When the lovely people at Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust got in touch to ask if I would like to experience Perthshire's 'Big Tree Country' during the autumn, I had my bags packed quicker than you could say 'Giant Douglas Fir'. With over 200,000 acres of woodland, including more champion trees than anywhere else in the UK, autumn in Perthshire is pretty spectacular. The landscape bursts into a fiery tapestry of colour and thousands of towering trunks are testament to why this region has become known as 'Big Tree Country'.
Often seen as a convenient stopping point on the road between the Lowlands and Highlands, it seems a real shame that more people don't take time to really appreciate how special the Perthshire scenery is.
This blog post only scratches the surface of outdoor places to explore in this vast region but I have tried to include a mixture of walks, viewpoints and places of interest which I think give a good introduction to the diversity of the area. Hopefully these ideas inspire you to explore more of 'Big Tree Country' and discover some gems of your own.
There is no better way (in my opinion) to explore Perthshire than on foot. Thanks to the hard work of Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and their partners, an ever growing network of paths criss-cross the region. With walks for every ability there is a dizzying choice of trails and you could easily spend weeks following them and still only have covered a fraction! I've chosen 4 walks that I think are rewarding in their own right, from an accessible trail in Faskally Wood to a more challenging walk around the Annat Loop. For me, these trails show off some of the best assortment of scenery in the region with a few unexpected surprises along the way!
Regular readers of my blog will know I am partial to searching out and visiting locations which have been used in the filming of the Outlander TV series. There are two reasons for this; firstly I am a bit of an Outlander fan myself so I enjoy trying to recognise places that have featured in the series, Secondly, in my experience, the locations used are actually really interesting to visit in their own right and in many ways Outlander has inspired me to uncover some of Scotland's hidden gems which I was unaware of until the show brought them to my attention.
Having already visited many locations in the Fife and Edinburgh areas, I decided it was time to add some Perthshire settings to my list and explore two very iconic backdrops featured in Series 1.
My first stop was at Tibbermore Church, the setting of the witch trial in 'The Devil's Mark' episode. Although near the city of Perth it is still off the beaten track enough that I would never have discovered or visited this extremely atmospheric little church had Outlander not captivated my curiosity and like many locations I've visited it was well worth seeking out.
Cared for by The Scottish Redundant Churches Trust since 2001, the original building dates back to 1632, although an earlier church had existed there during the late middle ages. The original design has been modified over the years and after prolonged neglect, the SRCT has been raising funds to carry out much needed repairs and the fee from the filming of Outlander has actually helped to fix the roof which is a really positive extra benefit.
The church is normally locked but arranging a visit was really easy, after e-mailing the SCRT they contacted the key-holder who lives next door and she organised to meet me and give me access.
As soon as I stepped through the main door I literally got goosebumps and a really eerie feeling. The gloomy day meant little light was coming through the windows and the dark furniture did nothing to brighten the place up. I can honestly say I've never been in a church quite like it and despite some signs of neglect, the history and character oozed through the dimly lit space.
There are lots of interesting features to look out for including the stained glass windows, a war memorial, the stenciled decoration around the pulpit, the horseshoe seating and large stone tablet inserted in the wall dating back to 1631.
There is also a display board with images from Outlander to show how the church looked during 'The Devil's Mark' and some information notices with more details on the filming.
I love visiting the autumnal Big Tree Country of Perthshire to witness the vibrant tapestry of foliage as it goes out in a final blaze of yellow, orange and red glory. It really is one of the prettiest places to visit in Scotland at this time of year and on my latest venture to the region I discovered Killiecrankie Hotel is the perfect place to hibernate with a whisky by the fire when the darkness encroaches into the afternoon and wet woodland explorations have to be cut short.
