For our latest Day Out From Perth, we’re heading to Rannoch & Tummel. In this remote and peaceful area are vast swathes of woodland, majestic mountains and some of the most picturesque loch scenery you’ll see in Scotland.
So we’re looking forward to getting out on the water and enjoying some stunning views on and around the lochs. And because 2017 is Scotland’s year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we’ll be exploring the past too.
9.45am – Edina’s Kitchen, Dunalastair Hotel Suites
We set off from Perth around 8.30am on a crisp autumn morning. The road trip is part of the day out – once we’re off the A9 we’re surrounded by wooded gorges, roaring waterfalls, glassy lochs glinting in the mist, and the trees and ferns taking on their autumn colours. (Come in a couple of weeks and it will look even more spectacular!)
We spot that the Dunalastair Hotel Suites (formerly the Dunalastair Hotel) has had a makeover since we were last here. We have some delicious coffee and pastries from Edina’s Kitchen in the comfortable lounge area, which is furnished with plush velvet sofas, statement lighting and chic accessories. Feeling refreshed, we head to our first activity.
10.30am – Highland Exploration Loch Cruise
Newly launched tour company Highland Exploration runs a variety of tours around this fascinating area. They offer loch cruises, Land Rover trips around the loch and off-road, and evening safaris where you can watch the animals come down from the hills to feed in the dusk light. You can also do guided walks or arrange a private charter.
We start with a loch cruise, departing from Kinloch Rannoch Marina. We meet skipper Duncan Richardson there, who gives us our lifejackets and delivers a safety briefing, then shows us onto the boat, Raineach, a comfortable, well-appointed cabin RIB that can seat 9 passengers.
We’ve asked for a shorter version of the usual 90-minute tour so that we can try out lots of other things today, and Duncan is happy to oblige. He says, “I like to adapt the tour when I see what interests people. Some groups love hearing stories of the clans and the Jacobites, some love to sit outside and watch the scenery, and others like me to switch off the engine in the middle of the loch so they can watch the osprey diving for fish.”
We head straight up the loch’s middle, hearing fascinating tales of warring clans, cattle rustlers, estate owners and crannog dwellers. We’re overlooked at one end of the loch by one of Scotland’s most famous munros, Schiehallion, which translates from Gaelic as “the Fairy Hill of the Caledonians”. At the other end we can see Buachaille Etive Mor, and many other peaks in between.
Duncan points out the almost-hidden spire of a building that was once a private school on the loch’s edge. “How lovely to go to school here,” I remark, until he tells us that pupils had to swim across the loch every morning before breakfast! We also see a tower built on a submerged crannog, and the impressive Rannoch hydro-electric power station, as well as the Black Wood of Rannoch.
And being a local lad, Duncan knows who owns all of the estates, and which famous people have visited them (Winston Churchill loved to escape from the pressures of politics and stay at Rannoch Lodge!). It’s a fascinating insight into life on the loch.
11.45am – Land Rover Exploration
We’re almost sorry to have to get off the boat, but when we see the Highland Exploration Land Rover waiting for us on the south-west shore, we’re excited to start the next part of our day out.
We pile in and Duncan takes us past the old Barracks and the River Gaur up to Rannoch Moor, a vast and atmospheric landscape. Duncan has many years of experience on country estates and he’s expert at spotting wildlife. At one point he stops the Land Rover and says, “There’s a group of red deer now.” None of us townies can see anything! Then we borrow his the binoculars and, sure enough, about 500 metres away is a group of deer munching on the autumn heather. And they’re exactly the same colour as the heather, so we’d never have spotted them on our own. That’s the great thing about a guided tour!
As it’s approaching lunchtime and we’re approaching Rannoch Station, where better to stop for a bit of lunch?
12.45pm – Lunch at Rannoch Station Tea Room
If you’ve never been to Rannoch Station Tea Room before, you’re in for a treat. And if you have been before, you need to come back, as I think the cakes are even bigger and tastier than they were last time we visited.
Rannoch Station must be the best-located station in the country. Nestled on the edge of Rannoch Moor, it’s as remote as they get, yet you can get the sleeper train up here from London Euston and the West Highland line train from Glasgow.
The tearoom and visitor centre stand right on the middle of the platform with a train line either side. The tearoom is a welcoming café where Jenny and Bill serve delicious, comforting, homemade food, including those mouth-watering cakes. We order tasty leek and potato soup, a hot dog and a toastie. Jenny brings us a pot of delicious coffee and we finish off with some homemade tablet to take away.
