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23 Things to Know Before Visiting Dunkeld, Scotland

From driving on the other side of the road to things to do and places to eat, one Hilton Grand Vacations Owner shares what she's learned

Irene C
Hilton Grand Vacations Explorer posing by a creek in Dunkeld, Scotland.

Editor's Note: These are unusual times, and some destinations have travel restrictions in place. No matter what you do, practice safe travels, and follow CDC and local guidelines. 

Having just returned from spending nine days discovering Scotland's majesty, gorgeous nature, rich history, and kind and welcoming locals, I'm still reeling over the experience. 

It was an adventure for the ages. 

However, now that we've returned, I can honestly say some things are helpful to know to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. 

Here are 23 things you should know before visiting Dunkeld, Scotland.

Open road in Dunkeld, Scotland.    

1. Pack Lightly

You'll need a vehicle to get around, but keep in mind that European cars are generally smaller than cars in the States. Try to pack lightly. Otherwise, you'll have to play "Tetris" with luggage for four to five people.  

2. Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Driving is quite different – on the "other" side of the road and all. Additionally, the car lanes are narrow, speed cameras are everywhere, and roundabouts are abundant, so it's important to take your time and pay attention. However, on the plus side, I found the road signs are easy to understand.   

Insider Tip: You'll need coins for parking meters and remember gas stations list their prices in pence per liter.

3. Expect Top-Notch Service at Hilton Grand Vacations at Dunkeld

Hilton Grand Vacations at Dunkeld served as our home base during most of our trip, offering ideal proximity to Dunkeld, also known as the "Gateway to the Highlands," and other popular areas of interest and plenty of things to do.

Balcony overlooking the green lawn at Hilton Grand Vacations at Dunkeld, in Scotland.    

Before we even left the United States, we received great service. The manager, Margaret C., reached out before our trip to offer a virtual tour and see if we had any questions.

She was so helpful and patient in answering all our questions and letting us know what to expect given the pandemic. 

My favorite part was the panoramic view of the green lawn and wooded riverbanks from our balcony — perfect for relaxing at night with a glass of wine or a cup of tea in the morning.

4. Get Ready for Full Days

In June, sunrise is at 4 a.m., and sunset is at 10 p.m., making for a long day. However, the upside is that the additional daylight hours offer you plenty of time to enjoy the grounds and surrounding areas. 

5. Bring Walking Shoes

A shot of trees and a river on-site at Hilton Grand Vacations at Dunkeld, in Scotland.   

The resort grounds are part of the Dukes of Atholl Estate. This sprawling estate is home to grassy fields, fishing spots along the River Tay, woods filled with giant Larch trees sprinkled with blooming Rhododendrons (surprisingly an invasive species here), and plenty of walking and biking trails. 

Insider Tip:  Mountain bikes are available for rent in the village shop.

6. Prepare for Culture Shock

This location will bill you for electricity use. You'll want to take time to understand how all the systems work here — they're pretty different from those in the States. 

We joked that every knob has another switch and a timed backup switch (check out the virtual kitchen tour). Plan to do a couple of practice runs before you decide to take a late shower and discover that the water in your bathroom is ice-cold. 

You'll have to turn on the wall switch for your toaster, oven, microwave, shower, towel warmer, boiler, multiple room radiators and the like. But we later learned - it's all normal for the United Kingdom and adds to the cultural experience.

7. Hilton Grand Vacations Ownership Has Perks

Hilton Grand Vacations at Dunkeld exterior entrance in Scotland.    

Hilton Grand Vacations has an agreement with the hotel next door, Dunkeld House Hotel. This is where you'll check in, check out and enjoy access to the hotel amenities, including a spa, pool, gym and restaurant.

The gym, pool and spa required advanced reservations, and the restaurant and bar had limited capacity during our stay, but we were still happy to use the amenities.

Finally, they also answer front desk calls and relay messages to the Hilton Grand Vacations team to address any requests or answer questions.

8. You Won't Regret Indulging Yourself at the Spa

Two words best used to describe the spa would be minimalist perfection. After busy days spent walking and exploring, I needed a bit of rest and relaxation, but what I got was more. 

I had two treatments – seaweed foot detox with massage and hot stone massage, and I walked away feeling spoiled and pampered.  

Fact: The spa derives its skincare and wellness products from local seaweed and oils from the Isle of Lewis

9. Pet-Friendly Accommodations Available

The resort is very pet-friendly, and it’s not uncommon to see owners walking their dogs on the trails. So if you're someone who takes your furry family members along on trips, add Dunkeld to your travel bucket list. 

10. Getting Your 10,000 Steps is Easy 

Picturesque river in Dunkeld, Scotland.    

We loved that within just a 20-minute walk, we could find ourselves in historic village of Dunkeld. Peruse this picturesque area to find places to eat, shop or stroll by the river for amazing views.

Everything opens around 9 a.m. and closes between 7 to 9 p.m. 

Fact: The brightly colored "little houses" date back to the early 1700s

11. Where to Stock your Kitchen

Naturally, you'll want to stock your kitchen with local goods, but be aware that local shops run out of fresh produce quickly, so the best time to visit is before noon. For essential cooking ingredients, head to the small Co-op marketDunkeld Fine Foods or the Scottish Deli, also known as the "corner deli," which turns into a cozy restaurant at night.

12. The Best Bakery for Sweet, Savory and Specialty Diet Treats (and More)

Save your appetite for a stop into Livvi's Little Lunch Box. The owner bakes everything on-site and is meticulous about her ingredients. We needed foods that didn't have peanut allergens, and this was just the place. 

