Perthshire has seen some of Scotland's most historic events and played host to some of Scotland’s most important historical figures. This history is still preserved in the place names, architecture and culture of Perthshire. Kings and Queens, armies and generals, poets, authors and artists, all have passed through Perthshire, leaving behind a rich legacy of castles, palaces and history. Use this itinerary to follow in the footsteps of some of Scotland’s most notable people.
Begin the trail by paying a visit to Lochleven Castle, a small ruinous 15th century keep, standing on an island in a picturesque loch. The castle has played to host to some of the most influential and famous Scots in history, including William Wallace who stormed the castle in the 13th century and Robert the Bruce who visited it after its successful recapture from the English in 1313. However the castle is most famed for its significant ties to Mary Queen of Scots who spent a year there as a prisoner and was forced to abdicate before dramatically escaping, dressed as a serving girl.
Take a boat ride over to the castle and follow in the footsteps of these famous Scots. See the tower, still largely complete, where Queen Mary is believed to have spent her captivity and take a walk through the gardens and discover what life was like on this island prison.
From there take the A823 to Crieff and visit the Drummond Castle Gardens, one of the finest formal gardens in Europe. A mile of beech-lined avenue leads to a formidable ridge-top tower house. Enter through the woven iron portcullis and suddenly revealed is a magnificent Italianate parterre. First laid out in the early 17th century and redesigned and terraced in the 19th century, the gardens you see today were replanted in the 1950s, preserving features such as the ancient yew hedges. The copper beech trees were planted by Queen Victoria, to commemorate her visit in 1842.
Not only does the garden have links to Queen Victoria, the castle itself was a central location in the Jacobite Uprising. The gardens are also featured in the United Artists film Rob Roy about the famous Scottish outlaw. The castle is not open to the public but the gardens offer marvellous views of the castle and surrounding countryside.
Begin your second day in Perth, where you can visit the Fergusson Gallery, a display of the work of the famous Scottish Colourist, J D Fergusson. The unusual exterior of the old Water tower, where the Fergusson Gallery is based, is a fine example of the city’s unique architectural heritage. The three galleries contained within display superb works by Fergusson and his wife, Margaret Morris, who was a groundbreaking modern dancer. Sketchbooks, costumes and photographs illuminate the fascinating lives and love of these two remarkable artists, whose marriage lasted almost half a century.
From there, pay a visit to Huntingtower Castle, the seat of Clan Ruthven and where a young King James VI was held captive for ten months. Though eventually released, James VI's patience with the family finally ran out as a result of yet more plotting against him. As a result, in 1600 the Ruthven’s were killed and then tried for high treason, their lands were forfeited Ruthven Castle became known as Huntingtower.
Huntingtower also has a romantic tale to tell. Dorothea, daughter of the first Earl of Gowrie is said to have leapt between the tops of the two towers of the castle, to escape being caught visiting her lover. To this day the gap between the towers is known as ‘The Maiden's Leap’. Visitors can enjoy exploring the medieval castle, the grounds and discovering the colourful history of this tower and its many occupants.
Finish your day with a visit to the Black Watch Castle and Museum which tells the story of Scotland's elite military regiment whose history stretches back almost three centuries. The Black Watch Regimental Museum is housed in the dramatic and historic Balhousie Castle, set in its own beautiful gardens and grounds. The museum is laid out chronologically through 10 rooms which display an amazing variety of artefacts illustrating the history of the regiment. There is also a fine collection of paintings and photography. Children can enjoy a variety of family activities including activity sheets to help guide younger visitors around the museum and a family activity centre in one of the galleries. After exploring the museum, take a pleasant stroll around the grounds and have a picnic in the gardens.
Begin your third day at the breathtakingly beautiful and historical Scone Palace, once the crowning place of Scottish Kings including Robert the Bruce and Macbeth. Scone Palace is the rightful home to the Stone of Scone, otherwise known as the Stone of Destiny which now resides on display at Edinburgh Castle. There can be few places in Scotland as historically important as Scone Palace. When you visit Scone Palace you are walking in the footsteps of Scotland’s ancient founding fathers, both pagan and Christian. It was an important religious gathering place of the Picts, and it was the site of an early Christian church. Robert the Bruce was crowned at Scone in 1306 and the last coronation was of Charles II, when he accepted the Scottish crown in 1651. Visitors can tour the castle and the stunning gardens, including an outstanding collection of antiques, paintings and rare artefacts.
Pay a visit to something completely different next, at the Beatrix Potter Garden and Exhibition in the village of Birnam, where this famous author spent her summers as a child. The Birnam Institute in the heart of the village is home to an excellent and highly interactive exhibition celebrating the life of the popular children's author. Inspired by her holidays in the Scottish countryside Beatrix wrote many children’s books, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Take a stroll through the interactive garden and meet some of the characters, including Peter, Mr Tod and Tiggy Winkle. The indoor exhibition has a number of children’s activities including dressing up, watching the enchanting stories, drawing and puzzles and book readings. There are a variety of interactive displays which explore the life and works of Beatrix and her inspiration in Perthshire.
Finish the trail with a visit to Blair Castle, the home of Europe’s only private army, the Atholl Highlanders and a favourite visiting place of Queen Victoria. The Castle is nestled in the dramatic landscape of Highland Perthshire and has been home to 19 generations of Stewarts and Murrays of Atholl. Unique amongst Scottish castles, the castle has seen many important historic events, from a visit by Mary Queen of Scots to the Civil War and from the Jacobite cause to the disaster of Culloden following Bonnie Prince Charlie's own stay in the castle. You'll hear how the lucky inheritance of a smuggler-infested island helped turn the castle into a comfortable home and how a stay by Queen Victoria led to the creation of Europe's only surviving private army.
Outside Blair Castle, the Hercules Garden, recently restored to its original Georgian design, is a peaceful walled garden of fruit trees, vegetables and herbaceous borders. Diana's Grove boasts some of the country's finest and tallest trees. For a special view of the castle and the historic landscape, take a short stroll to 18th century folly the Whim, for the view from its gothic arches.