Exploring Blairgowrie

in the Heart of Scotland.

Video Transcript

Kyle Wilson (00:25):

What a place. This is absolutely beautiful.

I’m in Scotland, and I’m starting a magical journey.

This time I’ll be travelling through vast, open Scottish countryside on an epic adventure. We’ll be visiting the places you never get to see while thumbing through the pages of a guidebook. There’s 10,000 miles and 34 shires all steeped in living history. We’ll be travelling through the Scottish landscape to find great big epic stories about people and the history of their town. So come on, follow me.

The adventure begins… Well, it begins as you might expect, travelling away from the city and into the surrounding shires where all the Edinburgh hints of Scotland’s history can be discovered. Starting in Scotland’s ancient capital city, Perth, I’ll be travelling north along the open road for 16 beautiful miles. This particular town is small, its personality is big, and as someone who grew up here, I can confidently say it’s unlike any town you’ve ever been into.

Getting around Scotland’s backyard is super simple. You can go from trains to buses to cars to even cycling super easily. Now, for this part of the journey, we’re going to be getting the bus from Perth bus station to Blairgowrie. It’ll take us about 50 minutes, it’ll cost us about three pounds 90 for a single ticket, but you’ll want to get a return ticket, which will cost you about seven pounds if you’re planning on coming back to Perth on that same day. So, let’s go.

It seems like I’ve stepped on this bus for what feels like the millionth time, but the number 57 at Perth bus station is still a local’s favourite. It also happens to be the gateway to the Highlands. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It’s green, open, and peaceful, with untouched natural beauty and a whole lot of wilderness. Make no mistake; getting the 57 here is your magic ticket into Scotland’s backyard.

So, a working class industrial mill town in the 17th century, and more recently, it was the soft fruit growing capital of the entire world in the 18th century. People would flock here from all over Scotland and Europe by the thousands in search of well-paid work and the chance to pick fresh fruit from the nearby farms. Today though, the locals have nicknamed this town the Berry Toon, and I couldn’t think of a better place to start my journey.

Welcome to Blairgowrie, one of the most charming, creative, and adventurous towns in the heart of Scotland. Its cultural centre, the Wellmeadow, touches all corners of town. And for a town that focuses on looking forwards, there’s something reassuringly old-fashioned about this place. Even though today we’re in a much smaller part of the world, you still get this feeling that this place is trying to offer you something not found in a typical city. And I think it’s a connection to things made and grown locally.

The best ways to experience slow travel in Blairgowrie is through meetings and exchanges with local craftspeople. And so I’m exploring Nest, an open studio across the road from the bench I was just sitting on. It sits literally on the edge of the Blairgowrie Bridge. This building, built in 1890, was known as Temperance Hotel and Coffeehouse, but the locals, they simply refer to it as the Brig O’ Blair Hotel. Fast-forward to today, and you’ll discover the master weaver himself, Ashleigh, handcrafting unique Scottish tartan. He loves this town, and he devoted his own tartan to it, and I’m here to discover why.

So, you were born and raised in Derbyshire?

Ashleigh Slater (06:18):

I was born and raised in Derbyshire. So, for my sins, I’m either adopted Scottish now, or I’m still an outsider.

Kyle Wilson (06:27):

You know, of all the places that you could have went to, why Blair?

Ashleigh Slater (06:29):

The reason why we moved to Blairgowrie was just out of the beauty of the place. We were looking for somewhere to be near Dundee, so I could attend university, and also finding something that’s got the most suitable accommodation. It’s not easy, trying to look for a house that’s accessible for wheelchair, but we’ve been here since 2006, and we’ve decided to stay.

Kyle Wilson (06:52):

That’s really good that you managed to find this place, because this place has proven to be so important in what you do now, the people that you’ve met, the relationships that you’ve built up with the local farmers, you’ve managed to create your own tweed for one of the local farmers, Melanie Thomson of Thomas Thomson Farms. Now, that was a Berries and Cherries…

Ashleigh Slater (07:19):


Kyle Wilson (07:19):

How did this all come about? What’s the story here?

