Recently named as the best place to live in Scotland by the Sunday Times, the formerly quaint village of Dunkeld is now at risk of becoming a victim of its own success.

Visit there any weekend during the summer and you will find it near-impossible to park, find a seat in a beer garden or even walk down the street without being caught up in a huge melee of tourists.

But travel 20 miles north to another picture-perfect Perthshire village, Blair Atholl, and you will almost have the place to yourself. The village centres around the majestic Blair Castle (more on that later), but it also boasts a pretty high street with hotels and pubs, and unspoiled countryside for miles around.

We visited for a weekend recently and were pleasantly surprised at how quick and painless the drive from Glasgow was, especially now the A9 has been dualled for a large section on the approach to Dunkeld. Our first stop was to park up at Loch Moraig, a wonderfully tranquil spot declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the diversity of its flora. We watched a pair of swans ducking hypnotically into the water and then headed off to the nearby peaks of Beinn a' Ghlo for a hill walk.


Legs tired and faces chastened from the wind, it was an utter treat to have a mere 10-minute drive to our accommodation, the Clachan Farmhouse on Atholl Estates. Located in the hamlet of Struan, this self-catering cottage sleeps four but can be booked with the adjoining Clachan Annex for larger groups. A welcome pack with shortbread and chocolate was swiftly devoured before we collapsed in front of the log-burning fire.

The farmhouse is part of the Atholl Estates, which meant that Blair Castle was our first port of call the next morning. Guests get free entry to the castle and gardens -ordinarily £17 per adult- where a special ‘Castle Couture’ exhibition is running until the end of October. The collection showcases some exquisite outfits from the castle archives, with the sheer flamboyance of the fashion quite staggering to behold. Once we had suitably explored the castle we headed out into the sunshine to wander around the manicured gardens – arriving just in time to hear the resident bagpiper playing on the lawn. The castle gardens are dog-friendly, welcome news for our spaniel, who had a marvellous time frolicking around on the freshly-cut grass.


It was then only half a mile from Blair Castle to the Wasted Degrees Brewing Taproom. Located in an industrial estate on the edge of the main street in Blair Atholl, we were so underwhelmed at first that we questioned whether we were in the right place. But upon turning a corner and seeing the delightful al fresco dining set up, with picnic benches in a perfect little sun trap, it was clear we had stumbled upon a proper local favourite.

Wasted Degrees was founded in 2016 by brothers Conall and Jack Low with the goal of supporting local agriculture by brewing with Perthshire-grown ingredients. They strive to cut both food miles and plastic packaging while using 100% renewable energy. The taproom is an opportunity to showcase their beers and cider (although they also have a delightful range of cocktails) while serving fresh wood-fired pizzas, made using dough from The Bakery in Pitlochry. We opted for the pepperoni and honey and the chorizo and black pudding – I’m not exaggerating when I say they were among the best we’ve ever had.


We then headed back to the Clachan Farmhouse with a stop at the Struan Kirk Walk. It’s easy to miss the signpost for the start point off the B847, but it is well worth finding. The path starts pleasantly enough through some pine woodland, before the River Garry drops dramatically off to the left into a series of stunning waterfalls, each one more dramatic than before. If you feel brave enough you can climb down to the water’s edge and see the majestic water close up – it’s just as impressive as the Hermitage in Dunkeld but with the benefit of having the place entirely to yourself.

We signed off our weekend in style with a game of Scrabble in the sunshine, making the most of the enormous garden at Clachan Farmhouse and watching the sunset over the hills in the distance.

With all of the charm of Dunkeld, but a fraction of the tourists, why not give Blair Atholl a whirl this summer? You can thank us later...