I picked a pretty poor day to travel north as Britain's first named storm is on its way. Storm Abigail is predicted to bring battering wind and torrential rain as it traverses Scotland. As I head past Perth the sky turns an ominous black and the heavens open, roads are quickly flooded and driving conditions become more and more challenging. Relieved to reach my destination, I make a dash from the car to the entrance in an attempt to avoid presenting myself at reception like a drowned rat which I just about manage to achieve.
On arrival I am eagerly welcomed by Beanie, the resident spaniel who expectantly presents me with a squeaky toy before following me to the reception where I'm welcomed again, this time by Henrietta, the hotel's owner and manager.
My bags are transported to my room by an assistant in unique patchwork tartan trews, coffee and cake is arranged and I'm already getting the impression that despite the decor, this is not a conventional country house hotel. Henrietta confirms this when she explains that she doesn't want the place to feel stuffy, instead she treats people as if they are guests in her house and technically they are although her background working in some of the country's most luxurious hotels is reflected in the high standards throughout. The result is a quality hotel with an informal feel and some quirky touches!
My large deluxe bedroom had a Scottish country house feel with just enough tartan to be tasteful without being tacky. The fresh decor made the room feel very homely and any thoughts of the storm outside were long gone as I settled in for the evening.
With all the usual inclusions and extras you would expect from a luxury room, I couldn't think of anything else I would have needed. Real coffee, a cafetiere and current copies of several Scottish magazines were a welcome touch and if I was being picky, then a desk rather than a set of drawers would have been preferred. A stool was provided but it really wasn't a comfortable way to sit and use the dressing mirror or my laptop.
The bathroom was spacious and spotlessly clean, with a separate bath and powerful shower and the quirky duck sponge was a nice bit of fun. Although the toiletries smelled lovely it would have been nice to carry through the Scottish theme with some local products.
After a really comfortable sleep, I woke up to discover that the room also had a pretty view to the garden and the hills beyond, a pleasant surprise.
The Four Seasons Hotel sits dominantly overlooking the picturesque Loch Earn in St Fillans, Perthshire. If it is accommodation with a view that you are looking for then booking one of their loch facing rooms or chalets would be enough of a reason to stay. However, I was there to not only admire the views (which are stunning) but also check out their pet friendly credentials, or rather my furry companion Willow was going to run the hotel through it's paces.
It is hard to find a truly dog friendly hotel in Scotland, believe me after 20 years as a dog owner who travels I have tried many to various degrees of disappointment. I understand not all hotels and their guests want to embrace travellers with a furry companion but those that claim they do often fail on the most basic levels. I'm glad to say that The Four Seasons passed every dog and human test with flying colours and at last I feel as if I have found a hotel that truly welcomes humans and dogs with equal measure.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised as owner Andrew Low is himself a dog lover and boss to the resident canine reservation managers, Sham and Pagne (it took me a while to get the connection, perhaps Andrew's favourite tipple?). It is also a wedding resort...for dogs and yes they have had a canine wedding, can you get any dog friendlier than that?!
Before we even arrived I was impressed by the pet concierge service on the website with options to book a pet walker/sitter, groomer and order from a canine menu. As I was planning to take advantage of dinner at the hotel's Meall Reamhar Rosette Restaurant I decided to call and inquire about the pet sitting service. A quick phone call back confirmed that the local pet sitter Norma was booked at the time requested and myself and Mr Adventures Around Scotland could enjoy a relaxing, romantic meal for a change, now I was getting excited, this seemed to good to be true!
I was also delighted to see that they didn't charge any pet supplements on to their rates, usually an excuse to bump the price up for the privilege of bringing your dog, how is that ever pet friendly?
On arrival the whole family was warmly greeted and while I was busy admiring the STUNNING VIEWS from our room, Willow was delighted to discover a Bonio on the bed. A handy list of walks in the area suitable for humans and dogs was a useful addition to our welcome pack along with bottled water and homemade shortbread for the humans.
The bedroom and bathroom looked as if they had been recently partly refurbished and I was delighted to find Arran Aromatics products in the bathroom to pamper myself with!
