Take the Low Road: Dunkeld, Scotland Day Trip


Copyright ©  by May DeLory

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2014 will be a momentous year for Scotland – not only will the destination host some of the most well-known events in the sporting calendar – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September – it will also celebrate all that is great about the country with ‘Homecoming Scotland’, a year-long programme of fantastic events and activities. http://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/homecoming-scotland-2014/

On September 1st, BritRail’s most popular rail passes will be available at a 20% discount when purchased for travel in November, December, January and February. The Low Season discount not only applies to the classic BritRail Pass and BritRail England Pass, giving you a great opportunity to travel to every corner of Great Britain, but it is now also offered on the BritRail’s South West Pass, which covers travel from London to Great Britain’s southwest area. http://www.acprail.com/tickets-and-reservations/united-kingdom

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Dunkeld, Scotland

On your way to the Scottish Highlands?  Slow down and visit one or two pretty villages along the way where you’ll encounter real peace and quiet.  You may be delightfully surprised by the unique gift items and high quality pastry, tea and coffee you’ll find nowhere else but in small villages and towns.  Of course if you are interested in nature, fishing, hunting, birding adventures, horse riding and festivals that celebrate the unique…you have come to the right place: Scotland’s rural landscape.
 
Dunkeld, Scotland in Perthshire on the River Tay by train makes for a fabulous overnight stay or day trip by automobile (approximately 50 miles) from Edinburgh. Just a two-hour journey by rail. The Dunkeld landscape is whimsical and makes for day-dreaming spells…. Plus you’ll be amongst a great forest — the Birnam Woods — mentioned by Shakespeare in Macbeth. Robert Burns, Scotland’s famous bard, wrote two poems in honour of his  love of Perthshire trees: “The Birks of Aberfeldie”  written in 1787; and “The Humble Petition of Bruar Water”.
The rain fell in soft but even drops the afternoon I arrived by train to Dunkeld. I checked into the Royal Dunkeld Hotel on Atholl Street (main street for cafes and shops), a large and rather grand building constructed in 1815 – 1820 in the centre of Dunkeld (five minutes’ walk from the bridge that crosses over the River Tay). A grand staircase that leads to the upper floors overlooks the entrance to the dining room where I enjoyed the next morning a buffet breakfast of porridge and eggs.  Nothing fancy but satisfying.The Royal Dunkeld was once a stage coach inn with one floor and owned by William Smytton.   The stage-coach left the Royal Hotel each morning and evening except Sunday on its way to Inverness to Perth. In winter the coach left on alternate days. The hotel prided itself on hunting and fishing tours for its guests. Queen Victoria paid a visit to the hotel. The adventure tour reputation still holds to this day.  If you’re interested in booking a fishing, hiking or other adventure tour, you’ll find a wide selection from which to choose at the hotel.In 1835 two floors were added to bring the hotel rooms to 40 bedrooms. Stables were added at the back of the hotel where fine Post horses for men and ponies for women could be secured for rides in the lovely countryside. The Dunkeld and Birnam Golf Club with 18 holes at 5511 yards and ranked SSS 67 and par 69 is just out of town. The hotel has many artifacts from the hotel’s beginnings on display in its foyer. I saw several restaurants in Dunkeld but I thought I’d try my hotel’s dining room.  I wasn’t disappointed with a leg of lamb as the meat was both tender and sweet. Mashed potatoes were made from real potatoes.  Dark ale and a lovely dessert and I was ready for bed. The accommodation at the hotel is standard fare but the hospitality is far above average.
Dunkeld Cathedral, Dunkeld, Scotland
Dunkeld Cathedral Grounds, Scotland
On the main street in Dunkeld is where I purchased high quality green cotton twine made in Scotland to secure one piece of luggage that had seen better days. The twine repair got me safely all the way back to Canada. Dunkeld is this sort of place where you can find the hard-to-find stuff as are most small villages.Thomas Telford’s Dunkeld Bridge built in 1809 leads into Dunkeld and crosses over the River Tay.  Wonderful views of Dunkeld Cathedral (13th c) may be seen from a walk across the bridge.  At one end of the bridge is the almost hidden stairway entrance to the River Tay Walk alongside the river’s edge. Landscape is straight out of a Grimms’ fairy tale.  You’ll be able to see Dunkeld Cathedral on the north side of the River Tay from your river walk.  http://www.explore-highland-perthshire.com/transport.htm

Dunkeld, Scotland: secret walking path beneath the bridge

Dunkeld, Scotland: secret walking path beneath the bridge

Dunkeld has a pretty main street — Atholl Street — with exceptional bakery and tea shops.  In my humble opinion the fare was delicious; especially, if you like homemade fruit and meat pies.  Park on the side of the street in town or around the corner from the main part of town near the bank and tourist office and you’ll be within minutes of wonderful tea and pastry shops and clothing stores.

