Pitlochry is somewhere that I often drive past on the A9, as I head deeper into the Scottish Highlands. However I recently decided to put some of my anachronistic images of Pitlochry aside and spent a few days in this Highland gateway town. I’m glad I did, as I discovered there is loads going on in Pitlochry. I also found a great place to stay. Join me now as I share six great reasons to visit Pitlochry.
Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre
The remarkable Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre opened in spring 2017. It is free to visit and features a hands-on exhibition that tells the story of the impressive dam and hydroelectric works hulking outside. It offers the chance for kids and big kids alike to learn about Scotland’s swathe of green energy options and projects. You can even help generate electricity! With Scotland a recognised world leader in renewable energy this is a great attraction and, for me, reason enough to visit Pitlochry.
East Haugh House
East Haugh House is handily tucked just off the A9 just to the south of Pitlochry. This comfortably family-run hotel is a big favourite with the hunting, fishing and shooting brigade. It is also very welcoming to couples and families. Service is friendly and staff go that extra mile to offer tips on things to see and do locally. The luxurious bedrooms are fun and funky, with the grandeur of a Scottish country house hotel spiced up by interesting fabrics and modern design touches. Owner and acclaimed chef Neil McGowan, meanwhile, delivers a menu overflowing with first-rate Scottish produce.
Great Walking Country
Pitlochry is at the heart of some great walking country. From Pitlochry Dam you can cut north to stroll around Loch Faskally. Where you can walk along its banks appreciating an impressive sweep of rugged mountains. The very type of Highland Perthshire scenery that brings tourists to Pitlochry. Nearby Ben Vrackie (841 metres) is a spectacular hill walk for the well-prepared and experienced. A gentler experience awaits a short drive south at the Hermitage, with its epic expanse of trees and literary connections. For serious walkers the vaulting Munros of the Cairngorms National Park are also within each reach.
Recline with a dram of local whisky Edradour before enjoying chef proprietor Neil McGowan’s stellar Scottish cooking at East Haugh House. Impressively McGowan sources his beef and lamb sourced from a farm just down the road in Bankfoot. His signature dish, however, is local hare. Back in town, Pitlochry’s main street overflows with cafes – not all of the highest quality. Hettie’s Tearoom is a cut above the rest. Head here for award-winning baking and delicious Scottish ice cream.
My outdated expectations of tartan kitsch and twee music were also put paid to. These days Pitlochry has a diverse and booming cultural centre – thanks in no small part to the Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Tucked away near Pitlochry Dam, this impressive, spacious hub hosts everything from standard theatrical shows through to avant garde works, films and performances from other branches of the arts too.
Somewhat confusingly Pitlochry is home to Blair Athol Distillery, which you might think is located in the – albeit slightly differently spelt – village of Blair Atholl 7 miles to the north. The distillery is not the biggest in Scotland, but is certainly the biggest in town! Established back in 1798 it is also one of Scotland’s oldest working distilleries. You can learn more about it the whiskies produced there on a range of tours. Some of my favourite single malts, however, are produced at wee Edradour – Scotland’s smallest distillery. This bijou farm-style operation conjures up a lovely sweet, easy drinking malts. You can sign up for a tour or just snare a unique bottle to take home.