One of the main reasons for us moving to Perthshire was it’s central location and the abundance of things to do without having to travel too far from home. Plenty of woodland walks with view points, waterfalls, history, wildlife, adventure activities, museums, castles and distilleries. What still surprises us is that even after living near Perth for four years now, is that we are still discovering new places to visit, trying new things and just generally having a ball. So when I heard of a new touring route that would entice people to drive through my home county, Stirling and The Trossachs I knew that we had to try it for ourselves. With the help of the local PR team we came up with a five day itinerary for the Heart 200.
With an emphasis on slow travel I wanted to make sure we still had enough time to relax, stop for walks and enjoy it. Not make it a box ticking exercise where you spend all day driving. We also didn’t stick to the route rigidly and found ourselves bypassing some places but finding others. This worked for us because we have already visited quite a few of the main towns and villages along the Heart 200 but were yet to discover others.
To add to our driving experience we would be working directly with Kia PR UK and had been given a brand new Kia Sportage GT-Line for the week. We picked up this beast of a car up from Kia Arnold Clark in Cumbernauld and they couldn’t have been any nicer. Sorting out the paper work and a full hand over of the car’s bells and whistles as you would get when you buy a new vehicle from a dealership. Driving it back home was a delight and we were looking forward to filling the boot with camera gear and all of our outdoor kit for our adventure.
After a hearty breakfast at home we set out toward Crieff for our first activity of the day. With the sunshine shining we knew we were in for a belter of a day as we admired the view across the hedges from the higher vantage point of the Kia.
As always, we arrived early at Action Glen on the Crieff Hydro grounds, so this gave us a chance to check out the crazy golf and the all new adventure fort before booking in for our Segway session.
Neither of us had ever done this before and after watching the safety video we got kitted up with helmets and a Segway. After five minutes practicing the gentle art of not falling off we set off up the hill. The journey up was actually far less daunting than first imagined and in a super hero, lean forward kinda fashion the Segways effortlessly carried us to the top. What a view!
After admiring the view and a quick photo shoot we were heading back down. I found this bit much more difficult. To keep the Segway at a sensible speed and not allowing it to take off with you like a riding school pony with a mind of it’s own, we had to lean back. It felt really un-natural and at one point I did feel a little out of control on a bend! So with a shriek and a big step off the back I ground to an abrupt halt.
The rest of the hour long excursion went without any injuries or hiccups and we had a brilliant time. Something we will definitely do again.
Next stop, the pretty town of Comrie for coffee and to calm the nerves. A great place to buy local produce and sample some fabulous home baking too. There seemed to be a sense of community here with people chatting in the shops and on the pavements. I like that and I know there are things in the area I want to visit and walks I have seen in our books, so we will be back.
With that we were on our way again. I’d heard nothing but good things about Dunblane and after taking the scenic route (not the A9) from Comrie we were looking forward to having a wander round. With it’s array of independent retailers, coffee shops and brightly coloured bunting stretching over the narrow road we fell in love with Dunblane straight away. It has this real homely vibe to it.
Reaching the end of the High Street we came to the postbox painted gold in honour of Sir Andy Murray winning a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics in the men’s singles tennis event.
The cathedral was really impressive inside with stunning wooden carvings on the pew ends of various animals. I think the squirrel was my favourite. However, the organ is spectacular! Floor to ceiling mix of intricate carvings. Originally designed by Scottish architect, Sir Robert Lorimer in 1914 and adapted in 1990 to house the new organ. There are signs that suggest Christian worship as early as the 9th century on this site. It has had a few face lifts and restorations but is now a really beautiful place to visit.
On the way back to the car we couldn’t resist buying some of the most humungous (they really were that big) sausage rolls from one of the local butchers shops. That’s lunch sorted for tomorrow.
Now onto our accommodation for the evening. An old decommissioned SeaKing helicopter that has been given a new lease of life as a glamping pod in the Stirlingshire countryshire. All self contained with it’s own small kitchen and bathroom and sleeps up to five people.
When we arrived we checked in at reception and were shown around the accommodation. All the mod-cons including USB chargers and ambient lighting have been well thought out.