Dunkeld Cathedral is only minutes away and along a pretty tree-lined path from Cathedral Street with a view of the River Tay.  On the village’s main street (Atholl Street) you’ll find a jewellery shop where the owner designs and creates hand-crafted pieces in her shop. I like a unique hardware shop with a feel for history. Dunkeld has a hardware store on the main street you just have to visit. Park on Atholl or on any of the side streets (there are only a few streets) and then walk around the village.  The cathedral is within a five minute walk from Atholl street.  You’ll find a couple of wood benches to rest awhile and to admire the fast moving river. Dunkeld is within one hour’s automobile drive from Ediburgh so makes for a lovely day trip without the large crowds of tourists you’ll doubtless find in large cities. The fresh country air is like a day at a health and wellness spa. Peace and relaxation while you enjoy shopping in exciting shops, eating scones,  pastries, pork pies and relaxing with a cup of tea or a rich brew of coffee before you’re on your way to other adventures in Scotland.  Stay overnight and join a birdwatchers group.  This area is well-known for this sort of thing.

Sleepy street in Dunkeld on the banks of River Tay

Near the village of Birnam two immense trees are to be found: a Birnam Oak near 1000-years in age; also, The Birnam Sycamore at approximately 300-years’ old. Both trees are in the list of the one-hundred  Scottish Heritage Trees.

Dunkeld Cathedral was proclaimed the first ecclesiastical capital of Scotland by Scotland’s first king, Kenneth MacAlpin and contains one of the few Scottish monuments to have survived from the Middle Ages,  the tomb of Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan ( 1343 – 1405) known as the notorious “Wolf of Badenoch”  — son of King Robert 11 of Scotland. The “Wolf” burned the Elgin Cathedral as well as many villages of the day and was long remembered as a cruel man.

The cathedral is surrounded by the Perthshire hills and forest trees. Celtic missionaries, known as Culdees, built in approximately 570 A.D. a wattle monastery. In 848 the monastery was rebuilt in stone by Kenneth MacAlpin, King of Scots. Visit the East gable of the Choir to see some of the original red stones.  Dunkeld Cathedral was built in stages from 1260 to 1501 in the Gothic and Norman styles.  The restored Choir is the oldest section of the church completed in 1350. The cathedral is dedicated to St. Columba, whose name means “dove”. It is said that Saint Columba’s relics were hidden beneath the chancel steps from the invading Norsemen of the day. You’ll find the dove motif in the East Window (stained glass window). In 1689 the Carneronians fought against the Jacobites and won; but, the cathedral and village of Dunkeld were almost completely destroyed by fire.

Secret entranceway in Dunkeld Cathedral ceiling

The north wall of the Dunkeld Cathedral contains the Coat of Arms of the Atholl Family. You’ll find this Coat of Arms over the Chapter House door. Behind the carved oak screen you’ll see a headless effigy of Bishop Sinclair who was the chaplain to King Robert the Bruce during the War of Independence. There is a model of what was to be at the time the intended Atholl Mansion that was never completed and eventually became the Dunkeld House hotel on Atholl Street in Dunkeld.

Dunkeld was once the most important village in Scotland due to its location in the centre of the Celts.   Most Dunkeld houses date from the early 1700s and are now governed by The National Trust For Scotland (NTS).  Villagers still live and work in these well maintained and restored houses.  When you visit the Dunkeld tourism office in Dunkeld ask about the Ell Shop which features the original “ell” measure device at just over a metre long used for measuring cloth in ancient times.

Atholl Street, Dunkeld, Scotland
Dunkeld main street shops where you'll find colourful rain boots

Dunkeld main street shops where you’ll find colourful rain boots

Dunkeld, Main Street shopping

Dunkeld, Main Street shopping

 

Some interesting Dunkeld facts courtesy of Perthshire Big Tree Country

It was the ‘Planting’ Dukes of Atholl who introduced forestry on a large scale.  Between 1738 and 1830  the Dukes of Atholl planted some twenty-seven-million conifers around the village of Dunkeld.  The Hermitage of Dunkeld is where you’ll have an opportunity to admire this 17th century sense of eco-tourism. If you’ve ever visited northern British Columbia in Canada or Capilano Suspension bridge in North Vancouver, BC you’ll know just how exciting it is to come up full face against ancient trees. http://www.capbridge.com/

Tree Hugger!

