A ‘Girls Only’ Weekend – Chocolate, Castles, Shopping, Food & Giggles Galore

The past four days have been spent with Pat and her ‘girls;’ her sister Cecilia, her daughter Lynn, her granddaughter Amber and her close adventurous friend – me!  We managed to cram so many things into a couple of days – even I was astounded at just how much we managed to see and do!

Pat and I started out on Sunday morning driving from Dingwall to Pitlochry.  Along the way we passed some absolutely gorgeous scenery as we made our way south.  We took a little diversion from the A9 to find “Queen’s View” along Loch Tummel.


Instead we ended up in a quaint little town called Rannoch where we stopped for a Latte and a Border Tart (a scone with santanas, dried cherries, coconut and walnuts).  Yum!

We somehow managed to arrive just in time to see the first 4 marathon runners coming into the finish line before we got back on the road, backtracking to the A9.  (We never did find “Queen’s View.”  Turned out we had turned off a few miles too soon!)

Once we got back on the A9 and went a little further south, there was a castle at Blair Atholl – gotta stop there!

We went inside to tour the numerous heavily decorated rooms of this enormous castle.  I took the picture below as we entered the main foyer when I was told by the receptionist that photography was not allowed inside the castle, except for the last room, the great hall.  Sorry folks!  Trust me though, it was over the top with furnishings.

This castle originally belonged to the Stewarts, but after the Jacobite Rising and the Battle of Culloden, the Stewarts lost the castle and the Murrays were appointed the new proud owners.  They continue to hold this privately-owned castle to this day.


Below is the great hall where the Atholl Highlanders (remember them from the beginning of my trip when I attended the Lonach Highland Gathering back at the end of August?) The Atholl Highlanders are the only privately owned armed militia in all of Europe!  They hold their ball in this hall, and have weddings and other public events here as well.

Once outside again, we found it was beginning to drizzle so we quickly walked back to the car, catching a few quick shots of the burn (stream) along the way.

Just a little further down the road we arrived at our destination, The Fishers Hotel, located in beautiful ‘downtown’ Pitlochry – a lovely little village.  We would be calling it home for a couple of days.

Below is the room Pat and I shared.  (Ooooh – it has a bathtub to soak in!) We met up Cecilia, Lynn and Amber at the hotel lobby and they shared another room similar to ours, but a wee bit larger than this one with a fireplace and bay window.


The view from our window down to the courtyard below.

After getting settled in we headed back down to the lobby to enjoy our “Welcome Dram of Whisky or Sherry” and make our plans of things to do and see while we were in town.





As a part of our booking, both breakfast and dinner each day was included.  Below is a sample menu of the many choices we had to choose from and a couple of the desserts we opted for:  Sweet Cherry and Chocolate Roulade with Chantilly Cream and Lemon Pie with Fruit Coulis.  Almost too pretty to eat – but I did say ‘almost!’

In the morning after breakfast, Amber and I explored outside around the hotel and the train station in the back of the property.

Then we went around the front of the hotel and explored some areas just across the street and around the corner!  We found these delightful iron sculptures…

and the Old Mill Inn…

Our plans for the day included taking a ride to the nearby village of Aberfeldy and Dunkeld. Along the way we happened upon this wonderful little shop in Grandtully.  Oh yeah! We’ve got to stop here and see what it is all about.  Let’s head inside!

At the entry I happened upon some statues of Griffins.  In high school, at Los Alamitos High School, the Griffin was our school mascot. (Have to take a picture of these beautiful little creatures for my friend Tracie Hixson who was the head cheerleader!) I also loved the wrought iron dress form with a clematis vine growing on it!

Inside it was a feast for the eyes and a huge temptation for the senses!

They had nice displays about the history of chocolate and how it is grown, popularized and special tools that chocolatiers utilize… very interesting!

Of course they made all sorts of things out of chocolate and Amber was in heaven!

Next came the gift shop with all the ‘seasonal’ trappings one could want for decorating and creating just the right mood…



Wonderful garden ornaments like these “green man” wall decorations…





And of course, Christmas is just around the corner… Cecelia, Pat and Lynn were particularly interested in a number of items.

I found these delightful round pop-up cards…

and some delightful little signs with oh-so-truisms…

And last but not least was the chocolate counter and all of its delicacies!


As hard as was to tear ourselves away, we did manage to escape finally from the grips of chocolate heaven and before we knew it we had arrived in the village  of Aberfeldy.

We strolled along its streets, popping in and out of numerous delightful shops filled with all kinds of treasures.





In this particular shop I found a couple of items I thought were pretty darned cute and even found one I absolutely couldn’t resist – a beautiful handcrafted silver ring with a blue opal heart that had my name on it – my personal souvenir from Scotland to take home with me.



About this time I was sniffing out a Latte and found just the place – The Watermill.  It had a bookstore on the top floor and lovely little cafe and coffee shop to cuddle up in with your newest book selection downstairs.


