Blair Atholl is a village in Perth and Kinross, in the Scottish Highlands, notable for its castle. It's on the main route from Perth to Inverness, at the confluence of the rivers Tilt and Garry, amidst the last large patch of farmland in the valley (Gaelic: blàr, a field or plain). Further north, the route rises through Calvine and over bleak Drumochter Pass, before descending into the Spey Valley. So if you led an invading army of Jacobites, or a vengeful loyalist army in pursuit, you'd have to march this way.
The village is ringed by the Cairngorm mountains and lies within Cairngorms National Park. The Tourist Information Centre just west of the Tilt river bridge is open daily 09:00-16:45.
Blair Atholl is on the main railway line from Edinburgh and Glasgow via Perth, then north to Aviemore and Inverness, with Scotrail trains every hour or two. Getting here from England usually means changing in Edinburgh, as the daily direct train from London to Inverness doesn't stop here.
Nightly except Saturday, the Caledonian Highland Sleeper leaves London Euston around 21:00 to reach Blair Atholl by 06:30 on its way to Inverness. The southbound sleeper picks up around 22:30, reaching Euston by 08:00. You might prefer to take the Lowland Sleeper from Euston towards midnight, and change in Edinburgh for a daytime train. Returning south, you need to leave Blair Atholl not much after 20:00 to join the Lowland Sleeper from Edinburgh around 23:30.
1 Blair Atholl railway station is west end of the village.
Most of the buses along the A9 bypass Blair Atholl, and there's usually only one Citylink bus per day from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth.
Stagecoach bus 87 runs every couple hours from Pitlochry via Blair Atholl to Calvine.
- 1 Blair Castle. Apr-Oct daily 09:30-17:30. Ancestral home of Clan Murray; parts of Comyn's Tower may date to the 13th C, but the castle was mostly built in the 15th and 16th C. It had a big Baronial makeover in the 19th C and the contents and fittings are mostly Victoriana. The Dukes of Atholl no longer live here - Bruce Murray the 12th Duke lives in South Africa - but they continue to maintain the Atholl Highlanders, Europe's only private army. Adults £13, concs £11.25, children £8.30.
- 2 Falls of Bruar (At Pitagowan behind House of Bruar shopping centre.). Spectacular series of pools, waterfalls and natural arch, as the Bruar Water cuts a gorge through the rugged landscape. Best viewed in full spate after heavy rain, and in autumn with the colours of the leaves. In the 18th C, the poet Robert Burns was one of many visitors who found the setting barren, so he wrote a poem to the Duke of Atholl, as if from the river, begging for some trees to adorn it. The Duke later set about planting the area and laid out the present path; William Wordsworth complained it was too neat.
- The Highland Gathering and Atholl Highlanders' Parade is held at the castle in late May. The 2020 Gathering was cancelled over coronavirus and the next event is tbc.
- Scouts, Venturers and Sea Scouts aged 14-17 are welcome at the Blair Atholl Jamborette, held in the castle grounds in the summer of even years; however the 2020 event has been cancelled. It's not feasible to shift to 2021 as that would clash with World Jamboree, so the next is probably in July 2022, tbc.
- 1 House of Bruar, Pitagowan PH18 5TW (On A9 three miles north of Blair Atholl), ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:00. Tweeds, knitwear and gourmet food. Cafe, no fuel, but it is the closest thing to a service station on this long long road. Parking & toilets free, since they know you'll remember that your Auntie Morag has a big birthday coming up, and you'll buy her some tartan knickknack.
- Blair Atholl is too small for a stand-alone pub, try the Atholl Arms Hotel or The Loft restaurant.
- Sorry, but Blair Athol (one "L") whisky distillery isn't here, it's in Pitlochry; it's still worth sampling. There's another in Dalwhinnie, then more than you can imagine on Speyside.
- Blair Castle Caravan Park accommodates camping and touring caravans, and has fixed caravans and pods. These are open March-Nov, "woodland lodges" are available all year.
- 1 Atholl Arms Hotel, ☏ . Traditional 3-star Highland hotel full of tartan, roaring fires and stags' heads (mainly for the benefit of the coach parties, but you can enjoy them ironically). Has a restaurant and cosy pub serving good food. B&B double from £90.
- 2 Ptarmigan House, The Terrace, ☏ .
- There's a handful of small B&Bs in the village. The long-established Bridge of Tilt Hotel went bust in 2015.
- 3 The Inn at Loch Tummel, Queens View, Strathtummel PH16 5RP, ☏ . You can stop by for a drink at this old coaching inn, but you'll surely want to stay. Wonderful comfort, decor and dining. B&B doubles £150.
- The valley of Strath Tummel leads west up to lonely Loch Rannoch, where the road dead-ends.
- North, you climb over Drumochter Pass to Dalwhinnie, where you can either stay on A9 to descend into Spey Valley and Aviemore, or go west on A86 across the hills to Fort William, Ben Nevis, and routes to Skye.
- It's a twisty slow road to go east across the hills, but you can go via Pitlochry and A924 to Kirkmichael and Glenshee; thence over the pass to Braemar and the Dee valley.
- Or head south on A9 to return to the lowlands and Perth.
|Routes through Blair Atholl|
|Inverness ← Kingussie ←||N SE||→ Pitlochry → Perth|