The picture-postcard Perthshire village of Kenmore has more than one claim to fame.
Tiny in size but big on history, it boasts the oldest inn in Scotland and the oldest tree in Europe and has welcomed both Queen Victoria and the poet Robert Burns.
It’s an idyllic, 18th century model village that’s almost an island, with Loch Tay to its south and west and the head of the River Tay to its north.
Kenmore’s isolated qualities can best be appreciated by taking the easy, zig-zag footpath up the forested slopes of Drummond Hill to a clearing near the top of its 300m summit.
The village has changed little in 250 years – its one street lined by pretty white cottages with an elegant church at one end and the elaborate stone gateway to Taymouth Castle at the other.
The original landowners gave the cottages to people who brought a skill to Kenmore and there is still a plaque on the wall of one of the properties dedicated to the ‘village nurse’.
The post office/shop is still called the ‘Telegraph Office’ and Kenmore Hotel – said to be Scotland’s oldest inn with origins in the 16th century – has a porch with curvaceous tree trunks for columns.
Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns was so struck by the village’s character that in 1787, while on the pretty bridge over the river, he composed a poem extolling the area’s virtues.
He later wrote the poem in pencil on the chimney breast of the fireplace in what the Kenmore Hotel now calls its Poet’s Bar. It can still be read there today, and here’s part of it:
Th’ outstretching lake, imbosomed ‘mong the hills,
The eye with wonder and amazement fills;
The Tay meand’ring sweet in infant pride,
The palace rising on his verdant side,
The lawns wood-fring’d in Nature’s native taste,
The hillocks dropt in Nature’s careless haste,
The arches striding o’er the new-born stream,
The village glittering in the noontide beam.
Kenmore’s other famous visitor was Queen Victoria, who stayed at the neo-gothic, 19th century Taymouth Castle, which contained some of the most opulent interiors of the era.
It was Victoria’s first trip to Scotland and she was so impressed by its natural beauty that she bought her own estate at Balmoral. Her journal served to popularise Kenmore and the Highlands.
Plans to restore Taymouth Castle to its former glory and turn it into the UK’s first seven-star hotel are ongoing.
But if that sounds a little pricey there’s an outstanding alternative just across Rabbie’s bridge on a 120-acre site at the foot of Drummond Hill that was formerly the castle’s home farm.
Mains of Taymouth has a stunning selection of four and five-star cottages, luxury lodges and contemporary mews-styles houses and was voted ‘Best Holiday Cottage Complex in Britain’ by the Sunday Times.
The pick of the accommodation is the converted farm buildings which surround a peaceful courtyard.
We stayed at Granary Court. The spacious cottage is set over three levels and has four bedrooms (two en suite), a sumptuous lounge with a wood burning stove and a designer kitchen/dining room.
There’s also a sun-trap balcony with views to Kenmore Hill and a mature, secluded garden with a large decked area with furniture, a sauna chalet, a four-man hot-tub, open shower and barbecue.
The family-owned Mains of Taymouth complex also boasts with a quality restaurant, a well-stocked delicatessen, riding stables and a nine-hole golf course.
A highlight of our visit to Kenmore was an afternoon at The Scottish Crannog Centre, on the shores of Loch Tay just a short walk from our holiday home.
A crannog is a Bronze Age roundhouse typically perched over water on timber stilts, offering protection from unruly neighbours and wild animals (wolves, lynxes and bears were common in Scotland at the time).
About 350 have been recorded in Scotland’s lochs and some were still inhabited until the 1700s. Today, the remains of many are covered in dense woodland, creating small, pretty islands.
Queen Victoria enjoyed a picnic at one such crannog in Loch Tay during her visit.
At the Kenmore centre, there’s a full-size reconstruction of a crannog based on the findings of an underwater excavation in the loch, plus activities such as wool spinning, wood turning and fire making.
The loch also comes alive in the summer with canoes, pedalboats, fishing boats and motorboats also available for hire from the village.
A short drive from Kenmore, in the village of Fortingall, is the oldest living thing in Europe and quite possibly the world – a yew tree dating back as far as 3,000BC.
The tree, which is still in good health, stands next to the village church and is protected by a wall erected in 1785, two years before Rabbie’s visit to the area.
But, alas, there’s no poem about the tree. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to write your own when you visit?
Mains of Taymouth is ideal for walking, biking, fishing, golfing and horse riding. Prices start at £25 pppn for holiday apartments. Prices for larger cottages sleeping up to eight and ten people available on request. Bespoke beauty and outdoor adventure packages are also available. Visit www.taymouth.co.uk or call 01887 830226.