Perthshire is one of my favourite counties in Scotland, and yet in terms of travel destinations it’s a bit of an underdog, often bypassed for the dramatic mountains of the Highlands or the urban gems of the country’s central belt. It also has a reputation for being a bit ‘twee’, catering more towards the Plus-Four market than your average Joe.

But I think people are missing a trick here. Perthshire is beautiful. Some of the hotels may be a little pretentious yet its scenery is anything but, showcasing everything that is rugged and great about this country; from deep, curving glens to sprawling forests and hidden lochs. Its valleys are sheltered by the hills and nourished by the rivers, meaning that all year round you get those fantastic colours from the land – from Autumnal browns and oranges, to deep greens and whispers of blue. It’s the perfect place to get outdoors, and because it sits within easy driving distance from Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow, can be visited even as part of a day trip.

The county is crying out with things to do, no matter how big or small your budget may be – and no, it’s not all just salmon fishing and playing golf. Still need convincing? Here’s my round-up of the best alternative things to do in Perthshire…

Highland Safaris

21If you’re interested in getting up close and personal with Scotland’s wildlife then there’s no better place to start than Highland Safaris, recently awarded a Certificate of Excellence by Tripadvisor. This lovely centre in Aberfeldy was established in 1992 by Donald and Julie Riddell, and offers visitors the opportunity to combine nature with the dramatic local scenery with personalised landrover ‘safari’ rides up the dramatic hills that overlook the town. The 4x4s at the centre can cope with just about any request, and guests can choose to be dropped off at the top of the mountain to work their way back down on foot or by mountain bike.   While wildlife viewings can’t be guaranteed, it’s not uncommon to see red deer, mountain hares, grouse and even the majestic golden eagle before being treated to a warm cup of tea or coffee (or even a dram of Dewars Whisky) in one of the mountain-top bothies in the company of one of lovely, kilted rangers. The centre also has a newly built Red Deer Centre, where you can learn about the ‘Monarch of the Glen’ and even feed them by hand. 

Off-Road Driving

Situated just outside the beautiful village of Dunkeld, on the banks of Butterstone Loch, is the Highland Offroad centre, which offers visitors the opportunity the zip around some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery in landrovers. Highly trained instructors are on hand to teach you all about the skills required in off-road driving, and with some pretty rugged terrain to cover, you’ll really get to see what these vehicles are capable of! The centre also offers quad bike treks, and with over 280 acres of estate to explore, including forest and steep hills, you can be guaranteed that adrenaline will be flowing!

Loch Leven Castle

Perthshire has a colourful and often tumultuous history, and has been the setting for many pivitol moments in Scotland’s troubled past. There are so many heritage sites worth exploring, but to me, the most fascinating is Loch Leven Castle, which is where Mary Queen of Scots was incarcerated in 1567. The castle is only a short distance from Kinross and yet it feels much further away; accessed only boat, the water which surrounds it adds to its sense of isolation and loneliness. Though well preserved, only half of the castle still stands today, and you can only wonder, as you gaze out across the misty loch, how it would have felt to be imprisoned here all those years ago…

Spend the night in a Kata Tent

Just a short drive outside the gorgeous town of Crieff, nestled into stunning woodland scenery, is Comrie Croft, an award-winning eco-friendly camping ground with a difference. Guests can bring their own tents or choose to sleep in a Nordic Kata, which is a large, tipi-style tent. The Katas come kitted out with a large alpine bed, sheepskin rugs, an outdoor hammock and their own wood-burning stove. They can easily accommodate a family of six, and make for a really fun, alternative way to spend a night in the heart of Scotland’s wilderness.

Test your bravery with a ghost tour!

Ever fancied spending the night in a haunted castle? Well, now you can. Castle Menzies, just outside Aberfeldy, was built in the 1500s, and has long been known as one of Scotland’s paranormal hotspots; over the years, there has been many a spooky sightings, from ghostly children to the infamous ‘Grey Lady’. If you fancy learning about the castle and its troublesome past, join local storyteller Gary Knight on one of his guided evening tours, where you will be shown around the building and its grounds and hear all about its haunted legacy.

Have a night out in Pitlochry

22Pitlochry may be small, but there’s plenty to do and always a buzz in the air. Just a short drive off the A9, it’s the perfect place to base yourself for a stay in Perthshire, and with its great selections of bars and restaraunts, there’s as much to do in the evening as there is during the day. For the perfect evening, go see a show at the award-winning Pitlochry Festival Theatre, followed by drinks and live music at McKays hotel. If you’re visiting during October, be sure to check out the Enchanted Forest, a dazzling light and music display which takes place in the nearby Faskally Wood – though you will need to book your tickets in good time; last year’s show attracted over 30,000 visitors!

Take to the skies!

Ok, so it won’t be for everyone, but I can’t imagine a more impressive way of seeing Perthshire than looking down on it from above – and now you can, with a flight in a Microlight plane! The Scottish Microlight Flight Centre offers visitors the opportunity to have either a ‘gentle leisurely training flight’ or a ‘thrill seeking 100 + mph sport training flight’ above the beautiful Scottish scenery.

Spend a day at Loch Tay

Whether it’s because of their difficult pronunciation, associations with mysterious monsters, or just simply their beauty, there’s no denying the popularity of Scotland’s lochs. Pertshire is home to many beautiful lochs, the largest and most dramatic of which being Loch Tay. Despite its beauty, Loch Tay is not nearly as well-known as Loch Lomond or Loch Ness; there’s still plenty to do however, and during the summer months, the water comes alive with activity, from keen anglers to watersports enthusiasts. If you’re interested in renting a boat, going kayaking, or having a shot at sailing, then be sure to check out the recently opened Taymouth Marina Watersports centre at Kenmore.

Visit the Edradour Distillery

I love visiting Scotland’s distilleries. Each distillery has its own story and distinct identity, but perhaps the most enchanting is that of Edradour, which has been operating since 1825. Edradour is the smallest distillery in Scotland, manned by just three men, and claims to be unique in being the “last handmade single malt whisky from a farm distillery still in production today.” Visit the distillery for an intimate insight into the production process, and you’ll even be treated to a ‘wee dram’ to warm the cockles…

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