Traditional Scottish hotel is the perfect place to relax or explore

The Atholl Arms Hotel, in Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland.
The Atholl Arms Hotel, in Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland.

Craig Salmon samples the delights of the Atholl Arms Hotel, in Dunkeld, Scotland.

Watching the fast flowing River Tay ooze by while eating that old Scottish classic ‘haggis, neeps and tatties’ was one of the highlights of my stay at the historic Atholl Arms Hotel.

Situated in the picturesque town – although it is more like a village – of Dunkeld in deepest Perthshire, Scotland, the 19th century-built establishment offers a traditional experience, with a slight modern twist.

Some of the great and the good have stayed in the hotel in years gone by, including Queen Victoria, who reigned over the UK for 63 years.

And it was certainly the perfect base for my wife, Samantha, and I as we sought the ultimate Scottish experience.

With its winding staircase, old fashioned light switches and paintings hanging from authentic picture rails, the hotel 
boasts an almost stately home feel inside.

But on futher exploration, we soon discovered a modern and contemporary bar area, which is aptly named ‘The Meeting Place’.

Guests, tourists and locals alike can socialise, drink and enjoy a bite to eat in a casual, relaxed and friendly environment. But those diners looking for a more formal and traditional dining experience can take advantage of an À la carte menu – containing dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients – in a separate restaurant within the hotel.

Travelling north from Lancashire, we decided to split the near five-hour journey and stopped near Falkirk on the first evening of a three-night trip.

Setting off the day before allowed time for us to head to the city of Perth on our second day for a perusal around the shops before making the short journey to Dunkeld.

Fortunately, the sun was shining as we drove over the Thomas Telford Bridge, which is considered to be one of the great engineering feats of the 19th century, and arrived in the town.

The Atholl Arms is arguably the first landmark building visible to visitors when they arrive in Dunkeld, with its location on the street corner.

With car parking space across the road, we made our way to reception where we were greeted by Alan, the hotel manager.

We were handed a comfortable ensuite room with a fantastic panoramic view of the Tay, which is the longest river north of the border.

After dropping off our luggage, we proceeded to enjoy the sunshine by sitting outside in the hotel’s garden, which overlooks the river.

I enjoyed a few real ales and we ordered a spot of lunch from the all-day menu which the hotel serves from noon until 9pm.

I ordered a smoked salmon – fished from the Tay – with crème fraiche sandwich, while Samantha opted for the smoked applewood cheese and tomato chutney. Both sandwiches were accompanied by salad and crisps.

Later in the afternoon, we decided to explore the town and ventured to Dunkeld Cathedral,which dates back to the 14th century.

Walking around the place of worship and its ruins, we got a real sense of the town’s history, including the ‘Battle of Dunkeld’, which took place in 1689 and resulted in every house in the town – bar three – being burned to the ground.

Our first day in Dunkeld finished with our evening meal in the hotel’s restaurant.

For starters I plumped for the ‘haggis, neeps and tatties, which was complemented by a mustard sauce, while my wife chose the roasted vegetables with lentils.

For mains, I opted for the stonebaked seafood pizza and Samantha enjoyed the steak and ale pie with vegetables.For dessert, we both shared the cheeseboard.

The following day, we decided to visit Edinburgh for a sight-seeing trip. Fuelled by a delightful full Scottish breakfast, which included bacon, pork sausage, black pudding, mushrooms, potato cake and choice of egg, we made the hour-long road trip to Scotland’s capital.

With the sun still shining, it was a brilliant day out as we took in the many sights and landmarks of Edinburgh, which included the castle, the Scottish House of Parliament and Holyrood Palace .

We paid £14 each for a guided open top bus tour, which allowed us to hop on and off at will throughout the day.

On returning to the hotel, we decided to end our day with a meal and a few drinks in ‘The Meeting Place’.

On this occasion I opted for the home-coocked beefburger, with cheese and onion rings, accompanied by chips. Samantha decided to build her own pizza and opted for four toppings – chorizo, peppers, jalapenos and onions.

Possibly my favourite dish of the weekend was the sticky toffee pudding I had for dessert – it was an absolute delight.

I would highly recommend a trip to the Atholl Arms Hotel in Dunkeld.

It is a great place to visit if you are looking for a relaxing break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

On the other hand, with it being just a hour or so away from Scotland’s two major cities and other tourist attractions, it also provides the perfect base if you are looking to explore further afield.