Day 2: Heart 200 tour of Scotland
I recently followed the new Heart 200 driving tour in central Scotland. This is a blog post about day 2 of the tour.
What is Heart 200?
The 200-mile plus route is the newest in a series of circular road tours to be established in Scotland. It follows suit from the now famous North Coast 500, the North East 250 and the South West Coastal 300.
The route, at the heart of Scotland, visits two historic cities, Stirling and Perth, as well as many attractive towns and villages. Uniquely, the tour also links both of Scotland’s national parks, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs and the Cairngorms.
Also see day 3 on Heart 200.
Day 2: Lochearnheard to Dunkeld
Distance: 70 to 80 miles
As the Heart 200 journeys from Stirlingshire to Perthshire – and into the “Highland North” section – the mountains grow taller and more rugged. Water is also a constant feature, whether a fast-flowing river, waterfalls or lochs.
At Killin you should stop for a walk and to see the spectacular Falls of Dochart. There are cafes and independent shops in the village, too.
The tour then joins the northern shore of 14-mile long Loch Tay and skirts the base of the Ben Lawers range of mountains. These summits offer many great walks, as well as the chance to tour on skis in the winter.
At Fearnan, a tourist sign points to Fortingall, where an ancient yew stands in a churchyard. The yew is said to be the “oldest living thing” in Europe – possibly the world – and dates back some 5000 years.
By the way, if you are looking for a great overnight, there’s Fortingall Hotel nearby.
The attractions come in quick succession and at Kenmore there’s a marina, a boat centre, riding stables, a golf course and the fascinating living history museum, the Scottish Crannog Centre.
Aberfeldy, the next town is the same, with highlights such as a walk to the Birks of Aberfeldy, made famous by Robert Burns’ famous 1787 poem, a Wade’s Bridge, 16th century Castle Menzies and Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery.
Heading west, then north, the Heart 200 climbs into remote moorlands with beautiful native trees, bracken and heather lining either side of the road.
A wonderful descent with plentiful views – stop in a layby and get out of your vehicle for the best vistas – eventually leads to Tummel Bridge and into the perfectly named Loch Tummel National Scenic Area.
At Queen’s View there is a superb view over Loch Tummel and one of Scotland’s most famous mountains, Schiehallion. If you have the time and the weather is fine, Schiehallion is a great hike.
Further natural hotspots include a magnificent wooded river gorge at Killiecrankie. It was the location of one of the most gory battles in Jacobite history and also so-called “Soldier’s Leap”, where a fleeing Redcoat soldier leapt 18ft across the River Garry.
Did you know that the Garry Bridge is the site of the UK’s first static bungee jump and is operated by Highland Fling Bungee?
Honestly, you could spend days on this section of the heart 200 alone. My advice is not to rush.
A short “extra” loop at the northern point of Heart 200 visits the village of Blair Atholl, beautifully located on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park and Bruar, where there is a lovely series of waterfalls.
The House of Bruar, considered one of Britain’s foremost Scottish country clothing specialists. is a popular stop for many tourists.
Heading south again, this time on the busier and faster A9, the route visits the popular tourist towns of Pitlochry and on to the twinned tourist villages of Dunkeld and Birnam.
This is the start of the Heart 200 section known as The Riverside East, named because of the backdrop of the rivers Tummel, Braan, Ericht and Tay.
Other things to see and do:
- Forestry Commission’s Visitor Centre at Tummel Bridge
- Highland Fling Bungee, Killicrankie
- Blair Castle
- St Mary’s Chapel, Grandtully
- Freespirits Outdoor Company in Grandtully
- Ian Burnett: The Highland Chocolatier
- Glen Tilt walks
- Dunkeld House Tree Trail
- Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve
Where to stay: Four star Dunkeld House Hotel is a wonderful treat. See www.dunkeldhousehotel.co.uk.
See: Day 3 of Heart 200.
To find out more see Heart 200 website.