Some of Scotland's most important historic events have taken place in Perthshire, from the crowning of Scottish Kings to the Battles of Killiecrankie (1689) and Dupplin Moor (1332). The city of Perth itself was once the capital of Scotland and was the inspiration behind Sir Walter Scott's "The fair maid of Perth". Known as the gateway to the Highlands Perthshire is also home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in Britain. It's a fantastic region to explore and base yourself if you want to travel further afield. It's also a region I've spent a lot of time in, I love how green and lush it is in the summer and can't get enough of the colours in the autumn. If you are in Scotland and history fascinates you as much as it does me then here at 10 ways to discover some Scottish history in this stunning region.
Sitting on the banks of the River Tay sits "Scotland's most romantic Cathedral". The site has been holy ground since 730 AD and the cathedral you see today was built over a period of 250 years from 1260 until 1501 resulting in a beautiful mish mash of architectural styles. Dedicated to Saint Colomba, it's said his remains were kept here after leaving Iona, until the reformation. The Cathedral was burnt down in 1689, along with much of Dunkeld itself, during the Battle of Dunkeld, when the government forces supporting William of Orange were attacked by the Jacobite Highlanders who were jubilant after their win at Killiecrankie. There are many famous burials here including "The Wolf of Bedenoch" Alexander Stewart who's tomb can still be seen, Richard de Inverkeithing, chamberlain to King Alexander II of Scotland, and Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Not only is this romantic ruin stunning but it's location on the riverbank in the pretty village of Dunkeld makes it a must see. Entrance is free too which is always a bonus.
The Crannog Centre
This award winning reconstructed Iron Age dwelling sits on the River Tay in what was once an area with 18 ancient crannog settlements. With beautiful views of Ben Lawers, these houses were once used as family homes, status symbols, fishing and hunting stations and farmers homesteads. The River Tay hosted Scotland's earliest crannogs, up to 5000 years old, and they were occupied right up to the 17th century. They were timber built with stilts driven into the River bed. The Crannog Centre gives you a unique opportunity to try ancient crafts such as fire making, dress up and learn more of the history through dvds and interpretive boards. They hold special events throughout the year such as a Beltane Celebration, a gourmet day, Samhain and a Harvest Festival. Entrance Adults £10 Children £7
A few miles west of Aberfeldy sits perhaps the oldest tree in Britain, some say Europe! Thought to be between 3000-9000 years old the Fortingall Yew can be found in a churchyard protected by a small wall and fence. Let's put that age into perspective. The tree was already 1000 years old by the time Bronze Age settlers were in the area. It is also almost 3000 years older than Christ! The trunk was once 16 metres in diameter and little wooden posts around the tree shows the size it once was, that was before people began taking its branches and parts of the trunk to make drinking cups and souveniers, hence the fence. A time line has been created in the slabs leading up to the tree so you can see exactly what this tree has seen. Look out for the single cairn in the field opposite, it's called the cairn of the dead and the story goes that during the Great Plague the graves were so full that a woman carried the bodies to a mass grave and erected the cairn to mark the spot. No entrance fee
In Glen Garry near Blair Atholl sits Blair Castle, the ancestral home of Clan Murray. Started in 1269 by the Lord of Badenoch, it's a mighty castle in size with white washed walls and well manicured lawns. It was occupied twice by Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rising of 1745 and when Queen Victoria and Albert came to stay in 1844 the queen established the Atholl Highlanders army which is now Europe's only private army. Having been occupied by 19 generations of Stewarts and Murrays it's now open to the public with regular tours where you can see their impressive collections of weapons, trophies and souveniers from Clan Murray in 30 rooms, as well as the stunning Victoria Ballroom with 175 pairs of antlers! I particularly love the entrance hall packed full of weapons from as far back as Culloden. Check out the gardens too, there is 9 acres with fruit trees, vegetables, sculptures, Britain's second tallest tree and the ruined of St Bride's Kirk. Entrance Adults £11 Children £7, although it's cheaper if you just want to visit the grounds.
What is said to be Queen Victoria's favourite spot is thought to actually be Isabella, wife of Robert the Bruce's favourite look out. It's definitely one of Scotland's most photographed views and although there isn't anymore historically interesting facts about Queen's View I'd still highly recommend stopping here to soak in the beautiful view over Loch Tummel to Schiehallion. It an iconic panoramic scene. No entrance fee but there is a £2 parking fee unless you are a NTS member. Please remember your cash, I never do!
Just west of the village of Weem near Aberfeldy this 16th century castle was once a Highland Fortress. Castle Menzies has transitioned into a grand stately mansion, just like Blair Castle. It was the seat of the Chief of Clan Menzies for over 500 years and also hosted the Bonnie Price during the '45. Four days later the Duke of Cumberland also stayed. The Menzies Clan Society saved it from ruin in 1957 and restored it but did it sympathetically so you can still see the bare stone walls, shot holes and original timbers. Entrance Adults £6.50 Children £3
Although now a spectacular sight, especially in autumn as the rustic reds and browns adorn the tall trees, the Pass of Killiecrankie was not always admired. Before the new A9 was built it was the traditional route from the lowlands to the Highlands and with steep muddy slopes on either side, trees compacted tightly, leading down to the River Garry crossing the pass must have seemed like a daunting prospect. The Battle of Killiecrankie took place on 27th June 1689 between the Jacobite and government forces who were unprepared for such terrain. 2000 government supporters were killed that day but one redcoat had a lucky escape by jumping the river between two rocks, it's since been measured at 5.5m wide and you can see the exact spot today, known as the Soldier's Leap. Nowadays the pass is a gorgeous place to have a walk but it's still steep so tread carefully. No entrance fee
Scone Palace was once the crowning place of the kings of Scots including Robert the Bruce and Macbeth. Crowned upon the Stone of destiny on Moot Hill it was used until the 13th century when it was stolen by Edward I and taken to Westminster. It is now back in Scotland at Edinburgh Castle but there is a replica at Scone Palace which you can see when you visit. This is one of Scotland's most popular tourist attractions and you can explore the palace in the summer months. Entrance Adults £11.50 Children £8
Black Watch Castle and Museum
In the city of Perth itself you can visit Balhousie Castle and the ancestral home of the Black Watch. Treat yourself to a tour and explore the history of the regiment, including the First World War, Second World War and the French Wars. See the medals, diaries, fine art, weapons and uniforms. There are lots of exhibitions and collections to explore and treasures collected from over two and a half centuries of the Watch's history. Admission for adults £7.50 or £12.50 for a full guided tour, children £3.50/£7.50
The Dunfallandy Stone
Situated in Pitlochry the Dunfallandy Stone is a Pictish slab with carvings, thought to have been created in the 8th century. You can spot angels and beasts on the front, serpents, a horseman and some mysterious symbols that no one can explain. You'll need to park the car beside a farm and walk the last couple of hundred yards and you'll find the standing stone in a concrete and glass cabinet which is used to protect it from the crazy Scottish weather. No entrance fee.
What is your favourite castle? Have you explored any in Perthshire?