A Brief History of the Perthshire Highlands

Today, Highland Perthshire may be well-known for its romantic Scottish hotels, it’s rich culture and heritage, and it’s reputation as one of the country’s most well-loved tourist destinations, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Since we first arrived here, we’ve grown enamoured with the fascinating story of our new home, and who could blame us? From Roman invasions to celebrated folk heroes, revolutions, reformations and more, there’s more to this quiet, picturesque part of the highlands than meets the eye.

Here, we go back several centuries to chart the history of Highland Perthshire from the earliest Roman settlements to a modern day holiday destination complete with its own popular attractions and some of the top luxury hotels in Scotland.

Roman Conquests

There once was a time when the area was completely unrecognisable from the one we know today, indeed, when the very idea of “Perthshire” as a place didn’t actually exist at all. Nor was there any such place known as Scotland.

Back in 1st Century AD, the Romans gave the northern part of Britannia the name Caledonia and set out to slowly but surely conquer. As part of General Gnaeus Julius Agricola’s takeover of Britannia, the Roman empire made its way north, where they were engaged in what has now become known as the Battle of Mons Graupius.

Whilst historians have long debated the actual site of Mons Graupius, modern research points to the battle taking place here in the area now known as Perthshire, particularly around the village of Dunning, a 50 minute drive from Pitlochry.

The Romans escaped with a narrow victory at Mons Grapius, but ultimately it was decided not to continue further with their invasion of Caledonia; the challenges faced in subduing the natives far outweighing any positives to be gained through taxation.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time Highland Perthshire would play host to violent battles and bloodshed.

Role in the Scottish Reformation

The Scottish Reformation of the late 1500s -and how this famous movement led to the development of the Church of Scotland as we know it today- is such a vast subject that we’d need much more space than we have in this article to cover it all.

One point we simply can’t overlook however, is the role Perthshire played in this important part of Scotland’s history.

It was here, at the Church of St. John the Baptist (roughly 40 minutes away from our Perthshire hotel) that Reformation leader John Knox gave his famous sermon, prompting much looting and rioting on the streets of Perthshire.

First Jacobite Rising

A little over a hundred years after Knox’s now legendary sermon, Perthshire was once again the site of highland turmoil as the first Jacobite Rising of 1689 – 1692 began to take shape.

Two of the most important battles in the first rising took place here in Perthshire.

On July 27th, 1869, the Battle of Killiecrankie saw the Jacobites overwhelm the opposition in record time. It was during this brief battle that a soldier, fleeing from the enemy, is said to have leapt clear across the river, giving rise to the story behind The Soldier’s Leap, which today remains a popular visitor attraction.

Despite the quick victory, The Battle of Killiecrankie had little effect on the outcome of the war. Less than a month later, at the Battle of Dunkeld, the Jacobites were roundly defeated.

In modern times, both Killiecrankie and Dunkeld have become popular tourist destinations, as much for their array of romantic Scottish hotels and beautiful scenery as for their unique place in Highland history.

Rob Roy MacGregor

Not many of the soldiers who took part in the first Jacobite Rising are remembered by name, but one certainly stands out as a legendary name in Scottish folklore.

Still in his teens, Robert MacGregor followed his father into battle in the first rising, though it wasn’t for this that he would become such a renowned figure in Scotland’s history.

In the wake of the Jacobite Rising, Robert MacGregor would of course go on to be better known by the name of ‘Rob Roy,’ the country’s most famous outlaw and central figure of many a highland tale.

Today, MacGregor’s name lends itself to the Rob Roy Way, the long distance footpath which works its way past our hotel in Pitlochry right up to Drymen in Central Scotland.

1745 Jacobite Rising and Early Developments of Loch Rannoch

A little over ten years after Rob Roy passed away, Perthshire was involved in turmoil as the Duke of Perth leant his support to Charles Stuart’s efforts to regain the British Throne in what would become known as the Jacobite Rising of 1745.

While many of the battles which took place during this period happened outside Perthshire, the consequences were far reaching, and led to the development of several villages which today enjoy a reputation as some of Scotland’s most romantic destinations.

Among the more famous of these is Kinloch Rannoch, the picturesque village located at the east end of Loch Rannoch itself, on the banks of the River Tummel.

It was to this place that many soldiers who had been defeated in the rising retreated and settled, turning the once small, unassuming hamlet into a thriving village. During this time that a small inn was built on the edge of the village, serving as a resting post for those soldiers as they made the long journey to and from Kinloch Rannoch.

Today, centuries later, that very same inn still stands. After several name changes, numerous owners, and countless hours spent on refurbishments, it is now better known as the Dunalastair Hotel Suites, one of the top luxury hotels in Scotland.

Highland Perthshire in Modern Ages

The Dunalastair Hotel Suites has seen it all in its long, illustrious history; from Scotland’s regeneration in the wake of the Jacobite Risings to the growth and evolution of the Victorian era, right through to the new millennium, when over 15 million tourists flock to the highlands each year to explore all of this rich, fascinating history for themselves.

Gain a unique glimpse into the history of Highland Perthshire on your next Scottish break when you stay at the Dunalastair Hotel Suites near Pitlochry. Book your stay online today, or call now on +44 (0)1882 580444.

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