Ashleigh Slater (07:23):

So, basically the Blairgowrie Berries and Cherries, which is this tartan here, it was initially woven, I think it’s on its fifth anniversary now, but initially it was woven with Thomas Thomson. We got together and we kind of combined the ideas of the berries and cherries, of the fruit. So it contains all the colours of the industry, of Thomas’s fruit growing company. And Melanie Thomson kind of adopted the tartan. It’s still handwoven here, we still get it commercially woven as well. And then from there on, it’s just grew, and then we’ve made merchandise from this. I say it just keeps growing from strength to strengthen. And that’s the story of the tartan. It’s just really representing the fruit growing industry, as you know, because Blairgowrie’s renowned for its berries.

Kyle Wilson (08:11):

So, why do you do this? It must be a hard job to do.

Ashleigh Slater (08:17):

I do this for therapy. It’s no harder… It’s hard, but it’s not, I actually enjoy it. It’s therapeutic. When you actually get into the weaving side of it, it’s kind of very rhythmic. I think the hardest part of this is setting up looms, finding the right colours for tartans, and actually making sure everything blends and matches together. We’ve lost to tourist information now, but we’re trying to, I think, try and promote it locally.

Kyle Wilson (08:46):

Yeah, why? Why shop locally?

Ashleigh Slater (08:50):

It’s really important, I think. Supporting smaller local businesses, you actually get a more friendlier side. You can actually source the person who makes it. There’s more of a connection to the story of the cloth I design and make. Now, obviously times are shifting and things, and everybody wants fast fashion and quick made stuff, and we’re getting kind of pushed out market. I think there’s a reinsurgence now for people to come back to craft.

Kyle Wilson (09:24):

If you shop in a big supermarket, then that money goes out of the economy as quickly as it comes in. Whereas if you shop with people like you, and maybe you’re here visiting on holiday, and you want to take something back, and I think it’s common sense that the best thing you probably could take back is something that was handcrafted and locally produced, because that’s a memory in itself. You’ve got years and years of experience, and all of that has been woven into your tartan, and people get to take that away with them and that, I think, is priceless.

Although the factories and mills have long since come down, Blairgowrie’s history with craftspeople remains. Peek through the window of an open studio, and you’ll find all manner of designers, artists, and craftspeople. Someone like Ashleigh Slater of Tartan Caledonia. Inspired by his town, Ashleigh specialises in unique, one of a kind tartan that juxtapose natural patterns with the vibrant colours of the landscape. His work clearly embodies the spirit of nature, the 18th century textile mills, and, of course, carries the spirit of Scotland. If you’re coming through Blairgowrie, go and visit my friend Ashleigh. Tell him Kyle sent you, because even if the weather isn’t good, I promise you, being in his presence will make your day.

There’s a lot of good reasons to explore Blairgowrie, and few are better than the fruit. And sitting 10 minutes away on the outskirts of town, looking for what I’ve been told is the best fruit in all of Scotland, is The Berry Bee. That’s right, my second stop brings me to a giant strawberry sitting at the side of an open road amongst a landscape painted in polytones.

All right, this is where the magic is grown. And if you don’t know by now, agriculture is a massive deal around here. The reason why is because Blairgowrie is home to the soft fruit growing industry. It’s had a massive influence on where this town got its nickname, the Berry Toon. And for the past 100 years, the Thomson family, who own and live on these farms, have been growing and sharing their space with other nearby farmers and growers to sell the fresh fruit by the punnet to people all over Scotland.

In the late 18th century, at its height, 4,000 men and women, who were often seasonal travellers, were recruited to pick the fruit here, and they benefited from free housing, good wages, and hearty meals at low rates. They even had a dedicated train back then, the Raspberry Special Express Service, that shipped thousands of tonnes of fruit to all corners of Britain, from right here in Blairgowrie. Just when you think things couldn’t get more delightful, I got the chance to meet the lady who oversees the entire place, Melanie Thomson.

How did the strawberry come about, and what is it? What is it?

Melanie Thompson (13:11):

Aha. So this strawberry is our kiosk, which we use as our pop-up shop, really. And it’s here from beginning of June through to the end of August. And so we buy in fruits from the locality that are grown, so the blackberries, the raspberries, the strawberries, and we also sell our own blueberries and cherries when they come on stream.

Kyle Wilson (13:39):

When we look at this farm, and we look at this history, and we look at the foundations of this place, how far back does everything go?

