With its rolling glens, glistening lochs and layers of sumptuous scenery, it’s easy to see why Perthshire is a photographer’s paradise. The district, a photogenic delight in a country full of them, has seen visitors come from across the nation and even further away to take in the incredible sights available in our own back garden. With Summer coming to a disappointingly premature end, there’s still time to take in the joys of the season, although Perthshire is also an incredible location for any photographer’s lens in the Winter, as the snow blankets the hills and frosts over the forests.
On top of the picturesque scenery, Perthshire is also teeming with incredible wildlife, from the woodpeckers and pine-martens of the Cairngorms to the Scottish wildcats of the Highland districts. Whether you’re an enthusiastic amateur or an experienced pro, there’s a perfect place in Perthshire to test out your skills. We’ve compiled a list of just some of the best hotspots across the district for photographers, all of which are easy to get to and open to the public.
The River Tay through Perth
At 117 miles, the River Tay is the longest river in Scotland and the second longest in the whole of the UK. With its origin on the slopes of Ben Lui, the river’s course flows east across the Highlands, through a number of lochs including Loch Tay, moves south-east to Perth and becomes tidal, then ends its journey with its mouth, the Firth of Tay, meeting the sea at Dundee. The Tay has been immortalised through film, song and poetry, notably William McGonagall’s piece on the Tay Bridge Disaster, and remains one of the top places in Scotland for salmon fishing, water-sports and wildlife.
While a super long trek from start to finish offers an array of photographic opportunities, setting up camp in Perth and enjoying the views of the Tay from there is an ideal day out with an ideal mixture of country and city sights. Walk along the side of town by the North Inch and head north. There are a number of viewing platforms projecting out onto the river, with a view of the golf course. Following this route will take you on the country road past Scone Palace and towards Luncarty, which offers a peaceful, scenic journey. Staying in the city will give you a chance to take in the historical and architectural beauty of Perth; from the modernity of Perth Concert Hall to the Grecian inspired Museum to the centuries old St John’s Kirk.
Perth is easy to get around, both in the city centre and alongside the Tay, and has a rich history that lends itself well to the photographic eye: Whether you prefer cityscapes or the lush colours of the natural world, Perth has it all within easy walking distance. Stop off in the city centre once you’re finished snapping away and have a meal or drink. Check out the website for great Perth restaurants and bars.
Loch of the Lowes
The Scottish Wildlife Trust run Loch of the Lowes, situated near Dunkeld, is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of a Special Area of Conservation. Amongst the surrounding woodland, an incredible array of wildlife lives, including but not limited to greylag geese, swallows, fallow and roe deer. Otters can sometimes be seen on the riverside; red squirrels are plentiful on the reserve, pike, brown trout and freshwater eels populate the loch, and the reserve is host to a pair of breeding ospreys – their nest can be seen from an observation hide.
The nature reserve is perfect for photographers to get the opportunity for some up close and personal shots with a host of creatures of the land, air and sea varieties. For nature lovers, the Loch of the Lowes is a must. The Loch is easily accessible by road, with a footpath that connects directly to Dunkeld, and the reserve is open all year round. You can find out more about the reserve on their website.
With views of the River Tay, the Friarton Bridge and Moncreiffe Hill, the cliff summit of Kinnoull Hill offers some of the farthest reaching sights in Perthshire. Atop the hill is Kinnoull Tower, built in 1829 by Lord Grey of Kinfauns, which was used for many years as an observatory.
The Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park opened in 1991, making it the first official woodland park in Scotland, and the abundance of wildlife – including roe deer and red squirrels – and plant life has made it one of the premiere country walks in the Perthshire district. It’s perfect for walkers of all abilities, as well as cyclists and horse riders, and the spectacular cliffside has drops of around 500 feet! It’s easy to get to, both on foot and by car, and ideal for photographers seeking expansive views as well as close-ups with nature.
The Hermitage at Dunkeld
The history of the Hermitage is almost as illustrious as the sights within its beautiful woodlands: During the 18th century, the area welcomed notable visitors such as Queen Victoria, William Wordsworth and JWM Turner. The Hermitage was created in the 1700s by John Murray, the 3rd Duke of Atholl, as part of his home, Dunkeld House. He sought to create an experience that would thrill his guests and offer a visit to remember – an experience that has been replicated countless times over the decades.
