A couple of weeks ago, we headed up to sunny Perthshire to stay in Scotland’s oldest inn: the Kenmore Hotel.
We stumbled across Kenmore a couple of years ago, perched on the edge of the exceptionally beautiful Loch Tay, and very quickly decided we needed to back and explore the area properly. And what better reason than being able to stay in the oldest hotel in Scotland?
This trip has actually been on the cards for a while – I bought a voucher for the hotel back in 2020 to use in 2021, and then… it kept getting delayed. Finally, we got to use it in March, when the area still wouldn’t be too busy, but plenty of things were back open after a winter / Covid break.
Here’s what we got up to!
Scottish Crannog Centre
Our first stop was the recently re-opened Scottish Crannog Centre, one of Kenmore’s star attractions. Tragically, the crannog itself burned down last year, but we wanted to visit and support this uniquely interesting museum anyway.
A crannog is a traditional house set on an artificial island from the iron age, which served as the home for both the people and their animals. It’s thought that setting the crannog out over the water was a good way to protect livestock from predators – in those days, Scotland had wolves and even bears!
What I didn’t realise is just how much else there is to see at the museum. As well as the indoor exhibition explaining the history of the people who lived here, there are also some really fantastic hands-on areas outside, exploring crafts such as pottery, woodworking and clothing. As the girls eagerly told us about the fabrics they’d dyed the traditional way the communities of old would have done, with their urine, I was glad that these exhibits weren’t too hands-on!
We did, however, take home a clay pot that we shaped ourselves as the guy told us about what kind of things people would have made with the clay. Now to find an oven hot enough…
What I loved the most about the Crannog Centre is that the people working there, including our main guide, were all young and eager to share what they knew. An older gentleman in the main shop and office was overseeing the day-to-day function and keeping everyone in check, but most of our time was spent with people under 25 (possibly even under 20?) loving their jobs and springing an enthusiasm on us that really added to the place.
Given that the Crannog Centre only costs £7, we were really impressed with the set-up of the museum. Not only that, but the money will be going towards a new centre across the loch, which they have big plans for.
Including, of course, a brand new crannog. We’ll definitely be back once the new place is open.
So, I have to admit something – I messed up. I couldn’t remember which day I’d booked our hotel for, and they’d misspelled my email address so we didn’t get an email confirmation. The day before we rocked up to the hotel after work on the Friday, the hotel called and confirmed that it was, er… Saturday. It’s lucky that I hadn’t booked the Crannog Centre for the Saturday morning, but I’d still booked it for quite early in the day, which meant that we couldn’t check in straight after.
Happily, this meant we had some time to discover Aberfeldy.
We briefly visited Aberfeldy last time we drove through Kenmore, but we didn’t actually stop in the town itself at all and only did the Birks Of Aberfeldy walk. The walk is beautiful, though a bit tougher than it first seems with endless stairs. It’s the scene of a Rabbie Burns poem, with lines from the poem strewn along the walk in wooden panels, and even Rab himself taking in the view of the waterfalls.
This time, we were there to see the town that we had missed.
We had lunch in a curious looking cinema building, which turned out to be a community-restored actual cinema, showing all the latest blockbusters. In the foyer is a bustling café, and seeing that it must be a popular place, we headed in and grabbed the last table.
It was a great find on a whim, and we took a wander around the rest of the town afterwards to find a few other great-looking places, but we were happy with where we had eaten.
By the time we had finished exploring, it was time to go back to Kenmore.
The Kenmore Hotel
The most notable thing about the Kenmore Hotel is that it’s the oldest hotel in Scotland – but that’s not the only noteworthy fact.
One of its biggest claims to fame is that Robert Burns has written an entire poem above the fireplace, now kept safe behind perspex. Unfortunately, that means it’s really hard to get a photo of because of the light reflection!
Another interesting anecdote inside the building walls is that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed here on their honeymoon!
Well, if it’s fit for a Queen’s honeymoon… it’s certainly good enough for a weekend away for us! How crazy that comparison seems now.
That evening, we had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was excellent. I had venison cooked to perfection with a port and blackberry “reduction”, the reduction as in me being reduced to feeling very uncultured as I had no idea what a reduction was. Ash had the lamb and demolished that with vigour.
From there we headed straight to the bar to finish our wine, and I pretended I was now more cultured by reading some Rabbie Burns as a full book of his works was on a shelf in the bar.
I have to admit I’d never read Tam o’ Shanter despite it being one of Burns’ most famous poems. (I know, who is this girl? Never read Tam o’ Shanter? Doesn’t know what a reduction is?! I promise I won’t judge if you close the blog in rage right now.)
