’s history, culture, scenery, and thriving community that has kept it amongst Scotland’s most treasured locations for centuries.

History, culture, scenery, and a thriving community.One of Scotland's most treasured locations.

Getting there

Pitlochry train station is one of the most accessible in the north. A part of the Highland mainline, the station has frequent connections to the major Scottish towns and cities (including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Perth, and Aberdeen), as well as a less frequent local service to the likes of Blair Atholl and Newtonmore. Pitlochry also has several direct links with Euston and Kings Cross, giving you a scenic tour of the East Coast with many opportunities to stop off and explore en route.

Planning Ahead: potential stops along the way

No matter which direction you travel to Pitlochry, there are plenty of places to explore on the way! All the spots listed below have easy links with the town and can be a great way of breaking up the journey.

The county town of Perthshire, Perth itself lies on the banks of the scenic River Tay. The area itself is steeped in history, with the presence of Neolithic standing stones indicating civilisations called it their home in around 4000BC. Today, the so-called Gateway to the Highlands is recognised for its diverse culinary scene, as well as its triumphant Museum & Art Gallery.

Usually accessed via Inverness, the primary attraction of Aviemore is its staggering array of wildlife. For example, just minutes from the main road sits the Craigellachie National Nature Reserve, where visitors can stroll around gorgeous views of the crags and towering birch trees. Elsewhere, handcrafted adventures can be discovered on the Highland Wildlife & Birdwatching Safaris – all personally run by a passionate team of tour guides.

In more ways than one, Stirling is the centre of Scotland. Described as “a huge Brooch that clasps Highlands and Lowlands together”, both historically and contemporarily Stirling is an unmissable part of the country. While its skyline is dominated by the magnificent castle, the city is incredibly layered with every nook and cranny holding different secrets.

Having shaken off a stigma of destitution following a decline in its principal industries, Dundee has reinvented itself as an epicentre of Scottish cultural and scientific advancement. For instance, the newly opened V&A Design Museum has already been named one of TIME magazine’s best places to visit in the world, while Dundee as a whole was the first city in the UK to be named UNESCO’s City of Design in 2014.

See and do in Pitlochry

Blair Athol DistillerySome highlights that Pitlochry has to offer.

It's important to plan ahead before visiting a town like Pitlochry, as the wide range of activities both in and around it can mean a potential favourite could be missed! Whether you are interested in the historical aspects of Scotland or looking to take in the wild scenery, below is a guide of the best spots to match anyone’s interests.

Walking distance from train station: approx 15 minutes

From the grand peak of Ben Vrackie, the Allt Dour river snakes its way downstream and into the town of Pitlochry. Its destination is the Blair Athol Distillery, which has been transforming its freshwater into delicious, mellow whisky for over two hundred years. The distillery offers in-depth guided tours of the grounds and production, finishing off with expert-led whisky tastings to ensure even novices can appreciate the complex flavours of the dram.

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Walking distance from train station: approx 20 minutes

A slight misnomer, the Atholl Palace Museum actually showcases the history of a particularly eccentric hotel bearing that name. A string of sordid stories is brought to life in the Museum by audio files, short films, and physical exhibits to enchant all ages. The strange corridors of the Atholl Palace Hotel are full of oddities and fantastical stories, and any visitor to Pitlochry should not miss a chance to experience them yourself.

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Walking distance from train station: approx 10 minutes

The pioneers of Scottish renewable power are probably not what you immediately associate with Pitlochry. Nonetheless, the history of Pitlochry Dam is exhibited here and highlights the necessity for a transition towards greener energy. Also on display here is the Pitlochry salmon ladder – a man-made detour for salmon in their natural habitat to climb over the dam and maintain the ecosystem. Pitlochry’s commitment to environmentalism stands as one of the town’s most fascinating layers.

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Walking distance from train station: approx 5 minutes

Visitors can take advantage of the natural splendour around the gateway to the Highlands with Pitlochry’s scenic putting green. The club runs a variety of facilities, including a full 18-hole putting course, a driving range, and a 6-hole Pitch and Put. Families can use the course for just £8, giving even first-time golfers a chance to play a gorgeously cared for course!

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Walking distance from train station: approx 20 minutes

A pristine riverbank venue, the Festival Theatre in Pitlochry is the hub of arts and culture in the town. Both new and old pieces are performed across the year, all adapted by some of the best theatrical voices in Scotland. Initially opened by amateur dramatics promoter John Stewart, the Festival Theatre has played host to countless exciting performances over its eighty-year lifetime.