The hotel is a mix of modern bright decor with quirky objects decorating the corridors and walls which owner Andrew has picked up on his many exotic travels. I loved wandering around admiring his eclectic acquisitions from around the world and there is a very interesting guest lounge with an opium bed imported from Bangkok which was not what I expected in a lochside hotel in Scotland!
The hotel also has six separate dog friendly chalets onsite which would be ideal for families.
Last weekend I enjoyed a much needed break at Lochearnhead and discovered some beautiful parts of Scotland covered in a tapestry of autumnal colours. After 2 weeks suffering from a literal pain in the neck and some serious sleep deprivation I really needed somewhere peaceful and picturesque to recharge my batteries.
Thanks to my lovely mum I had a voucher for a 2 night stay at the Clachan Cottage Hotel in Lochearnhead and the loch side location was just perfect for spending some relaxing time outdoors. Up until now I have only ever driven past Loch Earn but this was the perfect opportunity to stop and explore this popular tourist spot.
I enjoyed the most amazing walk through nearby Glen Lednock which runs from the town of Comrie. I followed the deserted road through the glen and up to the dam where I was rewarded with the most spectacular view of Loch Lednock. I can't recommend this area highly enough and there were quite a few walks to choose from, it really is one of the most tranquil and stunning places I've visited in Scotland. The nearby towns and villages of Comrie, St Fillans, Lochearnhead and Killin are all pretty stop off points and on the last day I enjoyed a short walk through Crianlarich on my way back to Bute.
Another highlight for me was the hypnotic sculpture by Rob Mulholland which stands reflecting the water near the shore at St Fillans. I had mixed comments when I put my photos of it on social media but you really have to see it to appreciate it!
If you are in need of some time out and your batteries need a boost, Loch Earn and the surrounding area is the ideal spot. If you are in need of any more convincing here are some of my photos from the weekend.
If there is one area of Scotland renowned for it's love of country pursuits it is Perthshire. It is therefore no surprise that Scotland's leading equestrian event is held here. The Blair Castle International Horse Trials take place over several days with the lush green grounds of the Atholl Estate and the pretty white castle providing a very picturesque backdrop.
The Trials test the ability of the horses and riders in dressage, cross country and show jumping and those competing must be highly skilled in all three disciplines. The three part event has been compared to an equine triathlon and has evolved from a military event which required the horse and rider to parade with elegance, gallop cross country in battle and have the stamina to continue on demanding days. I attended for the first time this weekend which marked the 26th year of the event at Blair Castle.
I should make clear that I am in no way an expert in the techniques required to score points and win awards at an equine event like this, although I did learn that the winner is determined by the horse and rider combination with the lowest score. Even a novice like myself could still appreciate the dexterity of the riders and their steeds with participants ranging from Olympic medalists to amateurs competing for the first time, all keen to show off their skills in the sport.
With several arenas there was plenty going on and I enjoyed watching everything from a jousting demonstration to show jumping. The show jumping in particular was compelling to view and as each horse and rider approached a fence I found myself willing them over and joined in with the crowd clapping each successful jump.
As soon as I pulled up to Cairn o' Mohr Winery in Perthshire I realised that this was no ordinary place. Firstly it's in Scotland which is not exactly known for it's contribution to the wine world, secondly there is not a vineyard in sight. However, it is neither of these things that strike me as the most unusual, instead it is the carved tree people, the bursts of colour, the psychedelic murals and entertainingly random signs.
Before I even step through the door I know I am going to love this place.
Bizarre, weird, wacky and strange are all terms I'm sure come to mind when people first arrive here. I prefer quirky and humorous. I get the feeling that the owners would be upset if these adjectives didn't come up as it is this quirkiness and original approach to running the small family business that has helped it grow substantially from it's humble beginnings in 1987.
Follow me as I search for the best and most original travel experiences in Scotland.