Visit Pitlochry: Being A Hometown Tourist

I grew up in Pitlochry and although I no longer live there, I still consider it to be my hometown – it’s where my family live and where some of my friends still occasionally come back to visit.

I wanted to put together a bit of information about what I most enjoy doing when I go ‘home’ on the off-chance that anyone decides to visit themselves!

Ok, so you’ve probably read the title and are now thinking ‘Pitlochry? Nope, never heard of it!’ Well, Pitlochry is a small tourist town about 26 miles north of Perth & about 90 miles north of both Glasgow & Edinburgh.

The History
Located in Perthshire (part of the Perth & Kinross council district), Pitlochry is perfectly located for a couple of days away. It lies right in the Tummel Valley and has the most amazing scenery surrounding the town.

The town itself very much focuses on the tourist season and so has great bus and train links to all major towns & cities.
There are some excellent restaurants, cosy bars and it’s probably most well known for the Pitlochry Festival Theatre which is just a short walk from the town centre and The Enchanted Forest during the Autumn months.
It’s a great base for outdoor activities and hillwalking since it’s surrounded by Ben Vrackie, Schiehallion and some lovely, more relaxed walking routes.

Though Pitlochry itself is a Victorian town, the areas of Moulin (towards Ben Vrackie) and Port-Na-Craig (towards the Festival Theatre) are much older. The original ferry service over the River Tummel used to operate from Port-Na-Craig until the suspension bridge was built in 1913. The parish school at the time was in Moulin.
Our little railway station was build in 1863 and from then on, Pitlochry became a hit with tourists from all over the country and is located on the Highland Main Line.

Work began on building the Dam as part of the ‘Tummel hydro-electric power scheme’ in 1947 when Pitlochry finally became a burgh. The damming of the River Tay created Loch Faskally, an artificial body of water.

Loch Faskally from the top of Pitlochry Dam

The Facts
1. Pitlochry is geographically the centre of Scotland!
2. We have 2 whisky distilleries in town – Edradour & Blair Athol Distillery and plenty others not too far away.
3. Built as part of the Pitlochry Dam is the 310m-long Fish Ladder. An underwater camera links to the visitor centre and a viewing station outside, allowing passerby to view the salmon swimming up the ladder. Over 5,000 salmon pass through the ladder every year.
4. Ben Vrackie (sometimes Ben Y Vrackie) dominates the scenery around the town looking up towards Moulin and is actually an extinct volcano standing at 841 m/2759 ft at the summit. The views from the top are amazing!
5. The renowned Pitlochry Festival Theatre operates a unique system in which visitors can see a different play every day during the theatre’s Summer Season Festival.
6. For avid golfers, Pitlochry Golf Course is an 18-hole championship course towards Moulin with a putting green, driving range and pitch & putt. It’s a challenging course in parts but the views from some of the top tee’s make up for it!

The Restaurants
There are 3 main restaurants in Pitlochry that I would recommend to everyone – Victoria’s, The Old Mill Inn & The Red Deer Pub & Restaurant (formerly The Clubhouse) at the Golf Course. Personally, I would class these as the best in town.

Victoria’s has been family-run for the last 25 years, having opened in 1996. With both indoor and outdoor (heated) terrace seating, it’s a really nice comfortable atmosphere to enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner. On more than one occasion I’ve sat outside having lunch and a glass of wine just watching the world go by. It’s right on the main street so you can’t miss it!

The Old Mill Inn is actually owned by the same family that have Victoria’s and offers
both 4* accommodation and dining throughout the day. They open at 8am for breakfast and then serve from 12-3pm and 5-9pm. There’s usually live music on Friday & Saturday evenings throughout the summer months and it’s a really cosy restaurant & bar area to have a catch up with friends or a family meal. If you don’t fancy sitting inside, there’s an outdoor patio area and the property showcases the original wooden water wheel.
The menu here could be classed as upmarket bar/pub food (which is delicious!), the menu is extensive with daily ‘specials’ and there’s a well-stocked bar. It’s only about a 5 minute walk from Victoria’s so once you’re done with lunch/dinner, why not head up the street and pop in? It’s opposite Fishers Hotel, behind the old Bank building.
Glass of wine, anyone?

Finally, The Red Deer Pub & Restaurant at the Golf Course. This only re-launched as The Red Deer in November 2020 and was formerly The Clubhouse, since that’s what it is.
Even if you’re not a golfer, that’s absolutely no reason to avoid the Golf Course. The glass-fronted restaurant offers almost panoramic views of the 1st & 18th fairways, Craigower Hill, Ben Vrackie and the surrounding farmland and is an absolutely beautiful location to find yourself in.
Again (admittedly more than once), I’ve walked from the other end of town solely to sit on the terrace with a glass of wine and take in the view.
Make sure you keep an eye out for golfers coming down the 18th and hold onto your glass if your hear “FOUR”, though has been known to have been shouted from the 1st tee box opposite too!
The Golf Course is easy to get to – head north through the town and take Golf Course Road (funnily enough) on the right and head up the hill past the Cuilc duck pond. It’s on your left as you reach the top.
Another glass of wine, anyone?

View from The Clubhouse terrace.
Craigower (left) & Ben Vrackie (right)

The Bars
As above, The Old Mill is included here for sure. Plenty Christmas periods and New Years Days’ have been spent in here with old friends from school. It’s definitely a bar that the locals visit and you’re almost guaranteed to bump into someone you know if you live/lived here – Pitlochry isn’t that big.