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Walking distance from train station: approx 2 minutes

John Muir’s name has become synonymous with environmental activism, with locations such as Yosemite National Park owing their continued preservation to his work. The John Muir Trust looks to continue his efforts much closer to his original birthplace of Dunbar. Nestled in the centre of Pitlochry, the trust’s Wild Space captures the essence of Muir’s natural vision. With a gallery, library, exhibition centres, and many audio-visual resources, the Wild Space is a beautiful celebration of nature.

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Walking distance from train station: approx 3 minutes

Known across the whole of Scotland for their top-quality products, the Highland Soap Co’s reputation did not come about by chance. Despite their ever-growing size, the company maintains a strict policy of handmaking and curing each batch of soaps using only organically sourced ingredients. The Pitlochry location is no different, being staffed by experts who can talk you through every stage to ensure you choose a product you love.

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Walking distance from train station: approx 15 minutes

There are few better ways to spend a breezy summer day than in a fishing boat atop a gorgeous loch. Would-be anglers can hire sturdy vessels from the Pitlochry Boating Station on the banks of Loch Faskally, where countless trout of up to 8lb can be caught. The surrounding scenic landscapes, where visitors can spot wildlife such as kingfishers, otters, and deer, make Faskally a perfect spot for some deserved R&R.

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Walking distance from train station: approx 20 minutes

One of the first microbreweries to appear in Scotland, Moulin’s team built their facilities from the foundations of a centuries-old coach house and stable. The space, now filled with brewing equipment, originally served as accommodation for staff working on the Pitlochry to Kirkmichael coach route. Visitors to the brewery can sample the tried-and-tested recipes in the accompanying bar, where each pint is served to a quality only possible with a genuine passion for the process.

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Eat and drink in Pitlochry

Hettie's Tea RoomsPlaces to eat and drink in Pitlochry.

As a county, Perthshire is known for its diverse and exciting culinary industry. Pitlochry is no different. Hungry patrons can find a broad range of eateries for all tastes and price points, none of which will leave you disappointed.

Turning fresh Scottish produce into culinary art is a difficult balancing act, but it's one that the Loft has mastered. Situated in the glorious Cairngorms, their menu is artisanal while still remaining authentic to the local ingredients and setting. It's this unapologetic Scottishness, and commitment to dietary flexibility, that has made the Loft a true gem of Pitlochry’s hospitality sector.

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Located just a few minutes from the train station, Café Calluna is the epitome of a warm, welcoming environment. The spot is known locally for its incredibly friendly service, as well as its assortment of home baking and locally roasted coffee. Calluna is also more than pet friendly, and staff love nothing more than sharing pictures of visiting dogs on their social media!

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If Perthshire is considered the gateway to the Highlands, the Escape Route Café is the key. Stood on Pitlochry’s main road, its part-café, part-mountain biking retailer design makes for a great last stop-off before adventurers reach the many trails leading out of the town. While the bike shop itself has been open for over twenty years, its café only opened in 2016.

Despite this, it has quickly become celebrated for its great food and scenic location, earning it the number one spot on TripAdvisor.

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Family has been the cornerstone of Victoria’s Restaurant ever since its inception in 1996. Both family-run and family-style, the bistro prides itself on serving delicious food without losing any part of its casual atmosphere. The menu switches throughout the day, with different meals on offer for brunch, lunch, and dinner, along with a full range of gluten-free options.

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Run by beloved owner Hettie, the Tea Rooms has become a staple visit for summer visitors and the Pitlochry community alike. Hettie and her team have crafted a range of 31 home-blended teas and infusions that cover the whole spectrum of colour, flavour, and warmth. Also on offer is the Tea Rooms’ legendary spread of cakes, scones, biscuits, ice creams, and any other sweet treats you can think of. Hettie’s is a joyful place to visit, with a friendly staff who truly make you feel at home.

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Stay in Pitlochry

Fonab Castle HotelPlaces to stay in Pitlochry.

Your holiday accommodation should be a place where you can recharge at the end of a busy day. Of course, everyone has different wants, so always bear in mind your and your party’s specific tastes before booking. If you are looking for luxury or simply a pitstop between journeys, Pitlochry will have the right place for you.