Melanie Thompson (13:49):

Aha. It’s quite a long time, actually. There’s been raspberries grown on Westfield Farm here since 1895, I think it was. So, it’s definitely more than 100 years. In fact, it’s more like 125 years.

Kyle Wilson (14:03):

Really, 125 years?

Melanie Thompson (14:05):

If you look back at some of the old newspaper reports, basically the town was inundated with berry pickers from, probably, the beginning of July, usually, when the raspberries started, for about six weeks till middle of August, say, when they would finish. That was the short picking season. And it was a hub of activity. There was a big picking area out at S&D called the Tin City, and that was a development that had been started by, I think, the Hodge family originally, and getting together with other people and buying land, and dividing it into small holdings so that people could grow. And there was a ready market for the fruit in those days. So, it was a win-win situation for everybody.

Kyle Wilson (15:01):

“Bursting Berries, 100% natural, Thomas Thomson”, and it’s a lovely little bottle, lovely colours, one of your five-a-day, and “Shoogle Me”. You got to give it a wee shoogle. Why did you come up with this? Why? What inspired you to do this?

Melanie Thompson (15:18):

It’s a wonderful mix of five different berries that are all grown locally. And I suppose it’s my answer to the boost of antioxidants that were, I suppose a few years ago, were being promoted with foreign berries. So, for example, pomegranate juice or acai berries. These are all foreign fruits, which are very high in antioxidants, but people should know, really, that we have just as good fruits grown in the UK, which are also very, very high in antioxidants.

Kyle Wilson (15:54):

Smells really nice.

Melanie Thompson (15:55):

What I’ve done here is made a mix of five of the best, and so the five that I’ve got in this mix are raspberries, strawberries, black currants, red currants, and aronia.

Kyle Wilson (16:13):

Oh, that’s fine.

Melanie Thompson (16:14):

If you take it as a shot, which is primarily what it was designed as, it gives you a real boost. And I think it sort of does, somehow, restore your energy. I don’t know whether that’s absolutely true, but I did have somebody once who was running a marathon, and so she took eight with her, and she said she was convinced that it was the Berry Bees that got her through the marathon, so that was nice to hear.

Kyle Wilson (16:40):

It’s that good, I’ve got it all over my face. No, that is beautiful. I really like that. It was lovely to meet you.

Melanie Thompson (16:52):

Very nice to meet you, too. Thank you very much, and thanks for coming, Kyle.

Kyle Wilson (16:52):

That’s okay, thank you very much.

Melanie Thompson (16:52):


Kyle Wilson (17:02):

Thank you.

It’s not often you get to spend some time with someone whose identity and sense of history is so embedded in a place. The thing I love about Melanie is her kindness and the generosity that she shares with the people she meets. Her job isn’t easy, but if it wasn’t for all of the other farmers and local growers working together, there simply would be no Berry Toon. Stories like these are the life and soul of any town, and it’s this magical ingredient that connects people together through shared identity. And in this case, it’s the berries, cherries, and handcrafted tartan.

I’m continuing the journey along the open road, following the River Ericht upstream, where I’m greeted with fantastic architectural charm.

This has to be one of Blairgowrie’s best kept secrets.

An abandoned road turned nature’s peewee playground.

You know those movies where the dart comes out of the bushes and… Out of nowhere? I’m waiting on one of them.

And a legendary castle, high up on a cliff, peeking out above a carpet of trees.

I think this one is Blairgowrie and Rattray’s answer to Edinburgh Castle.

So, the next time you’re travelling, slow down a little, visit the locals, and experience a magic that could only be found in the local towns and shires across Scotland. You don’t have to come here, just simply put the phone down, get on a bus, even if it’s just to visit your granny. I promise you there’s magic to be found in that too.

A Slow Journey Through Blairgowrie, Scotland: Discovering Charm, Crafts, and Berries.

In this first episode, our journey begins with breathtaking scenery of the Scottish countryside, setting the stage for an epic adventure through the vast, open landscapes and charming towns of Scotland. This time, we’re not just thumbing through the pages of a guidebook; we’re going off the beaten path, following the stories and lives of the people who call this place home.

