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 line from Edinburgh and Glasgow via Perth and Birnam, with trains every hour or two, which continue north to Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore and Inverness. Getting here from England means changing in Edinburgh or Perth; the direct daytime train from London Kings Cross 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 inter-city buses rush past Blair Atholl on A9. Citylink M91 runs once daily from Edinburgh via Halbeath (for Fife), Kinross, Broxden P&R, Perth, Birnam and Pitlochry, taking 2 hours 30 min to Blair Atholl, and continuing to Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore and Inverness. From Glasgow, Stirling or Dundee, change at Broxden P&R.
Follow A9 north from Perth or south from Inverness and Aviemore to the loop road B8079, the former main road through town.
Elizabeth Yule 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 century, but the castle was mostly built in the 15th and 16th. It had a big Baronial makeover in the 19th century 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.
- Atholl Country Life Museum is in the old schoolhouse next to the Tourist Information Centre, and open daily 10:00-17:00.
- 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 century 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.
- Atholl Highland Gathering is held at the castle in late May, with the next on Sunday 28 May 2023.
- Jamborette is for Scouts, Explorers and Sea Scouts worldwide aged 14-17. It's similar to the world Scout Jamboree but intended to be smaller, with numbers capped at 1000. It's held in the castle grounds in the summer of even years, with the next probably in July 2024.
- 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.
- 1 The Loft Restaurant, Invertilt Road, ☏ .
- 2 Food in the Park, Museum Car Park, ☏ .
- Blair Atholl Watermill is a working mill and bakery with tea room and shop. It's behind Atholl Arms and open daily 09:30-15:00.
- 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.
Blair Atholl and the A9 have 4G from all UK carriers. As of Sept 2021, 5G has not reached this area.
- The valley of Strath Tummel leads west up to lonely Rannoch Moor, where the road dead-ends.
- North you climb over Drumochter Pass to Dalwhinnie: 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|