Type: Five star hotel & spa

Bursting up through the rolling Perthshire forests, Fonab Castle Hotel & Spa is exactly as luxurious as the name suggests. From the Loch View Lodge Rooms, all the way to the Castle Penthouse, every room available is pristinely decorated and spacious, with breath-taking views over the surrounding area. Fonab also has an extensive spa and several dining options on their grounds, all culminating in an utterly unforgettable holiday.

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Type: Family owned 4 star accommodation with a lively bistro & bar

Although the Old Mill Inn was recently renovated to a more modern design, the hotel runs on a traditional hospitality ethos which won it INN OF THE YEAR for three consecutive years. Its central location makes it a fantastic base for those looking to explore the town and the wilderness beyond. The inn also doubles as a live music venue, often playing host to some of the country’s best up-and-coming musicians.

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Type: Vegan Hotel

The very first of its kind in the UK, Saorsa 1875 is an entirely vegan hotel. Far beyond token vegetarian dining options, nothing inside the building is derived from animal products. Each of the 11 rooms has been designed with a unique vision, showcasing that aesthetically pleasing spaces do not need to come at the cost of animal lives. Downstairs, a fireplace warms the communal dining room, where guests and other diners are invited to eat together from a constantly changing five-course set menu. Saorsa 1875 is a wholly unique experience and one you should definitely consider.

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Type: Hotel

The East Haugh House was originally built some 350 years ago but was only converted into a hotel in 1989. Through hard work and passion, the McGowan family have carried out their vision for a luxurious hotel to great success – even winning Scotland’s Hotel of the Year Award twice! The McGowan touch is everywhere in the hotel, with head chef Neil McGowan running the kitchen while his family operate the twelve uniquely designed rooms. There are dog-friendly rooms, rooms with Jacuzzi baths, and even one with a connected cinema, meaning that East Haugh House truly has something for everyone.

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Type: Boutique Bed & Breakfast

Craigatin House lies on the outskirts of Pitlochry nestled in a crop of trees and looking out onto the River Tummel. The Victorian architecture plays to Pitlochry’s own history, but the stylish interiors bring all the comfort and amenities of the modern world. Craigatin styles itself as a boutique bed & breakfast, and the quality of food on offer certainly attests to that. There are rooms in both the main house and the courtyard, giving guests a fantastic choice of seclusion and price!

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Type: Hotel & Restaurant

A truly Scottish welcome awaits guests checking into Knockendarroch. Every year since 2017, they have won TripAdvisor’s Best Small Hotel in Scotland for their expert balancing of style, comfort, and high-quality service. The restaurant exemplifies this, as dinner is pre-empted with canopies and drinks in the relaxed lounge before guests are brought through to the dining room for starters. Knockendarroch has recently opened four additional guest rooms, each offering gorgeous views of the surrounding highlands.

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Extra time

Perthshire is a large county and Pitlochry is only one part of it, so if you find yourself with some extra time on your hands, then there are plenty more places to discover. Below are just a few of the possibilities within close range of Pitlochry.

One of the most picturesque areas in all the UK, the Hermitage is a stretch of beautiful Highland scenery around 30 minutes from Pitlochry. Towering fir trees and countless species of local wildlife populate the Hermitage, all of which visitors can encounter while strolling across the River Braan banks. The last stop is Ossian’s Hall, a beautifully designed folly refurbished with mirrors as was the intention of its original owners – the 18th century Dukes of Atholl.

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The site of Robert the Bruce’s coronation, the importance of Scone Palace cannot be overstated. Built over 1500 years ago, the palace has also been the holding place of the Stone of Destiny and temporarily the real King Macbeth’s home. Everything in Scone Palace is opulent and, while it is slightly out of the way, it is definitely worth a detour.

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For those enticed by Highland walks, travel south from Pitlochry to soon come across the Birks of Aberfeldy. Named for a Robert Burns poem, the location is protected as a Site of Specific Interest for its diverse and ancient woodlands. The Birks are also very near to Castle Menzies, the ancestral seat of the Menzies clan which has painstakingly been restored by their descendants. A visit to both the Birks and the Castle makes for a wonderful day no matter your interests!

Although a specific age is incredibly difficult to narrow down, scientists estimate the Fortingall Yew has stood for between 3000 and 9000 years. This puts it among the oldest living things in all of Europe and, although it has shrunk considerably from its 18th-century size of 52ft, it is still a monumentally impressive sight to behold.

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