Next up is McKays. Like The Old Mill it offers accommodation as well as a great bar and restaurant. Again, it’s upmarket pub-style food and the choice is excellent & it’s always delicious. They have a small beer garden and have taken over the chip shop next door! Bonus!
It’s a traditionally Scottish bar & restaurant in a central location and is another that’s frequented by many of the locals.

There are certainly other bars in town. The Coach House is one that I want to add a word of warning to. This is just my personal opinion, so by all means go in, but it’s got nothing on the 2 above. It’s part of Fishers Hotel on the main street but doesn’t have a great reputation and it’s not one I’d recommend – very much a sports bar with sticky floors and multiple pool tables. If you want a really nice experience, give it a miss. It’s also been re-named and re-launched so many times I actually had to check what it’s called now!

The Walks
There are honestly so many different walking routes around Pitlochry, it really just depends how far you want to go.
These are a couple of my absolute favourites:

The Blackspout Woods – woodland, wildlife and waterfalls…what more can you ask for?
The woods are nearer the south end of town and the easiest way to get there is to take the right hand road at the bottom of the Atholl Palace driveway.
The woods are popular for dog walking and because there’s the Atholl Palace 9-hole golf course just at the edge, you’ll sometimes bump into people with golf clubs.
There are various routes to choose from. To get from the carpark to the golf course only takes about 15 minutes or so. You can either go back the way you came or go past the course and back down to the main road. It’s then just a case of walking to the right, past the distillery and then back up the Atholl Palace entrance.
Two different paths will also take you towards Moulin where you can carry on to Edradour and the distillery here, as mentioned above.

My family home is towards the end of town, a stones’ throw from Blair Athol Distillery. From here, a walk that I did multiple times in the summer last year when the weather was nice and we were allowed to visit family was to go across Bridge Road and down towards Port-Na-Craig and the theatre. If you carry along past the theatre itself, you’ll reach the Dam and from here you can follow the path which runs partly along the edge of Loch Faskally and all the way to the far end, stopping at the Boating Station. The walk, for the most part, is easy. There are steps part way which are a bit on the steep side but manageable.
Once you get to the top and catch your breath, you’ll realise you’re actually parallel to the A9 going north. If you continue walking, you pass a little house on the right hand side, then head slightly to the right and down the hill. It’s impossible to miss the green bridge which you need to cross and the pathway then takes you up to the right until you drop back down at the far end of the Loch.
The Boating Station is a really nice mid-way point for this walk and if you fancy it, they hire out boats, fishing gear and pedalo’s too! The cafe is nice and they do a small selection of cakes, bakes and lunch, as well as ice-cream. There’s indoor seating and benches outside so you can look out over the Loch before you head up the tarmac’d hill and into town from the north end.
You can also do the route in reverse – completely up to you!

Loch Faskally from The Boating Station

Like I said above, I’ll walk to the golf course solely for a glass of wine and the view! When you leave the golf course though, instead going back down the hill the way you came, come out of the carpark and go left. This will take you up past the farms and down towards Moulin Inn and the Brewery. Once you reach the old-school red phone box, you can either carry on or take the road on the left. Right takes you into the town and left takes you down past the school to the bottom end of town, dropping you back at the Scout Hut by the Atholl Palace entrance.

A nice combination of Boating Station and Golf Course is to cross the road at the top of the hill leaving the Boating Station and head towards the railway line. Once you cross the tracks, you just need to follow the road. It’s pretty steep but you come out at the Cuilc duck pond and can walk round to the Golf Course from there, teaming it with the Moulin route on the way home to make up even more distance!

Craigower Hill

I can’t not include Ben Vrackie! I’ve climbed this mountain so many times since I was little and the scenery never gets old. The higher you climb, the more you see of the valley below and the more the landscape opens up.
It’s quite an easy walk all things considered – the pathway is there for you and it’s natural but in good condition. Walking boots are recommended for any hike but you could get away with sturdy shoes if you had to, though it can be quite muddy in places and the snow lasts for a while up there too.
Following the same route but not aiming for the summit, you can do the Bealach Walk to Killiecrankie instead.

My favourite place just to go and sit though, is The Dell on the other side of the Dam (nearest the train station). I don’t know if this is actually what it’s called but it’s what everyone in town knows it as. It’s just a small pebble beach with old trees stumps and roots, but it looks out across Loch Faskally and I could sit there for hours. It’s popular for beach BBQs in the summer and you can go swimming from there too but regardless of the temperature above, the water is always freezing!

If you want to head out of town just a little, walk right through as though you’re heading for the Boating Station, but keep going. After about 150 yards you’ll see the entrance to Faskally Woods (where The Enchanted Forest takes place). From here you can either just walk round the pond which will take you about 20 minutes or you can go up the steep hill to the left from the car park. This will take you further into the woods and you can drop down towards the Loch and meet up with the path to the Boating Station at the green bridge.

Hopefully, if anyone does decide to venture into the wilderness and come to Pitlochry that this gives you a few ideas.

If you like the sound of these, let me know! Have you been to Pitlochry before? If so, what did you do?

Published by Carina Storey

Aspiring travel photographer & blogger, bookworm & film lover.

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