Last updated on September 25th, 2020
The Hermitage Forest in Dunkeld, Perth and Kinross
The Hermitage near Dunkeld in Perthshire, Scotland, is a walkable forest designed as a pleasure ground for the 18th-century Dukes of Atholl.
Category: Forest or woodland, Nature, Walk or cycle route
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 8 out of 10
About The Hermitage
If you’ve ever been to Dunkeld in Perthshire you’ll understand why the area has been called ‘big tree country’ for the last hundred-or-so years.
This is a region of Scotland that’s been rightly designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty thanks to the vast swathes of ancient forest that covers the landscape from Blair Atholl in the North to Crieff in the south, with the town of Dunkeld more-or-less slap bang in the middle.
There are over 200,000 acres of woodland in Perthshire so you’re pretty much spoilt for choice if you ever visit the region and fancy taking a walk, but in my opinion one of the best forests is Tay Forest Park, home of The Hermitage.
Getting there is easy enough if you follow the A9 and head towards Little Dunkeld, and thankfully there are plenty of signs pointing to The Hermitage so you’ll find it difficult to miss. There’s a decent-sized car park so you shouldn’t have any trouble parking up either.
The Hermitage was originally designed as a recreation area for the Dukes of Atholl but these days it’s managed by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) who ensure the forest paths are kept easily accessible so that anyone can enjoy this beautiful part of the country.
Leaving the car park you’ll pass a notice board that has a good route map but to my mind the best thing about visiting places like this is to just head out and see where the routes take you.
NTS have done a great job of maintaining the forest paths and although they’re unpaved (thankfully – who wants to see tarmac in a forest?) they’re level enough that both wheelchairs and pushchairs should make it a fair distance into the trees without becoming bogged down in mud.
The majority of the trees in The Hermitage are Douglas Firs and I think the only way I can get close to describing them is to say they’re majestic. That might sound like a bit of a superlative but these trees really are gob-smackingly big. Just get into the heart of the forest and look up to see what I mean.
Central to the experience is the River Braan which the main path follows for some distance, and there are several areas where you’ll get to see the river crashing over rocks under roaring waterfalls, but as you stop to marvel at the views you’ll get a chance to do a bit of nature spotting too.
Look up and you’ll more than likely see red squirrels darting around the treetops as this is an area where reds have made a remarkable comeback after years of being pushed back by their larger – and more aggressive – grey cousins.
Scan the river and you might also see salmon leaping up the waterfalls as they head to their spawning grounds – though be aware that spectacle only happens in their spawning season from November to December – and if you’re very lucky you might even see signs of beaver activity in the water.
But it’s the fir trees that draw most visitors to the forest, and though it’s a fairly short walk through it you’ll get to see some of the tallest trees in Britain along the way.
Read on to discover more things to do at The Hermitage.
Things to do at The Hermitage
One of the highlights of a visit to this natural paradise is watching the thundering Black Linn Falls as the water from the River Braan crashes down into the foaming pools below the impressive rock faces, and the best place to see this amazing sight is from Ossians Hall, a feature in the forest that I guarantee is going to surprise you.
The hall (well, it’s not really a ‘hall’ as such, more of an enclosed viewing platform), was built in 1757 as the focal point of the forest and a place to view the falls in comfort, and it’s great example of one of those old ‘follies’ they liked to build so much in the 17 and 1800s.
NTS have refurbished the building back to its former glory after years of neglect and stepping through the entrance leads you into a circular room decorated with mirrors, sliding panels and paintings.
Glass doors open up at the far end onto a viewing platform that looks right over the Black Linn Falls and it’s quite an experience to just stand there and gaze down at the waterfall below, so make sure you’ve got your camera with you as you’ll no doubt get plenty of snaps worthy of a Facebook status update or two.
Arguably the best time to visit The Hermitage is in early autumn when the forest transforms into a multi-coloured extravaganza, but to be honest you’ll enjoy your visit at any time of the year.
If you fancy walking further into the Big Tree Country you can follow paths that lead you into Craigvinean Forest which is one of Scotland’s oldest managed forests, and Pine Cone Point which is a man-made structure shaped like a pine cone that offers amazing views of the surrounding trees.
And if you’re still looking for more forest walks after that lot I highly recommend heading back to your car, crossing over the A9, and following the Dunkeld House Tree Trail which offers lovely walks along the River Tay, or visit the Birks of Aberfeldy in Perthshire.
If you want to learn all about Scotland’s great forest trails read my Guide to the best Forest Walks in Scotland.
- It’s free! (apart from the car park).
- The forest is stunning – as are the waterfalls.
- It’s a great place to go wildlife spotting.
- If you visit in summer make sure you check out the snack van in the car park which has homemade cakes and delicious coffee.
- Make the most of the area and visit other forests nearby. Check out the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust for details.
- There aren’t any bins in the forest so take a bag with you if you’re intending on having a riverside/forest picnic.
Photos and video
Address and map
Tay Forest Park,
Old Military Rd,
Click the map for directions
Prices and opening times
There is no entry cost for the Hermitage but there are car parking charges. NTS members park for free.
Entry is possible 24/7, 365 days a year.
- Telephone: NA
- email: NA
- Website: National Trust for Scotland
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Disabled access (partway into the forest), Easy-access paths (partial), Pushchair access (partway into the forest)
On-site conveniences: Hot drinks from the car park snack van in summer months