A swift visit to the Kirkstyle Inn, in Dunning, has left us wanting more. A candidate for best village pub going by the amount of locals crowded in, and the amount of meals that were being dished out on a Friday night.

Just to put the cherry on top, we were approx. eight steps away from our accommodation for the night, which is across the street. Happy days.

Dunning. Well I can’t say it’s a metropolis, there’s one village shop, a golf club, a play park and a couple of pubs. The village has a long history with Pictish and Jacobite connections. It is home to the 12th century St Serf’s Church, where you can see the Dupplin Cross (more of that later).

However, the location is ideal as a base for travellers. Less than 10 miles from Perth, you can be in Glasgow, Edinburgh or the Cairngorms in an hour.

The inn is owned and run by husband and wife team of Jamie and Kirsty Harrison, they bought the place three years ago, and have invested time and money into it, refurbishing it while retaining its traditional country pub look.

I’m talking to Jamie in one of the upstairs rooms, decked out in comfy settees that have seen many a backside sat in them for hours of drinking and singing. It’s that kind of place. The inn is furnished with many ‘things’, for want of a better word, on the wall next to us is a sledge from Amundsen’s trip to the pole. There are ornaments, paintings, signs, old golf clubs, just stuff everywhere. Jamie says it gives rowing couples something to look at when they aren’t talking to each other over dinner.

The inn itself hails from 1802, it was back then an illegal drinking den, Jamie shows me where they stabled the horses, which is next to where the beer garden is now. It certainly has a chequered history, and has been in and out of favour over the years.

Going down the local can be an hour with a pint in your hand talking to the bar maid or it can be wandering into the middle of a fiddle night and not getting home for eight hours. I think with the Kirkstyle you just never know what will be going on. “The fires are always on,” Jamie says, “This is the centre of the community, and we are well supported by the locals.”

Jamie works hard to keep the place interesting, he has close ties with Gleneagles, lots of visitors who are looking for a more authentic Scottish experience end up at his door for dinner and lunch.

When I meet him, he is heading off to look at a boar, he has his own herd of rare breed pigs that he is rearing with full concentration on taste, while ensuring he has happy pigs for their lifetime. Proscuitto and charcuterie are on his mind for next year.

While we chat, he brings me a healthy nip of the new gin that will be launched on St Andrews day. Named Little Earl gin, he has been working alongside Madderty Micro Brewery to combine 15 botanicals, all of which are available locally, to create this very drinkable gin. The notes that hit my nose first are citrus, he tells me that’s lemongrass, and there is wild garlic, but he won’t disclose what else… top secret, you see.

St Andrews Day is going to be a day to remember at the pub. The gin is being launched, he is getting on board with the QMS and NFUS’ campaign to encourage consumers to make Scotch Lamb the dish for the St Andrews Day. Jamie has lamb served 10 different ways on the menu, and Tullibardine Distillery will be on site for whisky tasting. If ever there was a night you want to be able to walk eight steps to your bed, this might be it.

Speaking of which. There are four rooms in the building diagonally across from the pub. The couple opened the rooms just four months ago, and it was a lot of hard work to get them to the level they are at. Jamie talks me through the amount of unexpected work they had to do, going as far as having to dig up the road outside. However, they are finished, and they are exceptional.

All four are superkings, spacious, contemporary with their additional extras like expresso machines, flat screen TVs, roll top baths etc. However, the furniture strikes a cord with the age of the building, antique style drawers and chairs finish off the look.

Our room has an open plan style bathroom (others have ensuite with doors); I can see the attraction of lying in the roll top bath watching the TV in the bedroom, but there is only a half partition wall between the bed and the loo. That leaves not a lot to the imagination during morning ablutions, if you get the gist. The toiletries smell gorgeous and the fluffy floor mat is warm from being over the towel rail. It’s certainly the wee things that please me.

A selection from a continental breakfast menu is included in the room price (see photo), which is presented in a basket and quirky jars, very nice, and you can breakfast in your room or over in the inn, a full cooked breakfast is available in the inn, for an extra charge.

Dinner time and the pub is busy and chatty with music playing, however, food is served through the back at big old tables, in a dark walled room, open stone walls where possible, creaky wooden floors, it feels like what I imagine being in the bowels of a galleon ship feels like.

It’s superior pub grub on the menu – all the favourites, slow cooked steak pie, proper fish and chips, smoked haddock mac and cheese, duck confit and pork rillettes and the specials are impressive. The food is tasty, rustic and wholesome. They also have hand dived scallops from Scotland, and Aberdeen-Angus beef from a local farm available.

Washing down the hubby’s hearty steak pie is a few pints of the pub’s own house ale, the Risky Kelt. An amber, hoppy, light refreshing ale it is advertises as. It certainly went down well with the other half. A mention of the staff who were, I suspect, local young ladies serving the tables. Courteous, knowledgeable and nothing was too much trouble – good service can make or break an evening meal, and they were a credit to the place.

Jamie isn’t one for sitting back and letting the customers come to him, he is always on the go coming up with plans to encourage visitors. He has hosted class car clubs and rallies. He also runs packages for golfers at Gleneagles with special rates, fishing excursions, shooting days, and picnic packages, where he caters with luxury picnic hampers and takes guests to a hidden hideaway and drops them off in the four-wheel drive kitted out with ice buckets, chilled wine or maybe gin and tonic. You can be left alone or catered by his staff.

During the summer there is live music in the beer garden, and Jamie, who is English (he whispers) gave away a pint to everyone in the pub when Scotland beat England at rugby. That was 90 pints, but he probably feels safe in the knowledge that he won’t have to repeat that too often.

He loves it here, his wife and mum are Scottish and he thrives in the warmth of the people here, and being part of the community is paramount.

“It’s an overwhelmingly beautiful part of the world, and I’m always surprised by its beauty. We work really hard to keep the inn understated, I would much rather that people find us, almost by accident, and be really impressed by what we have going on here at the Kirkstyle Inn.”

  • Superking bedrooms are available for £105 weekdays, £125 weekends and there is a discount available for locals.
  • Guests staying at the Kirkstyle Inn get a free tour of Tullibardine distillery.


What to do in the area:

  • St Serfs church is directly across from the inn, it houses the Dupplin cross, which is a superb Pictish carving of the early 9th century, a rare, complete, free standing early medieval cross – it was re-erected here for its better preservation in 2002 from a nearby field. When the church is open you can enjoy a guided tour.
  • Gleneagles Hotel and spa is a ten-minute drive away for golfers, and visitors can enjoy shooting, tennis, riding, off road driving and falconry.
  • Shop the range of boutiques and gift shops in Auchterarder, a ten-minute drive away.
  • Scone Palace, the crowning place of Scottish kings. Tour the palace, shop and eat, and enjoy activites for kids.
  • Broadslap Fruit Farm, with gift shop, fruit and vegetable store and pick your own options, and café.
  • Perth Race course
  • Active Kids adventure park, Stanley, Perth.
  • Branklyn Gardens
  • Perth Farmers market