River Tay at Dunkeld Cathedral

Between Christmas and New Year we spent a few nights in the pretty Perthshire town of Dunkeld. John was just recovering from a Christmas cold and I started snuffling and sneezing on the journey, so it wasn’t our most energetic break ever but we enjoyed some gentle strolls around Dunkeld and along the Tay to its neighbour, Birnam.

Dunkeld Cathedral was built between 1260 and 1501, and although the Choir is intact and still in use as a parish church the rest is ruined.

The Cathedral is surrounded by trees, including the Parent Larch or Mother Tree, the only survivor of five seedlings planted in 1738, the first larches in Britain. 14 million larches were planted from the seeds of these five trees!

On the other side of the Tay towards Birnam are more interesting trees. The Young Pretender (left below) is a sycamore with a girth of 8 metres, so-called because it looks of similar age to its neighbour, the Birnam Oak, but is much younger. The oak, now supported by wooden stilts, is said to be the last survivor of Birnam Wood, made famous by its role in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It’s girth is 7 metres.

Another walk took us up a tributary of the Tay, the River Braan, with its waterfalls and cascades. This is Black Linn, including a short clip of water pouring over it. Such power!

And here we are at Rumbling Bridge, looking happy despite our colds.

Overall, this was a lovely short break before we returned home to celebrate Hogmanay.

Birnam Hill and Dunkeld

Today was lovely and bright and perfect for a walk. We climbed Birnam Hill, a circuit of about 5 miles and around 1300 feet of ascent. If you’ve heard of Birnam, you’ve probably read or seen Macbeth! Not that there’s much of Birnam Wood left these days, what with the railway and the A9 both cutting through it.

Going clockwise on the walk, the slope is relatively gentle with good, broad paths until the final ascent which is steep (with steps to help) and muddy. The views at the top, over to Highland Perthshire, are fantastic, especially on such a clear day.


The way down is steeper and muddier, but I’m glad we went that way so that we didn’t miss the views back down to Birnam and Dunkeld. I think I look quite intrepid here!


Beatrix Potter spent several holidays in Birnam and wrote her first picture letter here, which later became The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and there is now a museum and garden dedicated to her. I’m not too sure what some of these bunny rabbits in the garden are up to!


After a good lunch in the Birnam Inn, we strolled over the Tay to Dunkeld and spent the afternoon exploring the cathedral and wandering by the river with its Thomas Telford-designed bridge. Many of the houses in the town are owned by the National Trust for Scotland.





After that, it was back to the hotel to prepare for dinner with our appetites restored. I do find that fresh air makes me very hungry!