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How to visit Dunkeld, Perthshire

How to visit Dunkeld, Perthshire

Most famous for its big trees and spectacular Autumn colours, the region of Perthshire is home to beautiful lochs, fabulous forests and some of my favourite towns and villages from the city of Perth to the popular villages of Aberfeldy and Pitlochry.

However, it is the village of Dunkeld and neighbouring Birnam which are fast becoming the jewel in the crown of this prettiest of regions – and one of my favourite places to visit in Scotland.

Recently crowned as the “best place to live in Scotland” by The Sunday Times in 2023, Dunkeld was once one of Scotland’s most gentile villages but with the arrival of a young, cool, artisan set, the village is now thriving, with independent shops, hotels, pubs and live music bars.

Dunkeld sits in 200,000 hectares of woodland alongside moorland, glens, lochs and Munros along the longest river in Scotland – the River Tay – which is bidding to become Scotland’s next National Park.

Here is how to visit Dunkeld.

> the complete guide to visiting Perthshire

> stay at the Taybank Hotel, Dunkeld

The best things to do in Dunkeld and Birnam

  • Instragram famous cakes – get there early for delicious treats at Aran Bakery – GBBO contestant Flora Sheldun’s artisan bakery serves up seriously cool cakes and instagrammable interiors.
  • Find Ossians Hall of Mirrors – visit the The Hermitage and stroll up through the trees to visit this folly over looking the thundering falls below. Look out for red squirrels along the way – you can’t miss them!
  • Walk along the River Tay – find the The Birnam Oak on the riverside walkway along the Tay, a 500 year old oak tree mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
  • Climb up to Pine Cone Point – visit Craigvinean Woods to climb up to this unique shelter which gives fabulous views over the River Tay below.
  • Visit Scotland’s next national park (maybe) – explore the 200,000 hectare Tay Forest Park – alongside moorland, glens, lochs and Munros along the longest river in Scotland, the River Tay.
  • See the Ospreys – visit RSPB Loch of the Lowes – the Ospreys return to Scotland in Spring to breed from their winter homes in Africa. The best places to spot Ospreys in Scotland is at Loch of the Lowes where there is also a webcam.
  • Explore historic Dunkeld on the Fiddler’s Path – discover the historic heart of Dunkeld on this 5 mile route which visits the Cathedral and the River Tay.
  • Go shopping on Bridge Street – Dunkeld is not just home to Aran Bakery, pick up a bottle of whisky at Dunkeld Whisky Box, drop into the cool Lon Store, grab a local gift from the Blue Magpie Gift Shop and visit By Nova, a florist-cum-concept store.
  • Have a drink on the River Tay – and head to a live music bar – try the Taybank’s beer garden where they serve up wood-fired pizzas before one of their bluegrass or traditional Scottish music nights.
The Taybank, Dunkeld
The Taybank Hotel, Dunkeld

Where to stay in Dunkeld and Birnam

  • The Taybank – my recommended place to stay in Dunkeld, this cool boutique hotel sits on the river Tay and has a fabulous restaurant, beer garden and live music night in its popular bar. Read more about our stay at the Taybank Hotel.
  • Dunkeld House Hotel – a traditional luxury hotel in 280 acres of woodland sitting on the River Tay. One for those who love classic Scottish hospitality.
  • Atholl Arms Hotel Dunkeld – In the heart of the village, the Atholl Arms has recently been refurbished and now offers 4-star boutique rooms, many of which over look the river.
  • Tay House – luxury accommodation in a refurbished townhouse over looking the river, offering cosy doubles to suites some with self catering facilities.
  • 1 The Cross – a two bedroom self catering cottage in the heart of Dunkeld’s main square.

Where to eat in Dunkeld

Don’t miss Aran Bakery (go early, they regularly sell out) for gorgeous instagrammable interiors and pastries, pick up a picnic or go for tapas at The Scottish Deli head to Livvi’s Little Lunchbox for sandwiches and cakes to enjoy by the river. The Taybank serves a super local and sustainable menu in their restaurant and pizzas and other nibbles in their garden bar.