We pop into the charming little visitor centre, which tells visitors more about the Rannoch area and the station in days gone by.
Then we hop back into the Land Rover and Duncan drives us down the south side of the loch where we see plenty of Forestry Commission signs, which mean some great walks in this area. Duncan recommends the walk up to the site of the Summer Village, where the crofters used to spend the warmer months before heading down to the loch side in winter.
We also pass by the Black Wood of Rannoch, which is the largest natural (i.e. unmanaged) wood in Scotland. There’s something magical about it, with its mossy forest floor and craggy boughs – as if a woodland spirit could be spotted in the trees at any moment…
We’re back at Kinloch Rannoch a few miles later and we bid farewell to our host and thank him for our fantastic tours. They really are the best way to see the loch, as you get the perspective from the water and from the land. Highland Exploration’s website will be up and running soon but in the meantime you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07795 245748 to book your trip, at any time of the year (weather permitting).
2.15pm – The Shed Gallery, Kinloch Rannoch
Regular readers will know that we love a gallery, so we pop into The Shed Gallery in Kinloch Rannoch, a compact space which has a delightful selection of colour and black-and-white photographs taken in the local area and beyond. There are also calendars and other gifts for sale. This area lends itself so well to photography, and the gallery is well worth a visit.
3.00pm – The Inn at Loch Tummel
It must surely be time for afternoon coffee, so we leave beautiful Rannoch and head for its equally attractive neighbour Tummel, stopping off at The Inn at Loch Tummel. It’s an attractive stone-built inn, recently refurbished and under new ownership. There’s a delicious smell of peat in the bar where we order coffee, and we can imagine coming back here for a cosy dinner soon. The menu is all about local produce, with seasonal dishes incorporating products from the kitchen garden and fresh eggs from their own hens.
3.45pm – Queen’s View Visitor Centre, Loch Tummel
After coffee we head for our last stop of the day. You can’t come to the Tummel area without stopping to see the Queen’s View, a vista from high above Loch Tummel to the other end, with islands dotted through the water and a waterfall tumbling down the far side. No matter how often I’ve seen this view it never fails to impress. Even on a misty afternoon it’s breathtaking.
Complementing the beautiful view (which was thought to be named after Isabella, the first wife of Robert the Bruce), there are forest walks, a café with outdoor seating and a visitor centre. We’re happy simply to take in the view before heading home.
4.30pm – Homeward bound
It’s been a fantastic day in the Rannoch & Tummel area. It feels like a remote part of the world, peaceful and relaxed, away from the crowds – yet it’s only an hour and a bit from Perth by car or train. We highly recommend you come for some adventures of your own soon.
Other things to do
Here are some other attractions that you’ll love to visit in Rannoch & Tummel:
- Riverbank Café, Kinloch Rannoch;
- Rannoch Studio for gifts and crafts;
- Moor of Rannoch Hotel Restaurant – for a delicious dinner as you watch the deer being fed right outside;
- Loch Rannoch Clan Trail
- Kinloch Rannoch Equestrian Centre – offering training in the fundamental skills, basic principles and goals of horsemanship;
- Music concerts in Kinloch Rannoch Church – in 2017 you can see The Oatridge-Brown Duo in October and Athenaeum Winds & Scott Mitchell in November;
- Kinloch Rannoch Outdoor Centre;
- Loch Laidon – a beautiful loch by Rannoch Moor, great for walking or fishing;
- The Black Wood of Rannoch;
- Rannoch Highland Gathering – held on the third Saturday of August every year.
Places to stay in Perth
If you’d like to do a great Day Out from Perth to Rannoch & Tummel, here’s a list of fantastic accommodation in the heart of Perth where you can stay, before and/or afterwards:
- Atholl Place Self-Catering Townhouse
- Achnacarry Guest House
- Alexander Residence
- Almond Villa Guesthouse
- Auld Manse Guest House
- Auld Manse Self Catering Apartment
- Balvaird Apartment at Scone Palace
- Best Western Queens Hotel
- The Fitzroy Bed & Breakfast
- Grampian Hotel
- Hazeldene Guest House
- Holiday Inn Express Hotel
- Mercure Hotel
- Murrayshall Hotel & Golf Courses
- No 9 The Guest House Perth
- The Parklands Hotel
- Premier Inn Hotel
- The Royal George Hotel
- Salutation Hotel
- Sunbank House Hotel
- The Townhouse
- Woodlea Guest House
Stay in touch
And check out the other Days Out From Perth in our series – you’re sure to find something fantastic to do!