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Drams and dams: praising Pitlochry

In Con's Corner, Scotland by Con JagerLeave a Comment

A practically perfect place to pop in for a pastry, pie or a peek at proper pre- or post-prandials production! The small town of Pitlochry is exactly halfway between Edinburgh and Inverness at a mere hour and a half from either. Sitting pretty along the River Tummel, Pitlochry makes for a lovely stop on this much-traveled route, or even a stay for a night or two.

Tea crossing

Just south of the spectacular Cairngorms, Pitlochry boasts a lovely and walkable although busy centre. The main road A924 runs right through town, with the name changing from Perth Road to Atholl Road coming in from the south.

Along this main street, Pitlochry has lots of little shops and also a few hotels, several good B&Bs a little further out and a Castle hotel right across the River, with a pedestrian bridge. And right in the centre, our favorite spot for lunch: Hettie’s Tearooms, open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon teas until about 5pm. Check out their incredible menus with scrumptious pastries, soups, sandwiches, vegan and glutenfree options.

Royal roots

Pitlochry has a thousand years of history, with the oldest section of Moulin going back a millennium indeed. Today’s Victorian look is no coincidence, as serious development into a more tourism-oriented resort town was stimulated by Queen Victoria’s visit in the 1840s.

Ditch the driving

Pitlochry became quite accessible in the second half of the 1800s when the railroad arrived. Today, Pitlochry Station is less than 2 hours non-stop from Edinburgh or Inverness on the Highland Main Line. Don’t like left-side driving? Take the train! The station is right in the centre, near Fisher’s Hotel, so you can do a visit or stay even without a car.

Did I mention Pitlochry is small?

Pitlochry is governed by Perthshire’s Perth & Kinross council, and has a population of less than 3,000. But, add thousands of visitors in the main season, April through September!

Power from the Glens

A huge dam in the Tummel generates hydro-electric power. Pitlochry’s population was against this big project at first, but by now it has grown into one of the main tourist attractions. The famous Salmon Ladder bypasses the dam safely, and is about 1,000 feet long. You can visit and see thousands of salmon swim upstream in an underwater viewing facility.

Operated by Scottish Hydro-Electric, the flood control engineering is very impressive, preventing ongoing disasters in the eastern Tay valley. Their motto in Scots Gaelic is “Neart nan Glean”which means as much as “Power from the Glens”. No, their head honcho is not the “Monarch of the Glen” but a regular CEO. It Glenbogle’s the mind…

Also in town: two distilleries! Now there’s a reason to stay a day or two.

The Blair Whisky Project

Just a bit south on Atholl Road, Blair Atholl Distillery is pretty with its vines, barrels and flowerbeds. Blair Atholl Distillery is part of Bell’s and the large UK group Diageo these days, also see my blogs on Skye and whisk(e)y.

The Blair tour is nice and informative. There’s also the inevitable shop, accessible to all, plus it’s easy to get to.

Enchanting Edradour

A bit harder to get to, but one of my favorite Scots distilleries: Edradour. It sits about two miles outside of town on small and narrow country roads. There’s also a footpath. Edradour claims to be the smallest traditional distillery in Scotland – although nearby Strathearn Distillery begs to differ.

Don’t blow a casket

Be that as it may, Edradour is really small: the distilling staff consists of like three guys, and they produce less than 20 caskets a week. I like my dram and this is good stuff! But it isn’t widely available: glad I bought a bottle.

A creek runs through it

Edradour’s location is stunningly beautiful. A little creek runs through the small complex, the buildings are historic and pretty, trees all around. Kids under 12 are not allowed on their tour but still, a visit as such is worthwhile. Note that they’re closed on Sundays.

Fun fact: the name Edradour comes from Scots Gaelic’s “Eadar dhà dhobhar”, meaning “between two rivers”. It is pronounced EDra-dower: rhymes with shower.

Don’t get cranky: get Killiecrankie

Feeling outdoorsy? Have a bit of time, about half a day? Do the Killiecrankie Walk! It’s a 12 mile loop from Pitlochry Centre up to Killiecrankie. You’ll go by that famous fish ladder and along man-made Loch Faskally, a consequence of the dam. Cross over the Coronation Bridge, and enjoy the rewarding views all along. Soldier’s Leap at Killiecrankie is not to be missed. And: there’s only modest elevation, less than 700 feet on the full hike, so it’s nice and easy.

Castles and scones

About 7 miles north of Pitlochry is the pretty village of Blair Atholl. It makes for a nice shorter stop too, and nearby Blair Castle & Gardens is impressive. If you did not stop for lunch in Pitlochry, consider their Tullibardine Restaurant. And if you did have lunch earlier, stop here anyway: their scones with clotted cream and jam are to die for! One can always add one more scone…

Fun fact: Tullibardine is also the name of yet another distillery, in Blackford. Still in Perthshire, Tullibardine Distillery is located 10 miles southwest of Perth, and one of the dwindling number of independent and family-owned single malt distilleries.

Time to put a cork in it

All done with lunch, pastries, dams and drams, it was time to mosey on. Got my bottle, got my souvenir polo shirt, got a desire to have some nice Scots salmon for dinner tonight! OK, yes, that’s sad for the salmon of course, after their heroic efforts passing that Pitlochry Ladder! There’s something to be said for going vegetarian. But for now, I’m not there yet, and as my conservation hero Steve Irwin used to say: it’s noiture’s woy! Crikey, maybe I should write my next blog on my beaut of a visit to Australia Zoo!

DISCLAIMER

My travel blog “Con’s Corner” takes a sometimes irreverent look at 4+ decades of travel in the British Isles. My trips are real: no months of staging the perfect photo, no waiting for the perfect weather, no Photoshopping, no promo story in exchange for a freebie: I pay full fare. It’s true travel. It’s what you’d experience yourselves. Note that the company does not necessarily share my opinions and views. In fact, they may be shaking their heads. The photography is mine (except where credited as noted), as are all typos, grammatical errors, and odd expressions. It’s a blog, people, not literature! I also accept full responsibility for any puns, varying on a scale from hilarious to ouch… Be all that as it may, I intend to keep at it until I get it right. Con Jager, Santa Rosa, USA.

(R) Photography by Robin Gabbert

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