While I was reading, Ash was joining in with some banter on the next table, and soon we were several drinks in and had made friends with a bunch of raucous Fifers. We had so much fun we ended up not going to bed until after the bar had shut!
While we were mostly here for the hotel, Kenmore is undoubtedly one of my favourite villages in Scotland. Serenely picturesque, hugging the banks of Loch Tay, Kenmore doesn’t have a lot, but it doesn’t need a lot, either.
I find everything about it beautiful – the row of cottages, the church, even the local shop.
And, of course, where better to enjoy a sunset than a loch stretching out to the mountains beyond?
Unfortunately, the good weather ended there, and over breakfast the next morning we had to make a decision on what to do that day. Originally, I’d been planning a drive through nearby Glen Lyon, where we went last time, and perhaps a hike to Fionn’s Rock. In this weather? No chance.
With no hint of the rain letting up, we decided to head in a different direction altogether, and drove up to Kinloch Rannoch and many miles beyond.
Rannoch Station is one of the most remote train stations in the UK, but you can still drive to it. It’s another 20 miles beyond the village of Kinloch Rannoch, all the way along the length of the loch and even further, until you cannot drive any more.
There is also a well-loved tearoom at the station, which must be one of the most remote cafés in the UK! As with many places in the UK and around the world, it’s been on turbulent scheduling over the past couple of years, but I was glad to see it had reopened just a couple of weeks before our visit.
We got the last table again – we’d been planning to take a walk first and come back to the tearoom after, but naturally, as we arrived it was raining.
After a big breakfast, I wasn’t hungry enough for lunch so I placated myself with a slice of Victoria sponge and a cup of tea.
No exaggeration – with a lot of stiff competition, this was the best Victoria sponge cake I’ve ever had!
AND I was miffed to notice afterwards that they serve LADY GREY TEA. If you have no idea what that is, and most people don’t, it’s basically Earl Grey with a slight citrus twist. I have never seen it served ANYWHERE. And yet here, in the middle of absolutely nowhere twenty miles from the nearest village and twelve miles through wilderness to Glencoe, here it is. My favourite tea!
We got chatting to our waitress afterwards as she recommended a walk to a nearby beach (!!!). She loves working here and lives about 25 miles away, closer to Pitlochry than to Kinloch Rannoch even.
I said, quite observantly, that that’s quite a commute. “Best commute in the world,” she replied. I can see why!
She also asked if we’d seen the deer, and told us to watch out for them. The lodge owner next door usually feeds them in the afternoon.
Unfortunately we never did see the deer (although keep reading for more on that!) but by the time we had finished chinwagging, the rain had stopped so we did make it down to the beach, over the rail line and around 15 minutes into the walk to Glencoe.
On a sunny day, it might be one of my new favourite places in Scotland. It was astounding!
One day, I definitely want to do the walk to Glencoe – twelve miles of moorland towards the mountains. I’m led to believe it’s not the most straightforward of walks – after a few miles, I think the track gives way to marshland and you essentially have to navigate around a bog! Definitely a recipe for disaster for me.
Soon after we got to the beach, it started threatening to rain again, so we headed back to the car, didn’t see a sniff of a deer, and drove back to Kinloch Rannoch.
…where we saw LOTS of deer.
In fact, I’ve never seen so many stags together! I was AWED.
It turns out that Kinloch Rannoch is full of deer now, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. The population of deer has been rising exponentially – I’ve seen far more in the past year than I’ve seen in the previous 32 years of my life put together – as they haven’t been culled regularly. I’m not going to debate the issues surrounding that, but it was genuinely lovely to see them!
Our final stop of the weekend was a popular viewpoint that we had somehow never made it to – Queen’s View near Pitlochry.
It probably wasn’t the ideal time of year to come here, nor the ideal day weather-wise, but it’s still a really pleasant view.
Good to know: parking here is £2 all day, although unless you’re having lunch in the cafe you’re unlikely to be there more than half an hour. The walk to the viewpoint is only about 150m and has wheelchair access.
At this point, I’ve probably covered most of Perthshire across the blog, and it’s firmly one of my favourite regions of Scotland.
It’s also really accessible, with great train and bus links even in the middle of nowhere – yet it’s still largely overlooked compared with a lot of Scotland.
It’s a great area to explore if you want to get slightly off the beaten track without being too far away from it. After all, there are some areas, like Pitlochry, that are firmly ON the beaten track! Queen’s View is a popular coach tour stop. Yet like many places, go a few miles away and it’s much quieter.
We had a fabulous weekend in Perthshire and as always, I’m looking forward to next time.