The Hermitage near Dunkeld in Perthshire is a managed woodland inside Tay Forest Park that was designed as a leisure area for the 18th-century Dukes of Atholl. The forest is easily accessed from the A9 and it offers walks on gravel paths alongside the River Braan and through a woodland nature reserve to a waterfall. Discover everything you need to know about The Hermitage with this complete visitor guide.
|Address:||Old Military Road,
|Parking:||Paid car park on-site.
£3 all-day parking.
|Facilities:||Accessible parking, partial pushchair/wheelchair access|
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 has been designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty thanks to the vast swathes of ancient forest that cover the landscape from Blair Atholl in the North to Crieff in the south, with the town of Dunkeld more-or-less 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 but there are lots 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) which ensures 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 route map, but it’s not necessary to read it as the main footpath is circular.
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 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.
1: The viewing platform of the Braan waterfall is one of the finest examples of a Victorian folly in Scotland. Ossian’s Hall is located 1/3 mile from the car park.
2: The forest is a great place to go wildlife watching and the River Braan is a superb location for watching the spectacle of salmon leaping up the river when they return to their spawning grounds in Autumn.
1: If you visit in the summer, make sure you check out the snack van in the car park that sells homemade cakes and delicious coffee.
2: Make the most of the area by visiting other forests. View the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust website for details.
3: There aren’t any bins in the forest itself, so remember your bin bags if you intend to take a picnic. Note that there are picnic benches in the forest car park that have bins.
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 towering rock faces.
One of the best places to see this amazing sight is 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 a great example of one of those old follies they liked to build so much in the 17 and 1800s.
The NTS has 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 which is a 30-minute drive up the A9.
Things to Do
Hiking Trails: Delve into the beauty of The Hermitage by exploring its network of hiking trails. Follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, Mendelssohn and JMW Turner, and come face-to-face with Scotland’s tallest trees while breathing in the earthy tang of pine needles.
Birdwatching: The forest is a paradise for bird enthusiasts. From herons and dippers to wagtails, there’s a huge number of bird species to see, so take your binoculars (link to binocular reviews) and embark on a truly memorable birdwatching experience.
Photography: Whether you’re a professional photographer or a hobbyist, The Hermitage forest is a fantastic place for capturing shots of Scotland’s wildlife. Photograph red squirrels jumping through the treetops and salmon powering their way up the Black Linn Falls, as well as carpets of wildflowers and countless insects of every type (a macro lens is essential for a visit to The Hermitage).
Picnics: Enjoy a relaxing picnic amidst the forest’s tranquil setting. With the gentle rustling of leaves and the chirping of birds as your backdrop, it’s a great place to let your worries drift away. If you don’t fancy sitting on the forest floor you’ll find picnic benches in the car park.
Historical Exploration: The Hermitage is steeped in history. Visit Ossian’s Hall, a picturesque 18th-century viewing point overlooking the Black Linn Falls, and walk amongst the trees, some of which are hundreds of years old.
Things to Do Nearby
The Birks of Aberfeldy. Moness Burn, Aberfeldy. 32-minute drive.
A picturesque woodland that inspired the poet Robert Burns to write one of his most famous poems. The ‘birks’ are the birch trees that this woodland is famous for. Well-maintained pathways run throughout the site and a wooden bridge overlooks a tremendous waterfall.
Tay Forest Park. Dunkeld PH8 0JR. 46-minute drive.
Tay Forest is a large forest region of mostly coniferous trees. The forest is popular with walkers and mountain bikers and there are many miles of paths for both activities. A popular starting point is to the west of Loch Tummel at Tummel Bridge village.
Faskally Forest/The Enchanted Forest. Loch Dunmore Faskally Wood, Pitlochry PH16 5LB. 21-minute drive.
Faskally Forest offers a scenic walk around a small loch that is home to kingfishers and herons. It is also the venue for The Enchanted Forest, a music and light festival staged during October each year.
Queen’s View. Pitlochry PH16 5NR. 32-minute drive.
A historic viewpoint that overlooks the scenic Loch Tummel from an elevated position. It was said to be Queen Victoria’s favourite spot in Scotland (hence the name). There are woodland walks throughout the area and the visitor centre has a café and tourist information point.
Falls of Acharn. Aberfeldy PH15 2HT. 32-minute drive.
A waterfall on the southern side of Loch Tay near the village of Acharn. The walk to the falls is highly-rated as it passes through a very scenic beech tree woodland.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is The Hermitage in Dunkeld?
The Hermitage in Dunkeld, Perthshire, is a forest managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The forest was created as a pleasure ground for the Dukes of Atholl and is famous for giving inspiration to Robert Burns.
Is The Hermitage buggy friendly?
The Hermitage is moderately pushchair and wheelchair friendly as the ground is almost entirely composed of compacted dirt.
There are, however, some sections that become very muddy after rainfall, and some sections may require pushchairs to be lifted over fallen logs.
How long is the walk at The Hermitage?
The circular walk around the Hermitage and the River Braan is 4.4 miles on moderately level ground which will take 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.
What is the tallest tree in The Hermitage?
The tallest tree in the Hermitage Dunkeld, Scotland, is the Douglas Fir. It is also one of the tallest trees in the UK, standing at a staggering height of approximately 61.3 meters (201 feet).