Here are some record breakers to keep an eye out for on your travels if you like ancient trees:

-  Largest yew in Europe: Fortingall yew ( G  17m).

-  The widest conifer in Britain is at Cluny House Gardens, Aberfeldy.

-  Tallest Japanese larch in Britain: Diana’s Grove at Blair Castle (H 44m, G 3m).

-   Oldest living thing in Europe:  Fortingall yew at 3000 to 9000-years-old.

One of the tallest trees in Britain is a Douglas fir near the Hermitage (H 64.5m).

www.welcometoscotland.com  2013/2014 special events.

www.perthshirebigtreecountry.co.uk

www.dunkeldcathedral.org.uk  Dunkeld Cathedral.  Day trip by train from Edinburgh. Quaint village known for stunning landscape ideal for hiking and nature walks.  Some of the best fruit and meat pastries I’ve ever tasted are to be found in the village of Dunkeld.

www.dunkeld-handbells.co.uk Be sure to check out the  small ensemble ringing of The Little Dunkeld 9th Century Celtic Bell performance in Dunkeld Cathedral:  Wednesdays 2: pm to 4: pm April to September.  Telephone the tourist office for current details:  01350 727688.

www.dunkeldandbirnam.co.uk

http://www.thefiddletree.co.uk/  2012 performers:  The Tim Kliphuis Trio (Holland  www.timkliphuis.com) ; The Halton Quartet at the Birnam Arts Centre. The Halton Quartet are two of Scotland’s most innovative and captivating duos, The Halton Quartet may be more familiar to audiences as Angus Lyon & Ruaridh Campbell, and Wingin’ It.    www.thehaltonquartet.com

www.murthly-estate.com   Enjoy a beautiful walk up Birnam Hill, salmon fishing on the renowned River Tay or arrange to visit the historical Murthly Castle & Chapel. Stunning landscapes offered throughout the year, however Spring & Autumn are particularly impressive. Murthly & Strathbraan Estates is a traditional working estate stretching from Trochry to Murthly. It incorporates Birnam Hill, the Birnam Oak and Murthly Castle. There is good walking to be had, with the long-established paths across the Estate now incorporated in the local path network.Tours of Murthly Castle, the chapel and garden are available by appointment only, as it plays host to weddings, concerts and other events. Country sports enthusiasts are well catered for here, with salmon fishing on the River Tay.

www.cardneysportingestate.co.uk   Some of the best in Scotland private driving tours for pheasant and partridge days from 100-500 bird days over 36 drives.  From high challenging birds to simulated grouse over a variety of terrain. Cardney is Scotland’s biggest small estate. The estate nestles in the hills above the Hamlet of Butterstone some four miles east of the ancient Perthshire village of Dunkeld.  The estate has some superb duck flighting with eight flight ponds and Butterstone Loch from which to choose.  You’ll find mallard, teal and widgeon.  Grey leg and pink footed geese from Canada are found mainly in the valley around Butterstone Loch although Canada geese often visit the flight ponds. Duck flighting and goose shooting are normally only let in conjunction with driven days. Cardney Estate offers trout fishing over a number of lochs. Cardney Loch is a specimen loch with a remarkable stock of rainbow and brown trout ranging from 5lb to 25lb.  Roe buck stalking  is available on the estate which is predominately carried out on the hill ground with a few bucks being shot on the low ground. The best periods for Roe buck stalking on Cardney are May, June and August.

www.pitlochryautumnfestival.co.uk  Sept/October annual festival

http://www.eastcoast.co.uk/york

www.broughton-stuartjewellery.co.uk  Broughton-Stuart Jewellery Limited / Craig Stuart B. Des (Hons) at 25 Atholl Street, Dunkeld

www.pitlochryautumnfestival.co.uk

www.enchantedforest.org.uk Enchanted Forest, Friday 5 to Saturday 27 October 2012. Check out 2013 events.

www.perthshirebigtreecountry.co.uk   A short nature trail through woodland that follows the edge of the River Braan towards Ossian’s Hall.

www.perthshirebigtreecountry.co.uk 27 million conifers were planted in Dunkeld by The Dukes of Atholl between 1738 and 1830.  And it shows lovely!  The Parent Larch is behind Dunkeld Cathedral.

http://soc.li/sygtBSa Book of Spells.

http://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/ Join a wildlife adventure.

http://bit.ly/1biCaCr  Luxury train travel.

www.walkersshortbread.com

Royal Highland Show, Edinburgh, 20 – 23 June, 2013 The 173rd show takes place this year and welcomes prize winning livestock, a celebration of rural skills and countryside living, and exceptional local produce. Last year saw sheep shearing competitions to shopping opportunities, and axe throwing to ceilidhs.

