The Perthshire town of Pitlochry is a firm favourite with tourists. It’s bustling throughout the summer months, and although quieter in winter, there’s still a good buzz about the town, which makes it the perfect destination for a winter break. We’ve visited Pitlochry many times over the years, mostly in high season. Last month, we headed north to the Highland Perthshire town for an overnight stay at McKays Hotel Bar and Restaurant. It was the perfect tonic to chase away the January blues. Read on to hear about the cool things we did during our dog friendly Pitlochry trip.
Shopping in Dog friendly Pitlochry
We arrived in town late morning and kicked off our Perthshire jaunt by checking out some dog friendly Pitlochry shops. The boy chose first and we ended up in The Hardware Centre. It was the kind of shop my Nana would’ve dubbed Johnnie-aathings, because it sold everything. The boy hadn’t popped in for a new dustbin or wax polish though – he’d spotted dog toys in the window. After a quick browse in the pet section, he chose a pink flamingo toy and we left the hardware store.
The next shop was Mr G’s choice. He loves a good Scottish gin and trying Champagne from some of the smaller French houses, you don’t find in supermarkets. Both were in plentiful supply in Drinkmonger, which also happened to be dog friendly. So in we popped, and after some serious consideration he left with a bottle of rosé from one of the aforementioned smaller Champagne houses.
Eating out in Dog friendly Pitlochry – Biba’s Cafe
After some retail therapy, it was time for lunch. There are several good choices when it comes to eating out with your four-legged friend in Pitlochry. One of our favourites (besides McKays Hotel, Bar & Restaurant) is Biba’s – a licensed cafe with an extensive menu, friendly staff and great food.
We were all greeted warmly on arrival, but the boy was positively fussed over. He was offered water and biscuits, which he gladly accepted.
Mr G and I ordered coffee, fresh sandwiches and homemade soup. It was the perfect comfort food to tuck into on a cold January afternoon.
Now, we were ready to spend an afternoon outdoors, soaking up some much needed Vitamin D and hitting our daily target of at least 10,000 steps.
Walks in dog friendly Pitlochry
Walk One – A walk by the River Tummel, taking in Pitlochry Dam Vistor Centre
We managed to fit a couple of walks into the afternoon. The first, started at Pitlochry Festival Theatre. From there we followed the shore of the River Tummel towards Pitlochry Dam. A public footpath, led us to the side of the hydro-electric dam, passing Pitlochry’s impressive salmon ladder. The 310 metre long ladder was build to allow salmon travelling upstream to by-pass the dam. If you ever have the opportunity to watch these incredible creatures leaping upstream, take it. They’re fascinating to watch and the height they can jump is incredible.
After leaving the salmon ladder, we followed the path across the top of the dam, stopping briefly in the middle to take in views of a calm Loch Faskally on one side, and the fast-flowing River Tummel on the other.
Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre
On the opposite side of the dam we arrived at Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre. We hadn’t planned to visit, but the boy had other ideas. He may have spotted the dog’s welcome sign at the entrance. At his insistence, we popped in and I’m so glad we did.
Entry to the visitor centre is free. Inside it houses a gift shop, cafe and museum that tells the story of the dam and how hydro-electric power works. A hydro-electric power museum probably sounds quite dull, but this one wasn’t. The exhibits were interactive and fun. There were lots of buttons to press and handles to turn, making our visit both educational and lots of fun.
Before leaving, it was my turn for some retail therapy. The gift shop was a treasure trove, stocked with quality Scottish gifts. After a good browse, I treated myself to a new book of gruesome local tales.
And I would walk 100 steps
To complete the walk we took a set of 100 steps (downhill thankfully) from the visitor centre, back to the riverside. We walked along the river, towards a metal suspension bridge – known locally as the shoogly bridge. Shoogly is the Scots word for shaky. We love a shoogly bridge in Scotland – they’re everywhere. What’s not to love about being unsteady on your feet above a torrent of water?
Walk two – Faskally Forest
For our next walk we headed to Faskally Forest on the outskirts of town. In October the forest is transformed into ‘The Enchanted Forest’ – a popular sound and light show.
