Perth and Kinross (Scottish Gaelic: Peairt agus Ceann Rois) is a council area in the northeast of Scotland. It straddles the divide between lowlands and highlands, as the hills suddenly rear up from the broad valleys, and in 2019 it had a population of 151,290.
Towns and villages
- 1 Perth is the only city. It has gardens, a museum and gallery.
- 2 Kinross has Loch Leven, where Mary Queen of Scots escaped from its island castle.
- 3 Auchterarder is a straggling nondescript place, but a couple of miles west is the Gleneagles Hotel.
- 4 Crieff and smaller 5 Comrie to its west are Victorian resort towns.
- 6 Blairgowrie & Rattray and 7 Alyth to the east are fruit-growing towns.
The Highlands: There's a false start with the Ochills five miles south of Perth. But continue north, and it's very obvious when you've reached the real thing.
- 8 Birnam was where the forest began marching, to the dismay of Macbeth.
- Dunkeld is its sister-town across the river.
- A few miles north is a river confluence. From here the Tay Valley ascends west, while the main road A9 and railway continue north up the Tummel valley.
- 9 Aberfeldy is the main town in the Tay valley, with Ben Lawers brooding above.
- 10 Pitlochry is the main town in the Tummel valley, with an annual arts festival.
- 11 Blair Atholl has a castle and the last private army in Britain.
Nothing for miles:
- North of Blair Atholl, the road climbs over bleak Drumochter Pass towards the Spey Valley and Aviemore.
- 1 Rannoch Moor is a desolate, boggy plateau.
In 1975 the historic counties of England and Scotland were reorganised, and ancient shires were swept away. Many of these reforms worked and have endured, others proved unpopular and impractical and were changed. This area fell in the second category, being carved up between the new entities of Central Region and Tayside, names redolent of bleak blocks of flats and vandalised concrete shopping malls. So those were in turn abolished in 1994 to create this new county, more or less corresponding to the former Perthshire and Kinross-shire.
Perthshire was by far the larger, a great circular territory, and its name is still used informally. The fault line between highland and lowland Scotland runs diagonally, so north and west is upland, with sleet-lashed moors, forestry plantations and poor farmland. South and east is rolling pastoral country along the broad lower valleys of the Tay and Earn. The cultural fault line shifted north over the years, as lowland ways advanced up the valleys. English replaced Gaelic, modern farming methods replaced subsistence smallholdings, and a cash economy broke up the feudal Gaelic clan system. These changes were already well advanced in Perthshire before 1745, the last great conflict on Great Britain's mainland, when Bonnie Prince Charlie marched down from the glens to give London authority a fright. In the aftermath, those changes were expedited to prevent repetition. But then in the 19th century tartanry and the Highlands became romanticised, the railways arrived, and tourism became a major industry.
Kinross-shire to the south was much smaller, but it was lowland with better farming. However it never attracted industry and was marginal to transport routes - the hills of Fife caused roads and railways to swerve around - and in the 19th / early 20th century it became depopulated. Its councillors forsaw a take-over bid by Perthshire, and in 1927 they adopted the slogan "For all time" to underline their resistance to this. Shortly afterwards they were indeed taken over by Perthshire, without so much as a token "and Kinross" as legacy.
By air: the most convenient airport for this area is Edinburgh (EDI IATA), with a good choice of European and UK flights. Jetbus 747 runs from the airport to Inverkeithing railway station in Fife, where trains for Perth stop, though there's more choice of trains and buses by going into Edinburgh Haymarket.
By train: the main routes to Perth are from Glasgow Queen Street via Stirling (with some stopping at Gleneagles), from Edinburgh and Haymarket via Inverkeithing or by changing at Stirling, and from Aberdeen via Dundee. These all run hourly. Trains every couple of hours run to Perth from Inverness via Blair Atholl, Pitlochry and Birnam & Dunkeld.
Reaching this area by train from England usually means changing in Edinburgh or Glasgow, but from London one daytime and one sleeper train run direct to Perth and continue north to Inverness.
By bus: there are buses to Perth almost hourly from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, and every couple of hours from Inverness. There's also one daytime and one overnight bus from London Victoria which calls at the edge of Perth then continues to Aberdeen. These follow A9 but seldom stop at the small towns in between - see individual pages. Places off the main highway such as Crieff or Aberfeldy have an even more limited service.