About this time my phone died, so we strolled around town checking out more sights and a Charity shop where I found some other souvenirs for loved ones at home…

Just before leaving town we ventured down by the river, found a man in a kilt and a very interesting ancient bridge with a history of its own spanning the River Tay.





Back in the car again we wound through the countryside going the back way to yet another village, Dunkeld.  We were all getting kind of hungry by this point so our first stop was at the Royal Dunkeld Hotel to grab a bite to eat.



After enjoying a nice lunch we continued exploring this small village, starting with the town square and its fountain…

I spied a sight a little church called Queen Annes, or rather what I thought was church. It turned out to be only the church hall.  The kind lady inside pointed down the street, instructing me that was where the actual church was.  The girls wanted to do a bit more shopping, and I was a bit “shopped out” as this point, so I took off by myself to do a little exploring on my own….to go see the little church.

Instead of a ‘little church’ tucked back in the furthest corner of the village, what I found was an ancient cathedral!










I headed inside and found that there was a pianist playing beautiful music inside, so I took a video for you while I explored the interior.

Toward the end of the video I had come across this chest tomb.  Often when I come across one of these in a cathedral, I muse to myself that I wish I could find one that belongs to someone in my lineage, and much to my surprise (and delight) I realized while I was filming it that indeed this one DID belong to me!

Alexander Stewart – The Wolf of Badenoch – was my 18th great grandfather!  As I was filming I read the sign below and thought to myself that it sounded rather familiar. The name “Alexander” appears quite a few times in the generation down through my Stewart family lineage.  I was pretty sure at the time that this indeed could be one of them and when I checked this morning on my family tree in preparation for writing this blog, I was pleasantly surprised to discover I was right and that my memory had served me well.

Unfortunately, however, he’s not one that one can be particularly proud of because he was quite the ‘dastardly dude’ and his reputation follows him to this day!  Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, known as the Wolf of Badenoch, was the third surviving son of Robert II, King of Scots and Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan, he was legitimated in 1349 after his parents’ married.

Alexander was created Lord of Badenoch and given large estates in the Highlands of Scotland by his father Robert II on 30 March 1371. In 1382 he was created Earl of Buchan, the first person to hold the title since John Comyn.

Alexander Stewart was a vicious, bloodthirsty and brutal character, he abused his power and maintained a rule of terror across much of the Highlands by imprisoning and murdering those who offended him. He was said to be huge in stature with a florid complexion and jet black beard, he accompanied his men on missions to rape and pillage within villages in the surrounding countryside, and was merciless in his actions just to name a few of his deeds.

Guess he’s the ‘black sheep’ of the family and one that a lot of people would rather keep the skeleton hid in the closet!  Just the same, he’s ‘family’ and I must have some part of his DNA in me somewhere so I still have to claim him.  He even owned Castle Roy in 1381! That’s the castle I bought a ‘square yard in the Laird’s Lodge’ a few weeks ago! Coincidence?  Perhaps not!

At any rate, I finally found a tomb like this one that actually belongs to me.  Amazing! Careful what you ask for – you just might get it!



After taking the video I went back around the cathedral to take still shots of the signs and statues and such so you could read about it and look at something in more detail if you so desire.

Back outside I finished walking around the cathedral pondering what I had discovered inside.

I eventually made my way back through the village and met up with my friends (who were still shopping) and then we all decided it was probably time to get back in the car to head back to Pitlochry before nightfall.  We did a little bit more shopping in Pitlochry before heading back to the Fishers for our evening meal.

After yet another delicious meal, we spent the rest of the evening playing a game of cards, “Wist” and having an all around good time laughing, sharing stories and eating way too many crisps (chips) and chocolate!  But oh it was fun!

In the morning we had to check out and start making our way back to Dingwall.  As we left town we made a quick visit to the Atholl Palace Hotel up on the hill.  Stunning!

Even the ‘gatehouse’ was something to behold!

There were some delightful benches near the War Memorial to admire…


We were soon on the road… but something else lured us in just a few miles north of Pitlochry on the A9 North!

The House of Bruar!  A huge shopping complex!  It had everything imaginable; a giant food court where one could buy just about any kind of food stuffs – complete with a butchery, house of whisky, full scale restaurant full of scrumptious offerings, high-end clothing for all ages and both sexes, home decor, fishing gear, art galleries, Christmas shops, toy stores, books, jewelry – you name it – they had it!


I really liked these handmade animals.  I want to make one, or two, or three myself!  Art, animals and quilting all rolled into one!

Even the bathroom was fancy-wancy!

After this final pit-stop, we did get back in the car and finished our trek back to Dingwall up the A9 arriving just in time for Pat to go the meeting I promised I would get her home to by 2:00 o’clock!

It was such a great weekend with the girls and one that I will long remember!











Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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