There were no fancy lights during our visit, but the woodland scenery was impressive nonetheless. There are a couple of walking trails in the forest. We chose a 3/4 mile loop that circles Loch Dunmore.
Loch Dunmore is a small loch surrounded by towering trees. It’s a stone’s throw away from Pitlochry High Street, yet it feels blissfully remote – especially in winter. The loch was frozen, and we stopped to watch some crows waddling on the ice.
The boy was in his element. We were too. It was a chilly January afternoon, but we were outdoors enjoying fresh air and exercise.
We’d had fun discovering the delights of dog friendly Pitlochry. Now it was time to check out our dog friendly Pitlochry accommodation.
Dog friendly Pitlochry accommodation – McKays Hotel, Bar & Restaurant
McKays is well-known for great food and live music. We’ve experienced (and loved) both before, so were looking forward to spending a night at the popular Perthshire hotel.
The hotel’s bar and restaurant area has a traditional Scottish style. Think exposed brickwork, real fires and fine malts. It’s a welcoming place to visit, especially when it’s chilly outside.
There would be time for food, drink and music later, but first, we were looking forward to relaxing in our room for a while.
After a friendly and efficient check-in, we were soon settling into our room. It was tastefully decorated in neutral, earthy tones. A tartan feature wall and bed throw gave a nod to Scotland, while velvet cushions and tweed curtains added a touch of luxury.
The en suite bathroom was fresh and modern, with trendy metro tiles and a rainfall shower. There were quality Scottish toiletries too and fluffy white towels, large enough to wrap round an adult-sized human.
The boy liked the room as much as we did. There was a gigantic, squidgy dog bed in it for him. And a goodie bag too, containing a ball, treats and poo bags. He immediately polished off a treat, then turned his attention to the ball. He tore round the room after it, before following our cue and settling down for a rest.
Dinner at McKays Hotel, Bar & Restaurant
After a couple of hours of loafing, we donned our glad rags and headed downstairs to the bar for dinner. We were seated at a table by the fire and given food, wine and cocktail menus.
It was day 27 of dry January and this was the closest we’d come to buckling. We held fast though and ordered non-alcoholic cocktails to drink with dinner. Normally, I’d scoff at non-alcoholic drinks, but the fruity wee numbers we ordered were delicious and our enjoyment of them wasn’t diminished by the absence of rum.
Burns Night had been a couple of nights ago, so there were Burns inspired specials on the menu. We love haggis, so chose haggis pakora with a mustard mayo dipping sauce to start. It was awesome.
We stuck with haggis for our main courses too. Mr G had haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties with a whisky sauce. While I opted for chicken Balmoral (chicken breast, stuffed with haggis). It was served with seasonal veg. Both dishes were superb.
We finished our meal with a heavenly chocolate and coconut tart.
McKays had more than lived up to their reputation for serving good food.
Live music at McKays Hotel, Bar & Restaurant
With live music playing every weekend, tables at McKays are always in demand. A female guitar and vocal duo called The Breakout were playing during our stay. They were good and sang a range of covers spanning decades and musical genres, so there was something for everyone.
The music played, long after we toddled off to bed. Upstairs we couldn’t hear a peep, so quickly drifted off to sleep.
The beds – both doggy and human were super comfy, so we slept soundly.
Breakfast at McKays Hotel Bar & Restaurant
We woke the next morning, excited for breakfast, after our tasty meal the night before.
There was a varied choice of dishes on the breakfast menu. We ordered porridge, bacon rolls and a sausage for the boy. We’ve eaten some braw porridge on our travels around Scotland – I make a pretty mean bowl of it myself. McKays porridge though, was on a different level. It was awesome. Our rolls were tasty too, and judging by the speed the boy ate his sausage, I’d say he enjoyed it immensely.
Our stay at McKays was short but memorable. We loved everything about it – from the friendly staff, to the fab food, live music and even the alcohol-free cocktails.
It was hard to leave, but our trip wasn’t over yet. We’d be heading further north to stay at the Boat Country Inn & Restaurant – McKays sister hotel in Boat of Garten.
Stay tuned to find out what we got up to there.
Our stay at McKays was part of a paid partnership with the hotel, however all opinions are entirely my own.
Until next time …