You'll find everything from savory Scottish meat pastries (meat pie) to traditional American style sandwiches to sweet treats and everything in between. 

13. Best Place to Eat Like a Local

Wall lined with barrels of whisky.    

For dinner, check out Perth Arms pub. The steak pie, hand-stretched pizza and seabass with caviar dishes were superb. This is where locals take their families to eat, and besides the bar dining room, they have a separate lounge for a few larger tables if you're traveling with a group.

14. "Must-do" Stop to Shop, Eat and Play

Perthshire is famous for its strawberries in June and raspberries in July. To sample the local farm-fresh foods, take a quick 25-minute drive toward Perth, and you'll find a local Gloagburn farm complete with a large store

Here, you can shop a large selection of local meats, cheeses, jams and eggs. They also have a small zip line for young kids to let off steam while you shop. Consider adding a stop here to your "must-see" list. 

15. Where to Take in Some of the Best Views

HIlton Grand Vacations Explorer posing at the top of Stirling Castle in Stirling, Scotland.   

Take a ride to the city of Stirling and explore Stirling Castle, the site of the historic first battle between William Wallace and England for the freedom of Scotland.

Insider Tip: This is an excellent opportunity to capture those Instagram-worthy vacation pictures. The castle has amazing views of the city and beautiful gardens.

16. Where to Pay Tribute to Scotland's National Hero

The National Wallace Monument is the storied national landmark built to honor Scotland's most famous hero. You can see the actual sword that Wallace carried into the battle of Stirling Bridge on September 11, 1297.

17. Where to Peek into the 18th Century

Just 30 minutes north of Dunkeld is Blair Castle, another significant landmark to explore. The castle-turned-mansion by the Dukes of Atholl has a ton of exquisite original furnishings, décor and artwork, and gives an insight into the lifestyle of the Scottish elite of more than 750 years ago. 

If you visit during the summer months as we did, visit Hercules Gardens adjacent to the castle to watch swans with their babies in the ponds and garden lawns.

18. Best Thrills for Adventure Seeking Travelers

Hilton Grand Vacations Explorer riding an ATV in Dunkeld, Scotland.   

For active explorers, try the Highland Off-Road experience, rent an ATV, and drive along with the guide through the fields, woods, and hills. The scenery is beautiful, and if you are lucky, you'll come across a herd of red deer who will race with you. Of course, if you'd rather wear a seat belt on your adventure, they also have a Range Rover off-road. 

19. Best Way to Top off the Day for Travelers with a Sweet Tooth

If you are a chocolate fan, stop by the Iain Burnett Highland Chocolatier on the way back from sightseeing for a chocolate tasting, hot chocolate or a handmade treat to take home.

20. Where to Find the Loch Ness Monster

For Nessie believers, the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Loch Ness, nearby Inverness, is worth the trek. Here you can try your luck at your own Nessie sighting, or just enjoy the gorgeous views and explore the city of Inverness, which is home to two to three churches per block.

Insider Tip: Inverness is especially beautiful around the river. 

21. Where To Go for a Truly Unique Scottish Experience

Teenage boy holding a bird of prey during Elite Falconry demonstration in Dunkeld, Scotland.    

If you are fascinated by birds of prey, book a demonstration with Elite Falconry, an organization that raises and trains hawks, falcons, eagles, vultures and owls. Your group will experience these birds in their natural habitat. 

Then, prompted by the trainer, the birds will fly and land on your arm and feed off your glove. You'll learn a lot about their behavior and hunting abilities and end up taking lots of pictures and videos. 

Insider Tip: Elite Falconry is about an hour away from Dunkeld, heading towards Edinburgh, so plan to stop here on a day trip to Edinburgh. 

22. Best Day Trip

Edinburgh is about an hour and 20 minutes away from Dunkeld, so consider taking a day trip to Edinburgh or build in time in your itinerary to stay overnight for a few days. Once in Edinburgh, make time to explore Edinburgh Castle. This behemoth of a castle was a military fort versus a residence and is perched on a hill with sharp cliffs on three sides. 

It's an incredible sight. 

Some parts of the castle date back to 1200 B.C. and today, it's home to the Crown Jewels of Scotland.

Insider Tip: Make sure to find the "1 o'clock gun" that carries on the longstanding tradition of firing a shot precisely at 1 p.m., just as the former 18-pound front loader cannon did more than 150 years ago. 

23. Where to Enjoy Native Plants and Flower

Whether you prefer wild nature or cultivated gardens, a visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens should be on your "things to do" in Dunkeld list. Here, you'll find more than 312,000 rare and native plants, flowers, herbs and other individual plants, 300 acres of cultivated gardens and 2,400 acres of nature sanctuaries.

Read Off the Beaten Path Vacations: Dunkeld, Scotland, for more inspiration for your vacation to Scotland. 

 

Hilton Grand Vacations Explorer Irene C.

Irene C

Irene made her home at Hilton Grand Vacations at Tuscany Village in 2016, but her heart is in Hawaii. Her favorite travel memory is a trip to Kings' Land by Hilton Grand Vacations and exploring Volcanoes National Park while listening to Shaka Guide, a self-guided audio tour. 

Irene travels with her partner and two teenage boys. As a foodie and culture seeker, you'll find her in oceanfront accommodations within walking distance to fine dining, shopping, nightlife with live music and cultural experiences. Irene, a regular on TripAdvisor, says she enjoys inspiring fellow travelers with her stories. 

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