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Dog’s own country: A dog-friendly hotel in Dunkeld

Thomas Telford Bridge over the River tay in Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland (iStock)

THERE’S nothing better. Walking all day in the crisp, fresh air. No need to rush, no time to get back. No care in the world.

And there’s nowhere better than the stunning wooded paths of Perthshire.

But if you’ve got a dog, what do you do if you fancy extending your enjoyment beyond the afternoon?

How many times have you looked for somewhere to eat or stay and been greeted with “Sorry No Dogs”, or “Hmm … well … there’s a cold, wet courtyard round the back”, or a smile through gritted teeth and a, “Yes, of course dogs are welcome. And when will you be checking out?”

It’s a constant problem … a conundrum that’s frustrated every dog owner at one time or another.

But, good news! My wife and I have found the solution. A place where dogs aren’t only tolerated, they’re actively welcomed.

It’s the Atholl Arms Hotel in Dunkeld.

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If you’ve been to this fantastic village on the banks of the River Tay, you’ll know the place. And if you haven’t, you won’t be able to miss it. It’s the lovely old white hotel that sits on the right, just as you cross the bridge into the village.

Dunkeld is barely an hour’s drive from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, so when we arrived in the early afternoon we decided to venture straight out into the great outdoors.

The Hermitage – a stunning network of historic forest walks loved by none other than Queen Victoria – is just two minutes (literally!) up the road, so we popped there to give the dog a run before checking in.

As our spaniel Rudi dashed around us, we spent most of our time looking up in wonder as we wandered for a couple of hours among the tallest trees in the country.

And then on to the amazing folly, Ossian’s Linn waterfall.

It was the perfect start to our break, and the autumn chill meant we were ready for a bit of R&R when we made it back to the hotel.

With just 17 rooms it’s not big, but that’s the charm of this place. The setting is second-to-none, and the lovely little cafe that sits in the gardens right next to the river is sure to bring us back in the summer.

The reception area is more like the living room of a country house, with a grand fireplace and comfy, antique tables and chairs dotted about informally.

And we were glad to see that, among the guests already installed with their papers or books, afternoon teas or quiet pre-dinner drinks, a number of dogs were already snoozing under tables.

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‘Dogs welcome’, the ad had said. And ‘dogs welcome’ was exactly what it meant.

The hotel has a bar serving great local ales and a fine array of malts, and two restaurants – the Bistro and the more formal Riverview restaurant.

So, after we’d settled into our room – a charming, cosy haven of comfort overlooking the river – we headed back down for dinner.

And moments after we took our seats in the lounge area, Rudi asleep beside us, the owner came over to say hello, offer us a drink and give us our menu. “You two look so comfortable. You can just have your meal here, if you don’t fancy moving.”

So that’s just what we did. Settled down, put our feet up and relaxed.

The food was superb. Hearty, tasty, a great selection, and all in a place that made us feel so at home I half-expected our kids to come dashing down the stairs and pull up a chair. We lounged there all night, enjoying the atmosphere as we melted into those big old chairs, the staff regularly popping over to see if we needed anything.

The next morning – fortified by a hearty breakfast – we headed out. Pitlochry just up the road was our destination, to see the famous dam and take a walk through the fantastic Pass of Killiecrankie.

As the dog ran himself ragged, we strolled, took photos and chatted – but really I was thinking about getting back to the hotel, and dinner. It was Tuesday, and that meant Burger Night in the Bistro. Fantastic huge patties, with a range of toppings – and half-price into the bargain.

I’m sure I could hear Rudi muttering jealously under his breath as we munched and laughed, before heading back to ‘our spot’ in the lounge for a coffee and nightcap.

The Atholl Arms is just the kind of place I like to stay – no hassle, no airs or graces, just real, honest Scottish hospitality in one of the most beautiful places in the country. People without dogs are welcome too!

Until that day, Dunkeld was a place we liked to visit, where we liked to go with the kids and the dog, wandering among the old buildings, browsing the little shops – but then having to go home at the end of the day.

But now, thanks to this wonderful old white building at the end of the bridge, we don’t need to go home. All we have to do is pop in, take a seat, put our feet up and we’re already there.