Located at the start of the Highland fault, the historic town of Dunkeld is fondly known as the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’. A site of natural beauty, Dunkeld offers visitors a wealth of wildlife and scenery, but it is also a site steeped in significant cultural and historic Scottish heritage. Just over the river is Birnam; the towns are frequently thought of together, and both have a lot to offer holiday-makers. Here are some of the best things to do in Dunkeld and Birnam.
Did you know that Beatrix Potter – author of the Tales of Peter Rabbit – spent a lot of time in Highland Perthshire? The writer was a great admirer of the Scottish countryside, and frequently visited Dunkeld and Birnam. In her memory, the Beatrix Potter Exhibition and Gardens is the perfect family day out. Children can spend an afternoon dressing up as Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Peter Rabbit, making crafts and having fun searching for their favourite characters in the charming gardens.
The Sma’ Glen is a scenic glen that runs along the fast-flowing River Almond. The glen is the perfect setting for a historic drive; the Romans built a fort and watchtower on the site, General Wade built a military road there and the glen even featured in a film, the 1981 Chariots of Fire. At the Northern end of the glen, make sure you keep an eye out for Ossian’s Stone, an 8 foot high monolithic stone, thought to be the burial place of the legendary Gaelic bard Ossian, circa 300 AD.
A wonderful idea: a walk lined with poetry! Experience art in nature on the Cobernic Poetry Path and be moved by beautiful, inspiring verses against the backdrop of the remarkable Perthshire countryside.
Visit the beautiful Dunkeld Cathedral and learn about the religious history of Dunkeld at the Chapter Museum.
Over 500 years old, the Birnam Oak is the last remaining oak tree from the great Birnam Wood, featured by Shakespeare in his tragedy Macbeth, also known as ‘the Scottish play’.
If you’re after nature and wildlife, make sure you don’t miss the Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve. Covering 98 hectares, the site is an ideal spot for birdwatching and spotting animals such as red squirrels and deer, along with walking through picturesque woodlands and scenery filled with wildflowers. There’s a gift shop and the visitor centre holds family activities throughout the year, including school holidays.
‘Towering Douglas firs, a spectacular waterfall and a picturesque folly’; it’s easy to see why The Hermitage is one of Perthshire’s most popular walking sites. Originally designed as a pleasure ground for the Dukes of Atholl, The Hermitage is a magical stretch of Perthshire Forrest, featuring some of the tallest trees in Britain. Here you can awe at the tremendous Black Linn Falls, a waterfall where the River Braan crashes into a deep pool below. Make sure you don’t miss Ossian’s Hall of Mirrors for unbeatable views of Black Linn Falls, and the Hermitage Bridge, which was sketched and painted by the renowned artist Turner.
Dunkeld has a delightful array of quirky shops and visitors flock to the area every year for its impressive arts and culture events. Here’s some of the best:
Birnam Arts is a multipurpose arts centre where you can find theatre, music, comedy, workshops and art exhibitions all-year-round. Make sure you check the listings before you travel and catch a show.
Ever fancied painting your own pottery? Perfect for a family outing, adults and children will love painting their own masterpiece at Going Potty, or simply buy something from their range of original hand-painted pottery.
If you’re planning to visit Dunkeld over the winter, you’re in for a treat. The annual Christmas Market and Santa Day is a popular event with locals and tourists; there is a festive parade and children can meet Santa. A magical market is full of crafts, gifts and treats, along with hot beverages to warm you through the afternoon.
The Atholl Gallery displays local Scottish artists and their work, including limited edition prints, ceramic, jewellery, sculpture and woodcraft all available to purchase.
The Dunkeld Art Exhibition has been running for over 45 years, and is an important date in the Perthshire cultural calendar, raising money for Dunkeld Cathedral. The exhibition runs for ten days in the stunning 19th century Gothic Parish Hall, the Duchess Anne, and displays around 400 art works including paintings and sculptures from artists all over the UK.
Dunkeld Smoked Salmon is a multi-award-winning small family run artisan smokehouse that specialises in producing wild and superior Scottish farmed smoked salmon. Absolutely delicious; visiting this shop is a must.
Howie’s is a top class bistro serving local produce at great prices. The restaurant caters for vegetarians, vegans and offers a gluten-free menu, but make sure you book a table if you intend to dine in the evening; it can get busy at times.
If you fancy a spot of fish and chips, Dunkeld Fish Bar is the best place to go; some say it serves the best fish and chips in Perthshire!
The award-winning Scottish Deli actually has two sites (one in Dunkeld and one in Pitlochry), but while you’re here you should definitely make time for a visit. Whether you eat in, take away or stock up your cupboards; be sure to try the incredible Dunkeld Salmon, homemade preserves and Mrs McSween’s famous haggis.
Dunkeld’s heritage makes it a truly wonderful location for an authentic Scottish holiday. At Home from Home Perthshire we have a wide range of self-catering holiday homes to suit all needs. Contact us for more information.