There's a special atmosphere at The Kirkstyle Inn in Dunning, Perthshire. Step through the door and you are greeted by the scent of wood smoke and the warmth radiating from two fireplaces. Leather armchairs invite you to get cosy with a pint of the pub's house ale and order from the impressive menu. If you are staying the night the rooms have the wow factor with generous bathrooms and super king beds.
Dunning is a Perthshire village with a cosy layout of little squares that radiate a fine collection of cottages and period properties. It's around 10 miles from Perth and 5 miles from Auchterarder.
The Kirkstyle Inn rests within a charming square overlooking the 12th century St. Serf's Church. Look out the front windows of the inn and you will have a fine view of the church. The Inn consists of two separate buildings, side-by-side. One contains the 4 bedrooms and the other one is the bar and restaurant. The rear of the inn has a beer garden adjacent to Dunning Burn.
The separate building adjacent to the inn contains four rooms- two downstairs and two upstairs. I stayed in one of the ground floor rooms, which can be seen in my video tour:
The room is a perfect balance between modern comforts and antique styling. The bed would look at home in any 5-star city hotel and the Singer sewing machine table used for the tea and coffee tray is a nod to the heritage of the building. A retro-style radio, flat screen TV and vintage prints in frames adds to the look.
The bathroom is a showstopper with the huge shower cabinet, metro tiles, Edwardian style sink and toilet and gleaming chrome everywhere. It is the largest bathroom I can remember having in a room and this enhances the luxury feel. The shower produced a powerful rainfall that will be appreciated by cyclists and other active travellers.
I had an amazing sleep in this room. The bed was luxurious. Although the room is next to the road and there were passing vehicles during the day, there is no activity through the night. It was quiet and in the morning there was only birdsong and the gentle chimes of the clock tower of St.Serf's
Restaurant and Bar
This is simply a lovely place to be. Log fires, stone walls, leather armchairs, excellent menu and curiosities to look at. It is everything that you would want your dream country inn to be.
Crackling logs, wood scent and a warm, cosy feeling is what you get with these fireplaces. The bar and restaurant staff make sure they never go out; at one point a stack of logs on a wheeled supermarket basket were pulled inside. You can lose yourself staring at a fire, it is deeply relaxing.
I ordered a pint of Risky Kelt, the pub's own house ale. This was superb. It was light, smooth and easy to drink. By the way, Risky Kelt is an anagram of Kirkstyle, if you are wondering where the name comes from!
You can have your meal either in the restaurant or in the front bar area. The restaurant is a lovely, romantic space with low ceilings and plenty of stone walls. The bar area is cosy and has the fireplaces, so I chose it.
The menu changes regularly at the Kirkstyle. It features pub favourites like fish and chips, scampi and macaroni and restaurant dishes, like Scrabster cod with wilted greens, lyonnaise potatoes, caper and herb butter. It was an enticing and sophisticated menu.
My starter of hot smoked salmon salad was incredible. There was a generous amount of salmon that was moist and bursting with flavour. I could not get enough of it- the best salmon I have had in ages. It was served with a soft boiled egg that had a nice runny yolk, a corstini, capers and rocket. This combination of tastes and textures worked so well. A perfect dish.
For the main course I went for the beer battered fish and chips. It was a massive slab of fish. The batter was light, not too thin and not too thick. Inside, the fish was flaky and melt-in-the-mouth. The chips were crispy on the outside and fluffy inside.
I was almost too full to have dessert, but I was intrigued by the homemade donuts. The plate arrived with three different donuts. One with a filling of lemon curd. One resting on a berry compote. One smothered in chocolate sauce. They were crunchy on the outside with a light, doughy inside and served with vanilla ice cream. It was outstanding and was like getting three different desserts for the price of one.
All of the courses were served by professional, friendly and attentive staff.
There is a choice to have breakfast in your room or in the pub. I choose the pub so that I could sit next to the fire one last time. I actually did not expect it to be on in the morning, so it was really special to find it roaring away and a table set for me at an adjacent table.
Continental breakfast is included in the room price, or you can pay a bit extra to have the cooked breakfast. You make your choices on a menu card the night before and hand them in at the bar. I took the continental option. The yoghurt with the berry compote, warm croissants and ground coffee were a perfect start to my day.
It was all very high quality and tasty and I loved the little brown bag that the croissants arrived in. Sometimes the breakfast coffee in pubs is pretty average, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the coffee at the Kirkstyle was superb.
The main thing to see in the village is the Dupplin Cross. It's a 3m high stone cross that was the only thing to have survived from the palace of the King of the Picts, Constantine. The cross is inside St. Serf's church.
The church was not open during my visit, but I had a nice morning walk around the village. The walk took me past the Dunning Burn that flows next to some of the houses.
The Alexander Martin Fountain is a few steps from the Kirkstyle. A closer look reveals magnificent detail, like this salamander:
Just under a mile from the Kirkstyle is the fascinating Maggie Wall Witch Memorial. It looks like something from a horror film with a spooky scrawl stating 'Maggiewall burnt here 1657 as a witch.'
The funny thing is that no record exists of a person called Maggie Wall. There is also no record of who erected the monument and when it was completed. There are many theories, but the story of Maggie is largely a secret that has yet to be unlocked.
Outside St. Serf's there is an information board that points out these and other sites in the village.
How to get here
Dunning is around 10 miles from Perth. I travelled by train to Perth and followed a cycle route leaving the city centre that joined the B9112. Head to my blog on this cycle route to plan your journey.
Disclaimer - My accommodation and meals were provided for the purposes of this review. These views are my own and reflect my honest experience.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.