The Atholl Arms Hotel will be known to anyone who has ever visited Dunkeld. It stands close to the north end of the bridge over the River Tay built by Thomas Telford in 1809, and, in effect, forms one side of the gateway to the village for anyone approaching from the main A9. We'd certainly been past the hotel many times before we first went in. What you find within the hotel can be summed up in a single word: "comfortable". The public areas are well designed, well used, spotlessly clean and very comfortable; the accommodation is comfortable, tastefully modernised, and also very well presented and cared for; the staff are friendly, informal and welcoming; and the food is excellent. You can read our dining review for Atholl Arms Hotel here.
The Atholl Arms Hotel was built as a hotel in 1833. This proved an inspired move. The railway arrived in Dunkeld and Birnam (on the opposite bank of the Tay) in 1856, and both villages then took off as popular riverside resorts. But visitors were coming in their numbers even before the railway arrived, and it is said that in 1844 Princess Victoria, Princess Royal and oldest daughter of Queen Victoria, enjoyed her stay at the Atholl Arms Hotel.
The early years of the current century were perhaps less kind to the hotel, but in 2010 new owners took over and have since worked hard (and invested considerably) to return the Atholl Arms to its former glory. The grand Greek Doric entrance from Bridge Street has been returned to use as a doorway, and many other improvements have been made, to public areas and to most of the guest rooms; and in areas that are necessary but largely invisible such as heating and fire protection systems. The result now serves as an excellent example of what can be achieved with an inflexible old building on a constrained site. Today's Atholl Arms Hotel is once more an asset to the village, and it is also a hotel that guests are going to want to come back to.
The Atholl Arms' car park is beside the River Tay, with the entrance on the opposite side of Tay Terrace immediately next to the bridge abutment (and as a result easy to miss on a first pass if you have approached from beyond the bridge). The river frontage is also home to the hotel's Garden Terrace, a pavilion serving drinks and snacks that really makes the most of the riverside location. From here you stroll up to the top of the well-kept garden and across the road into the hotel lounge and reception. This large and airy room is the hub of the hotel's public areas, and you will almost certainly find yourself relaxing in one of the very comfy chairs or sofas at some point during your stay.
The hotel reception is at the far side of the lounge, in the impressive central stairwell. It is worth noting at this point that you should be sure you know which Atholl Arms Hotel you are intending to stay at. Dunkeld has one, and so does Blair Atholl, a village twenty miles further north along the A9. This leads to confusion sufficiently frequently for the reception staff of the two hotels to be on first name terms with one another. To one side of the lounge is the RiverView Restaurant. This is a spacious and welcoming room with (as the name suggests) views down to the River Tay. It is the slightly more formal of the hotel's dining areas. Beyond the lounge and reception is the hotel's bar, a nice space that appeals to hotel guests and to others visiting or living in the area. At the rear of the bar is the Meeting Place, offering informal dining.
The Atholl Arms Hotel can accommodate small and intimate weddings and exclusive use is available. It also promotes itself as a venue for meetings, events and family gatherings, making the most of its location in the heart of Highland Perthshire.
There are seventeen en suite guest rooms at the Atholl Arms Hotel, most available as doubles or twins and all with a bath, a shower or both. Most have been refurbished to a high standard in recent years and some offer character bathrooms. Our own bedroom was on the second floor and had windows either side of the corner, giving great views along the bridge and, on warm days, a welcome through breeze. The hotel also offers the magnificent Victoria Suite (named after its most famous visitor) on the first floor, complete with its own fireplace and sitting area. Most rooms look out over Bridge Street or over Tay Terrace towards the River Tay.
The age and constraints of the building mean that improving accessibility has been problematic. There are steps to both entrances, and to the guest rooms on the first and second floors.
It is important to a village like Dunkeld that a building that is such a striking landmark is doing well, and it is good to be able to report that the Atholl Arms Hotel is doing precisely that. We've already commented on the high standards of the accommodation in the public areas and guest rooms, and the quality of the housekeeping is especially impressive. Meanwhile, the Atholl Arms' reputation as a dining destination is spreading far and wide: make sure you book a table. You can read our dining review for the Atholl Arms Hotel here.