Our first stop is Blairgowrie, a small town with a big personality. It’s a place where history whispers from its cobbled streets and the warmth of the locals makes you feel right at home. Getting around is easy, with buses readily available. For this part of the journey, we’re hopping on the number 57 bus from Perth, a local favourite known as the gateway to the Highlands.

As we roll into Blairgowrie, we’re greeted by the sight of the River Ericht, a ribbon of turquoise winding through the valley. This town has seen its share of transformations, from a bustling industrial center in the 17th century to the soft fruit capital of the world in the 18th century. Today, it’s known as the “Berry Toon,” a nickname that hints at its sweet and colorful past.

One of the best ways to experience Blairgowrie is through its people. We meet Ashleigh Slater, a master weaver who creates unique tartans inspired by the town’s beauty and history. His passion for his craft is evident in every thread, and his story is a testament to the creative spirit that thrives in Blairgowrie.

“It’s a hard job, but it’s not,” Ashleigh explains, a smile crinkling his eyes. “It’s actually therapy. When you get into the weaving side of it, it’s very rhythmic, almost like meditation.” He gestures to the intricately patterned tartan on his loom. “Setting up looms, finding the right colors, that’s the hardest part. But when you see the finished product, something that was just in your head? It’s magic.

Speaking of local treasures, no visit to Blairgowrie is complete without a trip to The BerryB. This giant strawberry kiosk sits on the outskirts of town, bursting with the freshest berries you can imagine. It’s here that we meet Melanie Thomson, the fourth generation of her family to carry on the legacy of fruit farming in Blairgowrie. Her dedication to sustainable practices and community involvement is what makes the berry fields such a special place.

“We’ve been growing raspberries on Westfield Farm here for over 125 years,” Melanie tells us, her voice rich with pride. “In the late 18th century, this place was buzzing with berry pickers! Thousands of them, coming from all over Britain for the short picking season. It was a real hub of activity.

She points to a shelf of bright bottles labeled “Bursting Berries, 100% natural, Thomas Thomson.” “This is my answer to all those foreign berries everyone’s obsessed with,” she grins. “We have just as good fruits grown right here in the UK, packed with antioxidants and bursting with flavor. Give it a try!

A sip of “BerryB,” Melanie’s five-berry blend, confirms her claim. It’s a burst of sunshine, a taste of Blairgowrie in every drop. “I even had a marathoner tell me it got her through the race,” Melanie laughs. “That’s what these berries do – they give you a boost, restore your energy. They’re a little piece of magic from our farm.

It’s not often you meet someone whose identity and sense of history are so deeply woven into a place. The thing we love about Melanie is her kindness and the generosity that she shares with everyone she meets. Her job isn’t easy, but if it wasn’t for all the other farmers and local growers working together, there simply would be no Berry Toon. Stories like these are the lifeblood of any town, the magical ingredient that connects people through shared identity. And in Blairgowrie, it’s the berries, cherries, and handcrafted tartan that bind the community together.

But Blairgowrie is more than just berries and crafts. As we continue our journey along the open road, following the River Ericht upstream where architectural gems peek from the landscape, we discover abandoned roads transformed into nature trails, and even a legendary castle perched high on a cliff, a majestic guardian of the valley.

Our journey is a reminder that the magic of travel often lies in the unexpected. It’s about slowing down, connecting with the locals, and appreciating the stories that every place has to tell. So, next time you’re planning a trip, consider venturing off the beaten path and discovering the hidden wonders of a small town like Blairgowrie. You might just be surprised at what you find.

Watch episode two: Exploring Blairgowrie’s River Ericht in the Heart of Scotland.

Ditch the city, find wild beauty! Roar down Blairgowrie’s River Ericht, where myths whisper & legends flow.

  • Escape tourist traps, dive deep into the Highlands’ soul. ️
  • Follow the river, feel the earth vibrate with ancient stories.
  • Meet the locals, hear their tales, live the raw power of nature.
  • Forget Sunday strolls, embrace the breathtaking, real Blairgowrie. ️

Tune in & get swept away! Don’t miss a bend in the river!

About kyleslife.

Kyle is a student documentary filmmaker producing short films about life in rural Scotland. As a cultural content creator for artisans, craftspeople, and farmers, he works to connect with those who value them and what they do.

Magical Mystery Tour.

A journey through Scotland means there’s no knowing where your feet may take you.

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