Once we were settled in we sat outside with a beer and some snacks enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, marvelling at our home for the night and the view.
There is a pub in the village, just five minutes walk, so we decided that we would go and see what it had to offer. Turns out it was a great decision. The Lion and Unicorn pub is friendly, serves good hearty grub, ale and the fire was roaring. My favourite go-to meal on a pub menu is scampi and chips and Dude’s choice was steak pie. Both meals arrived and were huge portions, I think I counted about 15 pieces of scampi on my plate (that doesn’t happen very often). The pie arrived with big tender pieces of steak in a tasty sauce and a large separate pastry top. We were both very full!
Back at the SeaKing we sat in the cockpit and watched the sun go down on the first day of our Heart 200 adventure.
After a good nights sleep we were sad to be leaving the SeaKing helicopter but excited for the next leg of our journey.
We had nothing set in stone for day two but really wanted to take a boat trip out on loch Katrine. The drive from Thornhill to the Trossachs pier took about half an hour and we enjoyed the windy roads and views from Aberfoyle. My photographer’s eye was framing shots all along this route but I (mostly) refrained. I know there are plenty of walks in this area and we plan to spend more time here in the future.
With our tickets purchased for the 10:30 sailing of the Sir Walter Scott steamship we still have time for a hot chocolate in the cafe next to the pier. It felt very atmospheric with the damp air and mist clinging to the hillside and we were ready with plenty of layers on for 2 hours out on the water.
We are hardy folk and took our seats on the deck outside, ready to set sail. The Steamship Sir Walter Scott is no stranger to these waters after arriving back in 1899, allowing more visitors to enjoy the beauty of the area. Today the captain talked about the wildlife, local filming locations and canon fire that upset the overnight plans of Queen Victoria.
As we sailed further down the loch our surroundings took on a distinct monochrome feel to it, as the air was filled with rain. The really fine rain that soaks you through. Thankfully the steamship serves hot drinks and the outside deck does have a cover. But you’ve not had a Scottish road trip unless you get rain at least once, right?
Stopping at Stronachlachar to let people off/on and then returning back to the Trossachs Pier, we felt relaxed and happy to have spent some time on the water. We do love a boat trip.
I won’t lie though, part of me is slightly disappointed by the dreich weather because we wanted to walk up Ben A’an. But I don’t see the point if I can’t see anything from the top!
Next stop included more water. This time I was getting IN!
Loch Lubnaig, a popular stop for tour buses, visitors and swimmers. I had packed my swimming bag in case I found somewhere to take a dip and this spot was perfect.
As I got changed into my swim suit in the car park, two guys in wetsuits got out and we got chatting; mainly because they thought I was mad for just going in “skins.” One guy told me the water temperature was about 12°c. I continued getting changed when a car full of people pulled up next to us and their first reaction was to ask me if I was going in “like that” and total shock when I said I don’t even own a wetsuit.
Eventually I was left to my own devices and got into the water for a swim. I only started cold water swimming back in June and this is definitely the coldest dook I’ve had. Thoroughly enjoyed it and I was in the water for about thirty minutes.
I had left Dude sat at the shoreline with my camera all set up for him to take photos of me in the water but he actually spent more time taking photos for bus loads of tourists than of me (they assumed because of the big camera he was a professional!!!). So this is the best of a bad bunch!
All dry, back on the road and making use of the Kia’s dual control heating and heated seats to help me thaw out whilst we headed north to Killin.
We have spent time here previously but it’s always worth stopping for the Falls of Dochart and some of the local walks. This wee village deserves much more than a photo stop. We got chatting to a family who were sat eating their picnic, admiring the view. They had said they were touring round and were told about the falls. Although they hadn’t intended on staying any longer than for lunch, those plans had now changed. I was glad to hear this.
At the other end of the village we went to see Fingal’s Stone again. A squat, single standing stone that is said to mark the burial place of Fingal.
Our accommodation for the evening was the Fortingall Hotel, not far from Kenmore. From the moment we arrived we felt welcomed and like part of the family. Everyone, staff and guests, were all very friendly. The whole hotel has this rather grand ambience.
