Day 3: Heart 200 tour of Scotland
I enjoyed a drive on the new Heart 200 circuit in central Scotland. This is a blog post about day 3 of the tour.
What is Heart 200?
The 200-mile route is the latest in a growing collection of circular road tours 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 links both of Scotland’s national parks, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs and the Cairngorms.
Day 3: Dunkeld to Stirling
Distance: Around 100 miles.
A third section could easily be split into two days, especially if you like to walk in the hills. If you enjoy the colours of autumn, this section, through Perthshire’s so-called Big Tree Country, is highly recommended.
Why not start the day near the tourist town of Dunkeld with a walk along the River Braan below tall Douglas Firs at The Hermitage Or you could mountain bike on some of Scotland’s high quality trails.
The Heart 200 continues clockwise heading towards the town of Blairgowrie and, once again, into rolling countryside with pretty woodland and several small lochs. En route is the Loch of Lowes, which is home to a wildlife reserve and the chance to spot beautiful ospreys.
The large town of Blairgowrie is the starting point for the Cateran Trail, which offers walkers a 60-mile route on ancient drove roads once used by cattle rustlers.
Nearby, you might like to take an unusual guided walk on the wild side to visit a unique distillery making a spirit from local botanicals. See Highland Boundary: Wild Scottish Spirit.
The town of Blairgowrie also marks the start of the Snow Roads – a scenic driving route through the beautiful Cairngorms National Park to historic Grantown-on-Spey.
Travelling south again, Heart 200 tourers head south towards Perth, with two highlights, including Meikleour Beech Hedge, acclaimed as Britain’s longest hedge and the highest of its kind in the world.
Recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the highest hedge in the world, the Meikleour Beech Hedge was planted in 1745 and is one third of a mile long (530 m) and 100 ft (30 m) high.
It is thought the men who planted it were called to fight in the Jacobite Rebellion and none of them returned alive. In tribute the trees were allowed to grow and the hedge acts as a living landmark to them.
Scone Palace is also a must-see. The Category A listed historic house is one of the UK’s finest examples of late Georgian Gothic style.
Perth is a lovely city to stroll with it two parks, North Inch and South Inch, the wide River Tay and attractions including a concert hall, theatre, Balhousie Castle and Black Watch Museum, Huntingtower Castle, Greyfriars Burial Ground, and a busy shopping arena, to name a few.
Leaving Perth, the Heart 200 journeys into a stretch called “The Historic South”. Travellers might like to visit Loch Leven, where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned on Castle Island, and marvel at the sight of hundreds of geese taking off and landing on the stunning loch.
The route winds through pretty countryside via atmospheric Glendevon to the famous Gleneagles Hotel, and then on towards to the market towns of Crieff and Comrie.
The historic highlights come thick and fast including the ruins of Auchterarder Castle and nearby Tullibardine Chapel; Muthill Parish Church and the ruins of the medieval Muthill Old Church; Drummond castle near Creiff and the Library of Innerpeffray, which is the oldest lending library in Scotland.
Crieff is also home to the Famous Grouse Experience at the Glenturret Distillery, Scotland’s oldest working whisky distillery.
Just a short drive west is Comrie, which is a popular destination for walkers with some great routes, such as Deil’s Cauldron and the Melville Monument and Glen Lednock Circular Walk.
For nature fans, there’s Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre with its wonderful assortment of animals ranging from Highland cows to llamas and emus.
Did you know?: Comrie is known as the “shaky toun”. Because of its location on the Highland Fault Line, the town experiences more tremors than any other in Scotland. You can even visit Earthquake House to find out more.
History is a focus point again at former World War II prisoner of war Cultybraggan Camp. The camp became a military training base and is now a visitor centre and also a base for local crafts people and for events.
Travelling south again, the Heart 200 reaches Braco, a village that dates to the Roman Fort of Ardoch which was situated just north of the settlement. You can still see the fort’s ditches and ramparts.
In North Park another historical structure, Ardoch Old Bridge can be dated to the 15th century. In addtion, there’s the 18th century Ardoch Parish Church, the tower of Ardoch Free Church and Ardoch Parish War Memorial.
Before returning to Stirling, it’s well worth popping into the town of Dunblane, where the jewel in the crown of the town’s historical attractions is Dunblane Cathedral.
Dunblane Museum reveals the history of the town, while Leighton Library lays claim to being the oldest purpose-built public library in Scotland.
Make sure you visit the gold Royal Mail pillar box in the high street, which was painted gold in 2012 to celebrate Sir Andy Murray’s Men’s Singles Tennis Gold Medal at the London Olympics that year.
Other things to see and do:
- Auchterarder Castle
- Skydive Strathallan
- Tullibardine Distillery
- Market town of Crieff
- Action Glen
- Famous Grouse Experience.
Where to stay: Stirling and Bridge of Allan offer a wide range of accommodations.
The Heart 200 route offers so many attractions and things to do that it would be possible to enjoy a week or two-week trip and still have plenty to do. See the Heart 200 website.