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Pitlochry Town Trail

Photograph by Janice Moles as illustrated on 'Pitlochry - Heritage of a Highland District' by Colin Liddell.

Pitlochry is situated at the geographical heart of Scotland, with the main north-south communication links passing through or beside the town. The town sits in what has become known as ‘Highland Perthshire’ (Big Tree Country), an area renowned for its stunning scenery, fascinating history and the generous hospitality of its inhabitants. The name Pitlochry is thought to come from the gaelic ‘Pit cloich aire’ meaning ‘place of the sentinel stone’, referring back to a time long before Pitlochry became the bustling tourist town that is seen today, and before Pitlochry’s long tradition of hospitality was founded.

Prior to the construction of General Wade’s Great North Road of 1727 it was Moulin, not Pitlochry, that was the larger and more important settlement in the area. The arrival of the road, which came through two of the three small hamlets from which Pitlochry grew, resulted in inns being established to service the passing travellers. Records of 1845 mention persons already holidaying in the district. With the coming of the Highland Railway in 1863, Pitlochry developed apace. Trains meant that Pitlochry was accessible to the large centres of population and great numbers of visitors came for day trips or longer stays. Pitlochry continues to attract visitors as it makes an ideal base for touring, walking, golfing and fishing, or just enjoying the leisure facilities including the world-famous Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the Salmon Ladder at Pitlochry Hydro Dam and the local Whisky Distilleries.

A good way to see much of interest in Pitlochry is to walk the ‘Pitlochry Town Trail’, a short walk of just over 3.2 km (2 miles), exploring the Victorian resort of Pitlochry and the neighbouring hamlet of Moulin. The walk introduces some of the area’s fascinating history. Small, illustrated information boards, providing a brief account of some of the points of interest, may be seen at thirteen different locations on the route (indicated by the red star * symbol in the text). If following the suggested route, the first half of the walk is uphill. Whichever way the circular route is walked, it returns to its Atholl Road starting point. (A detailed plan showing the route and describing the Town Trail has been produced. This, with detailed street plans of both Pitlochry and Moulin, may be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre, 22 Atholl Road, Pitlochry. Tel: 01796-472215/472751 Fax: 01796-474046 Email: pitlochry@perthshire.co.uk)

The Town Trail walk starts at the Pitlochry War Memorial, * which is a source of great pride locally with its award-winning gardens. Proceeding from the War Memorial, the Trail takes the walker along Atholl Road, the main street in Pitlochry and originally the route of the main Perth to Inverness road. (Pitlochry was by-passed in 1981 when the A9 trunk road was taken to the southwest of the town on the opposite side of the River Tummel from the town.)

Dominating the south side of central Atholl Road is Fisher’s Hotel, named after its founder. * The hotel’s considerable former stables are still visible and have now been converted into the Kingfisher Bar – note the rounded mantle of the old doors. The hotel’s gardens, stretching out to the rear of the hotel, were once reputedly some of the finest in the country.

Just opposite the Kingfisher Bar, running along the side of Bank House, is the Moulin Burn. One of several mills that were powered by the burn’s water can still be seen on the pedestrianised Mill Lane – the building is now a restaurant and bar.

Continuing further west along Atholl Road, Pitlochry Post Office is passed on the right. The original Post Office was, however, on the opposite side of the road. The outlines of the two posting slots are still visible in the wall between Wilson’s Leather Goods shop and Atholl Road in the small lane near the traffic lights.*

From this point the Trail takes a short ‘detour’ to Pitlochry railway station. * The railways line as far as Pitlochry was opened in 1863 and provided a means of transport for many to reach the clean Highland air of Pitlochry. The station building retains many of its original, attractive features.

Back on Atholl Road and heading west for another 100 yards/metres, a small, metal-roofed house is seen on the right. * This is Sunnybrae Cottage, thought to be Pitlochry’s oldest remaining building (and still occupied as a private home) – the scene of a tragic ‘accident’ which led to the death of a John Stewart of Bonskeid.

The Trail now heads east along Atholl Road, doubling back on its tracks as far as the junction with West Moulin Road. Turn left here and start the climb up towards Moulin, some 50m (150ft) higher than Atholl Road. On the left is the Atholl Leisure & Fitness Centre expanded and refurbished in 1996/97, formerly Pitlochry’s Regal Cinema.

