Travel wishlist - Kirkstyle Inn, Dunning, Perthshire, Scotland on Sunday travel
The Kirkstyle Inn, Dunning, Perth
And just then, everything seemed perfect. Sunk deep in a battered leather armchair with a glass of red in hand, I turned to see mum take a little moment to herself with her dog in her lap, also with a glass of red in her hand. The real fire sizzled, popped and soothed, and right then nothing could harm us. We were at The Kirkstyle Inn on a wintry Tuesday night and we were happy in its warm embrace. “This is my kind of place,” mum said. Mum knows.
Step out of the inn and take no more than five or six steps and you will find your room, which sits in a separate building from the bar and restaurant. The inn is low-ceilinged and full of old curios, games and random knick-knacks that give it an unpretentious feel of a place full of people and memories.
The rooms are, by contrast, light and more formally dressed. Mine, with cream carpets, white linen bedding and dark furniture, felt beautifully peaceful, so much so that I couldn’t resist climbing into the superking bed and resting my head in among the pillows shortly after arrival.
The wind was howling outside, the snow had been coming down and here I had found a perfect spot for a little cocooning, I rested, feeling that everything was well in order around me. The dog – dogs are very much part of the picture at The Kirkstyle Inn – drifted to sleep too.
Budget or boutique?
This inn has been a welcome stop-off for travellers heading through the Strath Valley for centuries. Step into its fold and you’ll find a genuine welcome, super lovely staff and surroundings full of nooks, crannies and little surprises. So boutique doesn’t really cover it. It was quiet when we stayed but you can imagine it full of laughter, irreverence and good times. It’s the perfect offering of country hospitality with the food, wine and ales really underlining the quality of time spent here.
Wining and dining
A night in the restaurant was pure enjoyment. Even the dog, who was allowed to sit under the table during dinner, served with a dog biscuit in a little bowl, agreed. The menu is short but makes a strong impression. A “posh salad” starter of smoked salmon and soft-boiled egg was all dressed up with a fine caper tartar and crostini, and the scallops with black pudding, apple and fennel were the perfect mix of earthy, fragrant and sweet. For mains, pink venison and sauté cabbage, sweet roasted carrots and onion mash, was the ultimate boost for this weary traveller, full of restorative goodness, the kind that puts colour in your cheeks. The fresh burrata ravioli with wilted spinach and mushrooms was a ray of light on a dark night.
Breakfast is kept as simple as possible with croissants, toast, boiled eggs and coffee served either in your room or back at the inn, with orders placed the night before. Personally, I like something a little hotter, a little more substantial, but it is enough to get you going in the morning.
Worth getting out of bed for
Dunning is fascinating. Destroyed by the Jacobites in 1715 as they marauded through Strathearn, it was rebuilt in the early 1800s with a thorn tree now marking the night the rebels sacked it. Today, there are more than 100 listed buildings.
Also leaving his mark was Constantine, King of the Picts from 789 to 820 who ruled from a palace at Forteviot, three miles northeast. The kingdom was marked by the Dupplin Cross, a 3m-high stone monument for which spent most of the last 1,200 years on a hill overlooking the palace site. In the late 1990s it was moved to St Serf’s Church at Dunning. On the day we visited, the church and graveyard were locked for the winter, but what a big piece of history for such a little place.
Also just to the west is the witch’s memorial to Maggie Wall, said to have been burnt here in 1657, and Elcho Castle to the north by the River Tay, a 16th-century towerhouse, once home to David, Lord Elcho, who fought at Culloden.
Endless coffees from the room’s Lavazza machine and touches of personality everywhere. Guests advised not to ask for soy milk with their hot drinks – “this is Dunning, not LA!”
Guest book comments
The real deal of Scottish country hospitality. Whether you are a layman or a laird, you’ll fit right in here.
Rates, £150 per night for a super king with bath, £110 per night for a super king with a shower room. The Kirkstyle Inn, Kirkstyle Square, Dunning, Perth PH2 0RR, (01764 684248, www.thekirkstyleinn.co.uk)
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