AS you gaze upon the Moness burn, it's easy to understand what inspired Robert Burns to write his poem The Birks of Aberfeldy.

Indeed, with its prime position on the mighty river Tay, surrounded by hill, forest and waterfall, the market town of Aberfeldy has long been a draw for romantics and nature-lovers.

It remains a great place to visit at any time of year, including winter, when the landscape, light and architecture take on a unique beauty. If you’re lucky, it might even snow.

And with a burgeoning food and arts culture, there’s more to this wee town than just great scenery.

Scotland's Insider GuideTobermory

Historic highlights

With its abundance of water, Aberfeldy was traditionally kept afloat by the whisky, grain and cotton industries.

Following the first Jacobite uprising, Wade’s Bridge across the Tay was completed in 1733, designed by William Adam, father of the great Scottish architect Robert Adam. Bonnie Prince Charlie fled north across the bridge towards defeat in 1745.

General Wade also raised the company of soldiers from the town that would eventually become the Black Watch regiment. A monument marks the gathering.

These days tourism is Aberfeldy’s main industry, with outdoor activities, whisky and history attracting visitors from all over the world.

What to do

Why not start your trip in the footsteps of the Bard? The aforementioned Birks of Aberfeldy is a beautiful - sometimes steep -1.5 mile circular walk ( through wooded slopes overhung with birch trees. The viewing platform provides impressive views of the gorge, waterfalls and across to the village of Strathtay.

If this puts you in the mood for something more adventurous than a tranquil stroll, you’ve come to the right place as there are a plethora of local firms keen to take you white water rafting, gorge walking, canyoning, abseiling and mountain-biking. Go to for a full list.

Wildlife is also a big draw in this area. Aberfeldy-based Highland Safaris ( run year-round tours via Land Rover, boat, bike and foot. Their winter safari offers a rare opportunity to see how species such as the mountain hare and red dear survive the cold highland wilderness.

Natasha Bennet highly recommends the company’s boat trip on Loch Tay. “I went in May and it was great fun,” she says. “The boat was comfortable and modern, with plenty of padded seating, and the staff were fantastic. The ride was relaxing in parts, super-fast in others, with a wonderful guide who explained the history of the area.”

Back in the town, the Aberfeldy Treasure Trail ( provides an imaginative, family-friendly way to get to know the place. Kids in particular will love this self-guided 1.25 mile walk round the landmarks – including the Wade Bridge, town square and Black Watch monument – as part of a fun whodunit packed with quirky clues.

If - when - it rains, why not take the opportunity to see a film at the Birks Cinema ( This beautiful art deco building has been transformed into a lively community hub and has an eclectic movie programme many city cinemas would be proud of. The café is fantastic, too.

The Aberfeldy Festival (, every November in the town hall, is a mix of music, art and poetry with an indie bent - with good food and whisky to boot.

Talking of whisky, no visit to Aberfeldy would be complete without a tour of Dewar’s distillery (, which has been producing the water of life since 1898. You’ll likely bump into plenty of Americans while you’re there, since Dewar’s is the top-selling Scotch brand in the US. As well as the lively guided tour and interactive exhibition, there’s a welcoming whisky lounge in which to enjoy a dram or three.

Scotland's Insider Guide: Tobermory

Where to eat

In the centre of town on the main square is the Habitat Café, which serves a wide variety of speciality coffee and teas (complete with cute brewing timers) and moreish home baking. The savoury menu is just as tasty – the barley risotto with thyme and parmesan is quite superb, while the burgers compete with anything you’d find in the coolest restaurants in Glasgow in Edinburgh.

The Tay Café on Dunkeld Street doesn’t look much from the outside but the food served inside is excellent. Not surprisingly, the hearty breakfast rolls and five-star scones – all at very reasonable prices – are popular with locals and tourists alike. Try the spicy chilli bean soup for a hearty winter warmer.

Thyme to Eat at Errichel (, just outside town, offers delightful seasonal produce, made all the more enjoyable thanks to stunning views across the Perthshire countryside.

Susan Dimmock recommends a visit to the Logierait Inn ( – established 1710 – just a 10-minute car journey from Aberfeldy. “The food is amazing,” she says.

Fiona Sloan, meanwhile, has good things to say about the Inn on the Tay in Grandtully ( “A family run business with super big rooms and a cosy wee bar which is dog friendly,” she says. “The meals and service are amazing and the views of the rapids of the River Tay are unmissable. A lovely place to stay, eat and relax.”

Where to shop

Be prepared, the Watermill Bookshop ( has much more to offer than books alone, and before you know it you may have spent an entire afternoon. The gallery always has an exhibition worth seeing, while the café is a local institution.

Independent shoe emporium Square Feet, on The Square, stocks quality shoes, boots and bags.

For interior design inspiration, head to Spirit of Wood, at Mains of Murthly, which has a wonderful range of homeware and gifts.

Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters (, in Aberfeldy Business Park, is a must-visit for caffeine fanatics. The company works with coffee growers across the world and produces some of the best coffee you’ll taste this side of Ethiopia. Take home freshly-roasted beans and some great cool coffee paraphernalia.

Scotland's Insider Guide: Tobermory

Where to stay

In town: The Townhouse offers comfortable, stylish rooms from £79 a night, including breakfast.

Country retreat: Set on a 35-acre estate, Moness is relaxed hotel and spa that occupies an 18th-century hunting lodge and adjacent cottages. From £87 a night.

Cosy: Cruck Cottage is picture-postcard pretty with an elegant interior and private garden. Sleeps 4, from £75 a night on

What to do nearby

Just 15 minutes’ drive from Aberfeldy, right on Loch Tay, the award-winning Scottish Crannog Centre ( provides a fascinating insight into Iron Age life. With interactive storytelling, ancient exhibits and a fantastic reconstruction (not to mention the great dressing up box), there’s something for every age and knowledge base.

The magical woodland gardens at Cluny House (clunyhousegardens), 10 minutes from Aberfeldy, are simply overflowing with exotic plants, trees and flowers from around the world. Look out for the delightful red squirrels, too.

Just in case you’ve not already soaked up enough stunning scenery, Queen’s View, near Pitlochry, overlooking Loch Tummel, never disappoints. Named after Queen Victoria following her visit to the area in 1866 (or Robert the Bruce’s wife Queen Isabella, depending on who you talk to), it offers one of the most famous panoramas in Scotland. On a clear day you can see all the way to Glencoe.

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