By car: the main routes are M90 from Edinburgh via Perth to Dundee and Aberdeen, and M80 / A9 from Glasgow via Stirling and Perth to Inverness. These routes remain open in all but the worst of weather, and low-level roads to Crieff, Aberfeldy and Blairgowrie usually do so. In winter check ahead before venturing onto the higher-level roads, A93 via Glenshee and Braemar into Aberdeenshire.
Heading deeper into the Highlands or out to the islands, Perth is your chance to fill the tank or recharge the EV at a reasonable price.
Trains all run to Perth, with stops along the A9 / Tay valley corridor at Gleneagles, Birnam & Dunkeld, Pitlochry, and Blair Atholl.
Buses fan out from Perth, where Stagecoach have their headquarters, reaching Blairgowrie, Crieff, Kinross, and up the valley to Birnam / Dunkeld, Pitlochry and Aberfeldy. Anything else (eg Blair Atholl) is difficult, and the owner of Stagecoach didn't get to live in a Perthshire castle by running near-empty buses to small villages.
Car is what you need for anywhere out of the way. You can hire in Perth.
- Castles: mostly made-over in Victorian times, such as Scone Palace near Perth, Blair Castle in Blair Atholl, and Drummond Castle near Crieff which you can't go inside but come for the gardens. There's more antiquity at Elcho Castle near Perth, and at Loch Leven in Kinross where a rowboat takes you out to the island castle that Mary Queen of Scots escaped from.
- Wildlife: beavers have been re-introduced to Britain around Loch of the Lowes above Dunkeld: they're thriving and spreading throughout the river valley. Lots of red deer and other wildlife, including plenty of eagles, though most tourist sightings turn out to be buzzards or hawks.
- Scotland's Gardens opens up private gardens once a year in summer, with all proceeds going to charity. There are about 20 participating gardens in this area, dates staggered so there's one open most weekends.
- Autumn colours are brilliant in this area; see them anywhere around Perth, Crieff and Aberfeldy. They're excellent in the Hermitage glen above Birnam, but get there by midday, as the glen loses its sunlight by early afternoon.
- Play golf: every town has at least one course, where you might pay less than £20 for a round amidst the scenic heather, rhododendrons and bramble that your ball has disappeared into. Expect to pay somewhat more at upmarket Gleneagles near Auchterarder, which hosted the 2014 Ryder Cup.
- Climb mountains: easy Munros (above 3000 ft / 914.4 m) are Ben Lawers and Schiehallion near Aberfeldy, while Ben Vrackie above Pitlochry is a "Corbett". There are lots of lower hills with good views as they rise abruptly from the plains, such as Kinnoull Hill in Perth.
- Wilderness: the largest tract is Cairngorm National Park, which can be accessed above Blair Atholl, although you can reach more of it from Aviemore in the Spey valley or from Aberdeenshire. Rannoch Moor to the west is not as high but is more desolate and remote. Tay Forest park to the south (eg around Birnam) is altogether more domesticated.
- Hike the Cateran Trail, a 64-mile walk up Glenshee and Glenisla. It's usually done in five stages, with convenient starting points being Blairgowrie, Bridge of Cally, Kirkmichael, Spittal of Glenshee, Cray, Kirkton of Glenisla and Alyth.
- Highland Gatherings and Games: each town or large village hosts an event during summer. Pipe bands, caber-tossing, field & track events and so on; often combined with agricultural or food and drink shows. The full games calendar is posted online.
- Winter sports: Glenshee on A93 just above Braemar has skiing and snowboarding.
- Perth has the most choice. Elsewhere, each town's main hotel is generally the best bet.
- Scotch whisky distilleries you can visit include one in Aberfeldy and two in Pitlochry.
- Breweries in the region include Innis & Gunn in Perth and Loch Leven in Kinross.
Road traffic and theft of valuables from cars are the main risks. Take standard precautions against the weather - out on the hills it can turn from summer to driving sleet in an instant.
- Southwest is Dunblane with a fine cathedral, and Stirling a miniature Edinburgh with its castle perched upon a crag.
- West via Crieff towards Crianlarich and Tyndrum, then either go west to Oban for ferries to the Hebrides, or north to Glencoe, Ben Nevis and Loch Ness.
- North the road climbs Drumochter Pass into the Spey valley, then heads for Aviemore and Inverness.
- Northeast you can travel via Glenshee and Braemar into Aberdeenshire, with Balmoral, lots more castles and distilleries, and the grey granite city of Aberdeen.
- East is Dundee with the sailing ship Discovery, the V&A Design Museum, and Verdant jute mills.