Nowhere does autumn quite like Perthshire! The region also nicknamed Big Tree Country is famous for its extensive woodlands, numerous lochs and rivers, and towering Highland mountains – and of course its autumn colours. In this post, I tell you more about my favourite places to immerse yourself in the seasonal display and enjoy autumn in Scotland.
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Autumn is a fantastic time to travel around Scotland, especially if you love witnessing the change of seasons, going for walks and stepping on crunching leaves, or settling down in a cosy armchair with a good book and a hot beverage.
This post contains everything you need to know for an autumn trip to Perthshire, including where to stay and eat, what to see, the best road trips, events and hikes for the seasons.
Autumn Travel in Perthshire
Where is Perthshire?
Perthshire is a region in the heart of Scotland – quite literally, the geographic centre of mainland Scotland is located a few kilometres off Schiehallion mountain. The city of Perth is the main hub of the region, but there are several other smaller towns and villages perfect as a home base, such as Pitlochry, Aberfeldy or Crieff.
Pitlochry lies about 1.5 to 2 hours drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh, making it an easy destination for a day trip, a weekend getaway or a longer holiday in Big Tree Country.
You can also reach Perthshire by train – for example, stations in Pitlochry or Dunkeld and Birnam for The Hermitage – and utilise the local bus system; but a car will give you the most flexibility and reach.
Reasons to Visit Perthshire in Autumn
Autumn is arguably the best time to visit Perthshire because the woodlands of the area light up in all shades of yellow, red and orange. The autumn display in the forests is really quite spectacular!
Of course, the colours of nature are not the only reason to visit Perthshire in autumn. Despite its famous autumn foliage, Perthshire is off the beaten track and offers a relaxed environment for a trip to the Scottish Highlands. Furthermore, there are many events at this time of the year, such as the Scottish Tree Festival and The Enchanted Forest near Pitlochry (see below).
Things to do Perthshire in Autumn
There are a lot of things to do in Perthshire and most of these are fun to do at any time of the year. But there is really no better time to experience the woodlands, quirky villages and hikes in Perthshire than during autumn!
Photograph Autumn Foliage at Killiecrankie Gorge
Killiecrankie is a beautiful wooded river gorge along the River Garry. There are many places of interest to visit here: from the picturesque footbridge near the B8019, woodland walks through the gorge, Soldier’s Leap – the spot where a Redcoat soldier leapt 18 ft across the raging River Garry, fleeing the Jacobites – and Killiecrankie Visitor Centre where you can learn more about the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689.
PS: You can bungee jump from the bridge at Killiecrankie gorge – can you spot them in the picture below?!
Road Trip to Queen’s View
It’s easy to think that Queen’s View over Loch Tummel was named after Queen Victoria – like so many other places in Scotland. She even believed so herself, when she visited this spot in 1866. It is very likely though, that Queen’s View was named after Isabella, the first wife of King Robert the Bruce.
The drive up to Queen’s View is narrow and winding, so take your time for the drive. The reward at the end is this stunning view of Loch Tummel, the mountains of the Highlands in the distance, and a steamy cup of tea from the Queen’s View Visitor Centre.
Go hiking at The Hermitage
The Hermitage is one of the most popular woodland areas for walks to see autumn colours in Scotland! The Douglas firs in this forest are among the tallest trees in the UK and red squirrels still road these woodlands plentiful. A particularly special place to visit is Ossian’s Hall from where you can get a magnificent view of Black Linn Falls. Find out more here.
Visiting the charming town Pitlochry
Pitlochry is a picturesque Victorian town in the heart of Perthshire, right on the shores of River Tummel. There are a lot of things to do in and around Pitlochry – enough to warrant its own blog post one day. Whether you stop for just a few hours or spend several nights here, Pitlochry is one you will always remember.
The bustling high street is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. I recommend Hettie’s Tearoom for lunch or afternoon tea – they have over 100 kinds of tea to choose from and several vegan-friendly sweet & savoury food items on the menu. There are two whisky distilleries offering tours, Blair Atholl Distillery and Edradour Distillery. From the centre of Pitlochry, it is a short walk to River Tummel and walking paths each side of the water.
The Enchanted Forest
The Enchanted Forest is a fixture in Scotland’s autumn calendar. Every year for a month, Faskally Wood near Pitlochry turns into a fascinating world of lights and sounds. This year’s theme is Cosmos and the forest provides a natural backdrop for the award-winning light installation.
Note that the 2020 show has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, tickets for 2021 will go on sale soon – make sure you book yours fast as tickets are likely to sell out even quicker than usually!
Climb a Munro
There are numerous Munros in Perthshire – that’s a mountain over 3,000ft – and many of them are pretty beginner-friendly.
Just make sure you read my beginner’s guide to Munro bagging to know what you’re getting yourself into.
Thanks to its perfect cone-like shape, Schiehallion is one of the most well-known Munros in Scotland. The hike starts at the Braes of Foss car park near Tummel Bridge.
The first part of the path is very easy to follow, but the terrain gets tougher up on the ridge. The views from the top are worth the effort though. You can see the surrounding lochs (Tummel, Rannoch and Dunalastair Reservoir), and peaks of Glencoe in the distance. The hike descends the same way down. It takes approximately 4-6 hours in total. Find out more here.
Another Munro with a straight-forward path is Ben Chonzie near Crieff. The hike starts from the tiny Ben Chonzie car park in Invergeldie.
