Welcome to Pitlochry

The town of Pitlochry is in the heart of the Perthshire Highlands, on the River Tummel. The town has a beautiful setting; surrounded by mountains, the most striking of which is Ben Vrackie to the north east. On a clear day its summit (at some 2,759 feet) affords breathtaking views of large swathes of Scotland.

There has been a settlement in Pitlochry for about 1700 years. When, in 208 AD, the Roman Emperor, Septimus Severus, warily led his armies through the hostile territories of the central Highlands he constructed forts in each valley he passed through to aid communication and help ward off attack. One such fort was built on the north bank of the Tummel, on what is now the Recreation Ground. In response the Picts, based in the nearby town of Moulin, placed a sentinel stone nearby, from which point they kept watch on the intruders. Thus, Pitlochry got its name from a corruption of 'Pit-cloich-aire' meaning 'the place by the sentinel stone'. In the centuries that followed a small hamlet developed in Pitlochry.

Loch Tummel nr. Pitlochry

By the end of the 17th century Pitlochry had not grown much. It consisted of three main hamlets loosely connected by dirt tracks. However, events in British politics were about to make an impact on Pitlochry. In 1688 King James VII was ousted from the British throne by William of Orange. The Highland clans, however, remained loyal to the deposed king and an uprising began. Before long a showdown was inevitable. As 3,500 government troops, led by General Mackay of Scourie, advanced north towards Inverness, Viscount Dundee, leading the Highland rebels, made plans to intercept him and make battle, regardless of the government forces superior numbers. On July 27th Dundee caught up with Mackay in the Pass of Killiecrankie, four miles north of Pitlochry. What followed was a resounding victory for the Highlanders, although both sides sustained heavy losses. Legend has it that one government soldier, Donald MacBean, avoided certain death by leaping across the gorge on the River Gary, at the north end of the pass - a distance of 18.5 feet (5.5 metres). In commemoration of this feat the gorge is named Soldier's Leap.

This famous victory convinced the government that the Highlands would need to be tamed. With this in mind, Major General George Wade was appointed commander and chief of North Britain in 1724. To aid the mobility of his armies he instigated an extensive programme of road building in the Highlands: in fourteen years he would build two hundred and forty miles of roads and 40 bridges. He built one of his main military routes north through Pitlochry. The traffic and commerce that the road brought forced the town to grow.

The town would get another boost in 1842 when Queen Victoria decided to holiday in nearby Blair Castle. Her high praise for the town encouraged others to visit, and so Pitlochry began to grow once more; this time as a tourist destination. Pitlochry's place as a mountain resort was ensured in 1963 with the arrival of the railway.

The Pass of Killiecrankie

Pitlochry has an attractive Victorian charm and a splendid setting, surrounded by mountains and wooded hills. Today it is famed for the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, which runs from May to October; at its height you can see up to seven plays a week, not to mention concerts and other shows. There is a working brewery at the Moulin Inn and two distilleries which provide interesting tours; Blair Atholl in the south and Edradour in the east - which claims to be Scotland's smallest distillery. Other interesting features include the local dam, which has a visitor centre and the "salmon ladder", built to allow the fish to scale the dam on their journey upriver. Most importantly, though, Pitlochry is an ideal base for taking in some of Scotland's finest scenery.