Nature walks, fishing, hunting, shooting, cycle tours.

Nature walks, fishing, hunting, shooting, cycle tours.

Hiking Trail in Dunkeld, Scotland

Access hiking trail by the River Tay at Dunkeld, Scotland, and just minutes’ from the centre of Dunkeld. The trail entrance is just over the Dunkeld bridge. Don’t forget, it’s very easy to visit enchanting towns, cities and villages throughout Scotland by rail and automobile. Two-hours’ by rail Edinburgh Waverley Station to Dunkeld (no information booth is available at Dunkeld…it’s just a stop on the line with only one public telephone…so make sure you have your telephone numbers handy and money for the telephone call if need be).  I hope you are as lucky as I was when I paid a visit to Dunkeld as there was a small gathering of singers giving a concert in the cathedral. Interested in joining a birding and/or nature tour group in Dunkeld?  http://wildlife.visitscotland.com/unique/perthshire

Hiking trail follows the river at Dunkeld, Scotland
Hiking trail follows the river at Dunkeld, Scotland

Travelling by rail?  Complete your booking, please email Info@acprail.com or call 1-866-938-7245 (toll-free for Canada and USA).  www.britrail.com Check out the 2012 fall travel specials.

Explore Natural Scotland with BritRail’s Extra Day Offer

Scenic Views Included

Visit Scotland’s Year of Natural Scotland in 2013!  BritRail invites you to discover Scotland by train, where rolling hills, rugged mountains and sparkling lakes form the backdrop to historic castles and vibrant cities. The BritRail Freedom of Scotland Travelpass is the perfect companion as now you get an extra travel day when you purchase your pass between April 1st and April 30th, 2013. Enjoy multiple train trips on each travel day, while boarding any train on the National Rail Network in Scotland. Hop on and off trains en route to cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Aberdeen and Inverness, just to name a few. Pass holders also benefit from free travel on select Scotland ferry and coach services, such as Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services and select routes aboard Scottish Citylink buses, among others.

The BritRail Freedom of Scotland Travelpass extra day promotion will extend your pass by an additional day of rail travel, valid in standard class, adult and child fares, for either 4 days within 8 days or 8 days within 15 days, plus one of course! Take Edinburgh to Glasgow for example; with trains departing every 15 minutes. Hop on the train of your choice. 50 minutes later you’re there! BritRail Freedom of Scotland Travelpass BritRail Passes are valid for six months from the date of purchase, you can use your pass to travel anytime in the summer and beyond. Purchase BritRail pass before taking flight as BritRail Passes cannot be purchased in Britain.

Shetland Ponies
Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty will be celebrated this year as the country showcases the best of its historic landscapes, natural playgrounds and fascinating wildlife as part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013. For more information go to www.cometoscotland.ca www.shetland-knitwear.co.uk Doreen Brown, Shetland Collection. mail@shetland-knitwear.co.uk
Leave room in your luggage for special purchase items.

Leave room in your luggage for special purchase items.

www.shetland-knitwear.co.uk

Dr. Bruce Durie at McLean House / Toronto

Dr. Bruce Durie at McLean House in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for Homecoming Scotland 2014 media event.

Dr. Bruce Durie, genealogist, author, broadcaster and lecturer.  Shenachie to the Chief of Durie.  www.duriefamily.co.uk   www.brucedurie.co.uk  Recently, Dr. Durie was one of the Visit Scotland guests at The Estates of Sunnybrook / McLean House in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  www.estatesofsunnybrook.com

Watch an interview with journalist John McCarthy as he discusses photographs of the Prince of Wales’s 1862 tour of the Middle East in an exhibition about the tour. Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East is at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse (Edinburgh, Scotland) until 21 July. http://bit.ly/172sRJv

Edinburgh Castle, perched high on the hill over the Scottish capital, was the birthplace of King James VI in June 1566. As well as an interesting tour of this Royal Palace where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her only child, James, visitors will experience The Honours of Scotland, which are the nation’s crown jewels. www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk

Luxury train train travel.  http://bit.ly/1biCaCr

Photos & Text Copyright © by May DeLory. All rights reserved. For use of images or content on this blog please contact May DeLory.

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