Behind the Co-Op supermarket, to the right, is the Isle Mill, offices of Macnaughtons, the well-known local family firm established over 150 years ago who make tweeds and tartans for sale across the world. Until 1980, when all production was transferred north, the whole weaving process took place at this site, from pure wool to finished cloth. On the opposite side of West Moulin Road, where the modern houses of Park Terrace may now be seen, is the former bleaching and drying field for the mill.

West Moulin Road climbs steadily up the hill, passing both the Town Hall and the Church of Scotland on the right. In 1991, this church became Pitlochry’s only Church of Scotland, after Moulin Kirk closed in 1989, followed by the East Church two years later. Adjacent to the current church is a cross erected in memory of the Church of Scotland’s first missionary to India, Alexander Duff, who was born close to Pitlochry.

NB For those who do not wish to follow the complete Town Trail and prefer a shorter and more gentle walk, turn right at the junction with Bonnethill Road (beside the bowling green) and follow the street downhill back to Atholl Road.

Beyond the children’s play area on West Moulin Road, a beautiful view opens up to the north and northwest. * Craigower Hill, gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1947, is clearly seen with its rocky crags and extensive forestation. Directly ahead behind the hamlet of Moulin, dominating the skyline, is Ben Y Vrackie. (840m/2,757ft)

On approaching the hamlet of Moulin, the road levels out and runs very close to the Moulin Burn on the left. Moulin is the original settlement of the parish. It was here that the main north road passed through the area. At such a meeting place, great markets were held with traders and buyers coming from miles around. The hamlet is picturesque with its pretty square flanked on one side by the Moulin Hotel, a former coaching inn which was established in the 1600s.*

Moulin Kirk * on the opposite side of the square is the oldest church in the area. The current building, however, is not very old, having been rebuilt on the site of previous churches which were both destroyed by fire. The kirkyard * is particularly interesting and worth exploring, not least for its ancient gravestones, including one of the oldest - known as the ‘Crusader’s Grave’.

Leaving Moulin and heading back down into Pitlochry, where the road divides take the left hand fork, East Moulin Road. Beyond Balnadrum Farm on the left hand side stretches a low-lying field, formerly a small loch.

The Black Castle, * standing towards the middle of the field, was originally built on a crannog or man-made island in the middle of the lochan. The castle, now a ruin, is thought to have been inhabited until the 1500s when its occupants were stricken with plague and all died.

Further down East Moulin Road past Pitlochry High School, the road divides once more and this time the right hand fork should be followed into Tomnamoan Road. Passing the children’s play area at the delta on the left, the road curves first to the right and then back to the left. In the crook of this bend (on the left hand side of the road) is a private house with a large garden. Part of the garden may be seen from the pavement and clearly visible are the remains of an old lime kiln.*

Passing a block of modern flats and then the doctor’s surgery on the right, the road narrows to become Toberargan Road. At this point there is no pavement on either side of the road. PLEASE TAKE GREAT CARE WALKING DOWN THIS PART OF THE ROAD, WATCHING OUT IN PARTICULAR FOR TRAFFIC COMING UPHILL. As Toberargan Road curves to the right, Lower Oakfield branches off to the left. The large building on the left hand side is the Atholl Curling Rink – it is also the home of one of the country’s smallest, independent radio stations, Heartland FM, broadcasting on 97.5 kHz. Until 1981, when a purpose-built facility was opened at Port Na Craig, this was the home of the world-famous Pitlochry Festival Theatre. * Originally housed in a large tent, the Theatre was started in 1951.

Before Toberargan Road meets Bonnethill Road, Wellbrae branches off to the right. The reason for the street’s name, a small well, may be seen just to the right.

Turning left at Scotland’s Hotel, Bonnethill Road leads back down to Atholl Road. Behind the unusual name is a simple explanation. It was here that bonnet-makers lived in small, thatched cottages towards the bottom of the hill.

The Pitlochry Town Trail highlights a number of points of historical interest around the town – but by no means does it cover all attractions or places of interest. Information on many of these and the variety of different walks around Pitlochry can be found at the Pitlochry Tourist Information Centre.

We are grateful to the Pitlochry and District Tourism Management Programme and to Scottish Enterprise Tayside and Pitlochry Printing and Publishing for the supply of information regarding the Pitlochry Town Trail. Special thanks also go to Sylvia Robertson and Colin Liddell for their valuable input.