The majority of the hike follows a wide track through the holly moorland. The last bit of the trail leads through sometimes boggy heather before crossing the plateau to the summit. It takes approximately 4-5 hours to complete. Find out more here.
Finally, for a fairly easy double-Munro day, consider climbing Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers in the Lawers Range. The hike starts from the Ben Lawers car park near Killin.
The path up the first peak is steep but straight-forward to follow. There is a slight dip between the two summits, but you will barely notice thanks for the stunning views all around. It takes 4-6 hours to complete this hike. Find out more here.
Immerse yourself in Scottish Poetry at the Birks of Aberfeldy
Aberfeldy is another great hub in Perthshire and offers many things to do and see, just like Pitlochry. There is a whisky distillery (Dewar’s), an epic book shop with a great cafe (Watermill Bookshop) and a bunch of cafes, shops and eateries to browse on a crisp autumn day.
The circular walk around the Birks of Aberfeldy is an absolute highlight. The path leads through the beautiful woodlands in the outskirts of the village and past a series of stunning waterfalls in all sizes. At the top of the gorge, the path crosses over the Falls of Moness. The Birks of Aberfeldy was named after one of Robert Burns’ poems and along the path, you can find signs with inscriptions of his words.
Plan about two hours for this walk and make sure you wear proper footwear, as it can get slippery near the waterfalls. Find more info here.
Walk to the Falls of Bruar
The walk to the Falls of Bruar leads through a beautiful moss-covered forest and along the gorge carved by the Bruar Water. You can park up by the House of Bruar shopping complex -great to get some Scottish souvenirs or a bite to eat – and start the walk there. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk to the Lower Falls on an easy path. You can continue walking towards the Upper Falls, but the path is becoming more challenging as you progress.
Road Trip down Glen Lyon
If you are looking for a scenic drive in Perthshire, look no further than Glen Lyon. A narrow single-road track road leads deep down into the valley. The road is lined by tall mountains and Munros such as the Lawers range in the south and Carn Gorm, Meall Garbh, Carn Mairg and Creag Mhor in the north. At the eastern entrance to the glen, visit Castle Menzies and the Fortingall Yew Tree, one of Britain’s oldest trees.
Deeper down in the glen, stop for lunch at the Glen Lyon Post Office & Shop or take a detour on the mountain road to Ben Lawers nature reserve.
Perthshire Travel Guide
Where to Stay in Perthshire
There are many great places to stay in Perthshire.
Hotel | All the vegans out there will love to hear that there is a vegan hotel in Pitlochry, opened in June 2019, called Soarsa 1875. They offer several rooms in a beautiful Victorian house in the heart of Pitlochry.
B&B | On my most recent trip to Perthshire, we stayed at Ashbank House B&B, a traditional bed and breakfast in Pitlochry. It lies just a 10-minute walk from the town centre but overlooks the forest in a very quaint location. It offers everything you’d expect from a traditional B&B – warm Scottish hospitality, great amenities and a delicious cooked breakfast. There are three rooms and you can book via AirBnB!
Self-catering Cottage | On another trip to Perthshire, we rented a rustic cabin in Glen Lyon – half an hour west of Aberfeldy, but what feels like miles away from the bustling town. It’s available via AirbnB! We had a wood stove to keep us warm, a skylight to watch the stars above and a woodland with trails and paths at our doorstep. It would make for the perfect stay for an autumn getaway!
Vegan-friendly places to eat in Perthshire
Here are some of my favourite vegan-friendly places to eat in Perthshire:
Saorsa 1875 Hotel in Pitlochry | The hotel is open to non-residents, but booking is essential – no walk-ins. There is one dinner sitting with a 5-course tasting menu, Thursday to Monday. I can’t wait to try it on my next trip! 2 E Moulin Rd, Pitlochry PH16 5DW, +44 1796 475217, website.
269 Vegan in Perth | This vegan cafe – the only of its kind in the city of Perth – serves delicious food in a very cool environment. The interior looks like the beach house you’ve always dreamt of! 37A S Methven St, Perth PH1 5NU, website.
Hettie’s Tearoom in Pitlochry | This tearoom offers over 100 kinds of tea and a wide selection of lunch items as well as afternoon tea. They always have some vegan options available, both sweet and savoury. 95 Atholl Rd, Pitlochry PH16 5AB, +44 1796 473991, website.
The Watermill Book Shop in Aberfeldy | This quirky independent book shop offers a wide selection of handpicked books upstairs and a cosy cafe downstairs. They have vegan options on the menu, including cakes and hot drinks. Mill St, Aberfeldy PH15 2BG, +44 1887 822896, website.
Atholl Arms in Dunkeld | At the Atholl Arms Hotel in Dunkeld, you can choose from a riverside restaurant, the bistro and the bar. They offer traditional Scottish cuisine but also have a separate vegan menu. Bridgehead, Tay Terrace, Dunkeld PH8 0AQ, +44 1350 727219, website.
Fern Cottage Restaurant in Pitlochry | This restaurant is located in the centre of Pitlochry and has a separate vegan menu with several delicious options. Ferry Rd, Pitlochry PH16 5DD, +44 1796 473840, website.
As you can see, there are many ways to immerse yourself in the autumn colours in Perthshire and enjoy an autumn trip to Scotland!
Ready to indulge in the changing seasons?
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.