Days out in Scotland: Dunkeld & Birnam, Perthshire
Dunkeld is a small picturesque and prosperous town in Perthshire that is worth a visit for a few hours. Among the mostly independent cafes, shops and restaurants there’s a butcher, a fantastic hardware/kitchen shop called Kettles,a few antique shops and a couple of small galleries. In the centre there is also a smoke house where you can get your day’s catch of salmon smoked – both salmon and trout are also for sale if angling’s not your thing. There is even a bag pipe maker nearby – always handy.
It might sound like a Scottish version of The Truman Show but the Dunkeld area wasn’t always so tranquil. The town was burnt to the ground by the Cameronians in 1689 during a Jacobite rebellion and neighbouring Birnam is thought to be the Birnam wood in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
After such turnbulent times the town was rebuilt in the 1700s with the small white houses you see today. During the 1950s and 60s, decades usually maligned for not saving historic buildings, the houses were beautifully restored and are now under the guardianship of the National Trust for Scotland. As well as the historic buildings to admire, there are plenty of walks which take in the local scenery. One option is to follow the walk,which is sheltered by some of the tallest Douglas Firs in the UK, to The Hermitage. The walk passes by Ossian’s Hall, a folly overlooking the Black Linn Falls. After your walk there’s a good choice of places to eat or take away food including the excellent Dunkeld Fish Bar, Howies Bistro,The Scottish Deli, which sells Mediterranean-influenced Scottish produce, filled sandwiches, wine, olives and cheese, and an Indian restaurant called The Darjeeling.
Simple pub grub is on the menu at The Taybank Hotel with Scottish dish, ‘stovies’ their signature meal. For our non-Scottish readers, stovies were traditionally a cheap meal that used up leftovers, usually mashed potato mixed with meat, onion and gravy. If that doesn’t tempt your palate, you could just go for a pint and the live music. The Taybank has long been established as a live music venue since Dougie Maclean, the singer songwriter who composed Caledonia and the theme for The Last of the Mohicans, used to own the pub.
Beatrix Potter spent her summers in Dunkeld and Birnam and the beautiful area was her inspiration for The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Jeremy Fisher: The Beatrix Potter Exhibition and Garden in Birnam is a must for Potter fans or those visiting with children. Birnam Arts Centre (pictured below) is also worth looking up; it has a cafe and hosts many events including live music.