In these most strange of times, I count myself very lucky to live where we do in Edinburgh – so many places are a stone’s throw away and there are endless day trip and staycation possibilities. Highland Perthshire is one of my favourite such places to visit; just an hour and a half along the motorway the gateway to the Highlands beckons. Al’s 30th birthday bash was meant to take place at Ballintaggart Farm just before lockdown, so as restrictions eased we decided to have a mini celebration, just the two of us, at Ballintaggart’s sister hotel the Grandtully where we stayed last year.
It was just the escape we both needed after such a busy few months for us both professionally, and we struck a good balance between savouring the slow, small moments, while managing to see and do a variety of fun things to make the most of our stunning location. I shared the stories of our travel on my Instagram and had so many request for more details and thankful messages from folks who had tried my recommendations that I thought I’d put together some slow travel Highland Perthshire staycation tips here too, so they’re all in one place.
Stay: I can’t recommend the Grandtully Hotel by Ballintaggart enough. Every detail is so thoughtful, the staff incredibly welcoming and it felt safe and secure in terms of this strange world we’re living in just now. We stayed in Room Eight, which has a gorgeous wee roof terrace and sumptuous purple roll top bath. The highlight of every stay is, of course, the food. The desserts were particularly delicious: raspberry and thyme financier, chocolate salted caramel tart and foraged meadowsweet doughnuts. Need I say more? As always the veggie options were considered and layered flavour and texture skilfully, and I was particularly impressed with the range of tasty and well-balanced mocktails that made the most of seasonal ingredients and Scottish teetotal tipple Feragaia.
And those famous Ballintaggart breakfasts truly deserve a post of their own. A particular joy was the daily changing porridge toppings – all seasonal of course – from gooseberry to raspberry and pistachio to strawberry and almond. Breakfast is a multi-course affair at Ballintaggart and the team whipped me up some delectable savoury veggie treats. One day it was scrambled eggs with sumac and roasted broccoli, the next was poached egg with rainbow chard and nasturtium pesto. Heaven.
Eat: I was particularly excited for our visit knowing that Flora Shedden’s new provisions shop and sister to the famous Aran Bakery, Lon, had opened just the week before. It was every bit as dreamy as I had imagined – filled with seasonal produce, including flowers, and contemporary cupboard staples in a crisp, white space like Aran. I must have spent a small fortune on things I didn’t realise I needed. Blush gooseberries? Flat peaches? Yes please!
A trip to Aran Bakery is obligatory, of course, and we ate our pastries down by the River Tay, watching the world go by in the late Summer sunshine. Top tip: make sure you get to Aran early – particularly at weekends. Ideally before opening as there is almost always a queue and sell-outs are a daily occurrence. You have been well warned!
Walk: Just a hop and a skip from Dunkeld is the Hermitage, which I had visited before and was keen to return to. I’m even more excited to go back in Autumn – it’s the perfect forest escape. It can be busy (and you have to pay for parking if you’re not a National Trust member) but if you choose one of the longer paths you’ll soon find you have the woods to yourself.
We found the perfect spot by the river to eat our Aran Bakery picnic, foraging wild hazelnuts and spotting tadpoles in rock pools. It’s the most peaceful I’ve felt in a long time. Be sure to pack a blanket and remember to take your rubbish with you.
Shop: Aberfeldy is the home of quirky Perthshire independent shops. There’s a branch of my Edinburgh favourite, Homer; I absolutely loved how the colour palette reflected the Highland landscape. Make sure you visit The Watermill too, a shop turned café turned gallery. Their chai latte hit the spot and the selection of books was spot on. I found it hard to limit myself to just two! Nearby Mojo’s Curios had some fab vintage finds too.
View: They don’t call Highland Perthshire big tree country for nothing! If you love the landscape but aren’t so keen on hillwalking there are a few spots that offer high return for less effort. Loch Tay is a great spot as you can reward yourself after a nearby walk with a treat from Paper Boat in Kenmore. Close by, the walk up to the Falls of Acharn requires a wee bit more effort (not to mention navigating a small dark tunnel to get to the viewpoint!) but the view of the waterfall is spectacular and looking over Loch Tay as you walk back down the hill is more than worth it.
Have you been to Highland Perthshire before? Share your tips in the comments!