Nestled amongst The Hermitage is Ossian Hall, a viewing platform for the River Braan and its falls. The original Hall of Mirrors was a simple view-house, but after a redecoration in 1783, it became iconic for the amazement it evoked in visitors. Today, the hall is once again redecorated and not quite in its former state, but it remains a must visit sight tucked neatly amongst the National Trust for Scotland protected forests. On site are also a number of Douglas-fir trees, one of which was recorded as the first tree in the UK to grow past 200 feet in height. There are a variety of walking routes through the Hermitage, with a network of footpaths leading to various locations in Dunkeld, itself a picturesque sight for the keen photographer. Further visitor information is available on the National Trust for Scotland’s website.
Pitlochry remains one of Highland Perthshire’s most visually sumptuous places to visit, and the nearby Queen’s View stands as one of the most iconic vantage points in the country. The Queen of the name is widely disputed: Many attribute it to Queen Victoria, who visited the area in 1866, while others give credit to Queen Isabella, the wife of Robert the Bruce, who was said to use the area as a resting spot for her long travels. Today, the area remains one of the most photographed in Scotland, but there’s still plenty to witness for new visitors.
Just a short drive from the town centre, by the River Tummel, the view leads out onto a stunning panoramic view of the river and much more. To the west of Loch Tummel, the much lauded mountains surrounding Glencoe can be spotted on a clear day. On top of the viewpoint, the surrounding woodland offers a variety of walks for visitors of all abilities. Shoot the sights – the lush green of the forests, the clear blue of the Summer skies – and end the day at the visitor’s centre cafe, or in town with its various sights and attractions. Check out the website for more information.
Castles and the many stately homes across the country remain an enduring favourite for tourists coming to Scotland, eager to experience the centuries of history that made the country what it is. Home to the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, Blair Castle sits hidden amongst the Highlands of Perthshire and remains one of the most celebrated historic sights in the country. The grounds of the castle contain an incredible 9 acre walled garden, packed full of fruit trees, a Chinese bridge and a host of 18th century sculptures. A wooded grove is also housed here, and a variety of local wildlife has been known to wander the grounds. The castle is open to the public, with its many rooms featuring historic collections of weapons, furniture, artwork and much more related to the Atholl clan’s generations of work. Private tours are also available if you’d prefer an exclusive look around for a few shots. Check out their website for further details.
The Loch Earn, located in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, is the source of the river of the same name, which joins with the River Tay once it meets the Bridge of Earn. The loch emcompasses over 10km of the landscape and at its deepest reaches 87m downwards, making it extremely popular with both fishing fans and water sports enthusiasts: Water-skiing, canoeing and sailing frequently take place on the loch, and it is regularly stocked with a variety of fish, including trout.
With Ben Vorlich to the south side and Ardvorlich House further east, Loch Earn acts as a hub of sorts for some of the most striking visuals in Perthshire – perfect for the budding photographer! The loch is just over an hour’s drive from Perth city centre. The village of Lochearnhead is situated to the west of the loch and acts as a handy stop for visitors as well as walkers who take part in the various trails surrounding the area.
While Loch Earn has existed almost as long as Scotland itself, Loch Faskally is more recent phenomenon. The man-made reservoir was built in the 1940s as part of the Scottish Hydro Electric Board’s power scheme, and over the years has become a popular attraction for tourists and keen fishermen alike.
The dam incorporates a famous salmon fish ladder, which allows over 5000 salmon to ascend the dam every year, although a few have been known to get caught by visiting anglers instead! Pike and trout have also been known the swim the waters. You can visit the loch and walk along the tree lined coasts, which frame the waters beautifully, or you can drop into the Pitlochry Boating Station and hire a pedalo for a more close-up view of the action. For more information on that, check out the Boating Station’s website.
Made forever famous for its inclusion in the folk song, Braes O’ Killiecrankie, the small village to the north of Pitlochry and Perth is the central point for one of the most important historical battles in Scotland. The Jacobite Rebellion of 1689 saw the Battle of Killiecrankie fought to the north of the village, where the rebels overwhelmed the government forces in a staggeringly short amount of time.
The nearby Pass of Killiecrankie, maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, is an incredible wooded gorge that meets with the River Garry. In Autumn, the pass is particularly beautiful as the woodlands evolve to the colours of the season, and red squirrels can be spotted foraging through the area in preparation for Winter. The Soldier’s Leap, named so because it is said that Donald MacBean, upon losing the Battle jumped the pass, is often used to spot salmon leaping through the falls of the River Garry. Take in the sights at your own pace – admission is free but donations are encouraged – or check out the visitor centre for a full insight into the long, sordid and gory history of the battle, as well as the more pleasant natural sights. There are a number of trails you can follow that are suited to walkers of all abilities. Visit the National Trust for Scotland’s website for more information.