How to get to Dunkeld

  • By train – catch the train to Birnam which is a 10 minute walk into the centre of the village. Dunkeld is around 1.5 hours on the train.
  • By car – Dunkeld is located off the A9, around 1.5 hours north of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

How to explore Dunkeld

Ready to explore? Here is how to visit Dunkeld.

Aran Bakery

Aran Bakery is owed by Great British Bake Off contestant Flora Sheddon who became the series’ youngest-ever semi-finalist. Originally from the hamlet of Trochry, 10 minutes outside of Dunkeld, Flora baulked at more TV fame and instead returned home to Perthshire to open her own bakery, small cafe and produce her own cookbooks. Lucky Dunkeld.

Gaelic for ‘bread’, Aran Bakery’s arrival has been credited with much of Dunkeld’s arrival, bringing instagram cool to the High Street and the bakery regularly sells out of their sour dough loaves, sandwiches, and cakes. Aran Bakery is open from 9.30am-3.30pm (or until they sell out), Tuesday – Saturday. I suggest you get there early or be prepared to be disappointed.

Aran also supply the Taybank’s breakfast hampers for those lucky to staying in the hotel.

Aran Bakery
Aran Bakery, Dunkeld

The Hermitage, Ossians Hall and Black Linn Falls

The Hermitage is an 18th-century pleasure garden for the Dukes of Atholl filled with giant Douglas Fir trees. Explore the woodlands of Craigvinean Forest to find the River Braan and Ossian’s Hall.

Originally built in 1782, Ossian’s Hall was once decorated with mirrors, sliding panels and paintings – the folly was designed to showcase the Black Linn Falls above which it sits. Now refurbished by the National Trust, pass through the hidden door to emerge above the waterfalls – these are probably one of the most photographed waterfalls in Scotland!

There are various walks in the Hermitage, but if you have a short time it is around 1/2 a mile to Ossian’s Hall from the main carpark (£4) or you can walk from Dunkeld. Look out for red squirrels in the trees and spectacular autumn colours. Discover the Hermitage with this guide from the National Trust for Scotland

The Birnam Oak

From the centre of Dunkeld, cross over the Telford Bridge and take the stairs down to the banks of the River Tay to find the Birnam Oak, a 1000 year old oak tree mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The Birnam Oak and its neighbour the Birnam Sycamore are the sole surviving trees of a forest that once covered this area. The Birnam Woods hid the armies advancing against Macbeth – the soldiers were said to have each cut down a branch from the wood to hide themselves, making it look like the wood was moving.

Macbeth was defeated by the army, fulfilling the prophecy set by the Weird Sisters in the ‘Scottish Play’ that Macbeth will be King of Scotland until Birnam Wood arrived at his castle Dunsinane.

You can find the Birnam Oak around a 10 minute walk from the centre of Dunkeld along the river.

Pine Cone Point

High up above the rumbling A9 and rushing River Tay is a unique shelter designed in the shape of a pine cone. Craigvinean (crag of the goats) Forest was seeded by the 3rd Duke of Atholl in the 18th century who allegedly shot larch seeds out across the hillside with a cannon.

The walk up to Pine Cone Point starts at the hermitage carpark and climbs steadily up the hillside, switching back and forth as you gain height. There are many views across the larches and other fir trees as you climb – look out for red squirrels along the way – before you reach the shelter designed in the shape of a pine cone.

Tay Forest Park

The Tay Forest Park stretches from Blairgowrie in the east to Crieff in the south, the Ben Lawers Range to the west and Glen Lyon to the north taking in some of Highland Perthshire’s most dramatic scenery. The park include 200,000 hectares of woodland alongside moorland, glens, lochs and Munros along the longest river in Scotland – the River Tay.

This is Big Tree country – the Tay Forest Park contains some of the biggest trees in Scotland, including one tree in Craigvinean forest which reaches 194 feet (59 metres) tall. Many of the trees are Douglas Firs – after David Douglas one of Scotland’s greatest plant hunters who brought back seed of exotic species from America and Asia for Perthshire’s lairds.

From the lovely woods at The Hermitage and Faskally Forest, to the sculptures and viewpoints in Craigvinean forest, including the Pine Cone Point Trail with views over Loch Tay. One of my favourite walks in the Tay Forest Park is to Garry Bridge along the Linn of Tummel.

> More things to do in Perthshire

Love from Scotland x

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