The double room with king size bed and ensuite over looked Drummond Hill. Tastefully decorated with hints of local tartan and tweed but not to the extent that it’s tacky. Much to my delight too in the bathroom were big fluffy bath sheets. Nothing worse than a tiny towel!
Before dinner we sat in the lounge on comfy arm chairs in front of the roaring fire. Almost immediately striking up a conversation with an elderly lady who had been reading her book.
Dinner was an elegant affair. To start we had grilled goats cheese with a crouton and caramelised onion chutney; and Dude had a charcuterie of cold meats and chutneys. Main course, I enjoyed local venison and Dude had decided upon the beef. Both beautifully cooked and presented.
When it comes to dessert, one of us doesn’t have a sweet tooth (spoiler, I love a sweet pud). Thankfully, the cheese board was the perfect choice for him, whilst I devoured a contender for the best crème brûlée I have ever eaten!
We finished the evening back in front of the fire in the lounge with other guests, talking about whisky, golf and comparing stories about travelling Scotland. Fabulous.
The next day we started with a hop, skip and a jump across the car park to see the Fortingall Yew. The magnificent tree is thought to be over 3000 years old. If only it could talk, imagine the tales it could tell. It’s seen both the Stone and Bronze ages and may have had wolves shelter beneath it.
The sun was shining and it felt like the perfect morning to take a drive down Glen Lyon. I don’t think I could ever get bored of the views along Scotland’s longest, loneliest and loveliest glen. Thirty four miles of spectacular scenery and has less than one hundred residents. I’m sure there are times in the year that conditions are brutal but mostly I imagine a near perfect place to live. Our plan is to buy OS maps for this area and to do more exploring on foot next year.
Conscious of the time and knowing we had to be at Highland Safaris for 13:30 we made our way back and over the mountain road, toward Ben Lawers. With still time to spare we were able to get out in various spots and watch Golden Eagles soaring overhead on the thermals. Such a magnificent bird and a real privilege to watch. The area is a National Nature Reserve and is teeming with flora, fauna and archaeological remains but don’t worry you don’t have to climb all of Ben Lawers 3984ft to see any of it. There are a number of different trails which cater for all abilities.
We arrived at Highland Safaris with plenty of time to spare (I hate being late). Our tour guide, Tony explained where he would be taking us and that with the bonnie weather we would be in for a real treat. He wasn’t wrong.
One of the things we love about these LandRover tours with Highland Safaris is how knowledgeable the guides are. Not just for spotting wildlife, but plants, geology and local history too.
There were plenty of opportunities to get out, take photographs and look through binoculars too. On this trip the sun was shining, we could see for miles around but yet just a few hours beforehand we were told the hillside had been shrouded in mist. Luck of the draw I suppose.
Our only wildlife spot of this trip was a herd of red deer, away in the distance but that didn’t seem to matter. Everyone was soaking up the sights and sounds of this bucolic scene.
It’s important to take time out on the hills for a brew, and it’s always done in style with Highland Safaris. A flask of fresh coffee, a piece of shortbread and a wee dram of Aberfeldy’s whisky (Dewar’s), in, or outside a bothy. With more time to chat and take in the panorama.
Before we knew it, it was time to make our way back down and back to the village of Dull. Another brilliant Heart 200 experience.
Now time to meander to our next over night stay in Blairgowrie. Somewhere neither of us had spent any time at all since moving.
We checked in to the recently refurbished Angus Hotel which is slap bang in the centre of the town. This particular evening the hotel was pretty much full and we were unable to make a table reservation for dinner so this was a good excuse to explore our options. Well, we didn’t have to stray too far. A Indian restaurant just next door to the hotel entrance and also an old school American Diner called Little America over the road. The call of a big fat burger was too much and so we went in and stuffed our faces with big fat burgers, fries and proper onion rings. Washed down with a delightful cider made in Perthshire. Simple but hit the nail on the head.
I’m always skeptical of staying in hotels in a built up area because at home it’s so quiet at night and so now every little noise wakes me up. We were given a superior room located at the front of the hotel and I’m please to report that I had a grand nights sleep. Not even much noise from other guests.
Still stuffed from the evening before, breakfast was just a coffee and toast affair for us. The usual full breakfast options were available alongside cereals and fruit alternatives. This was more than enough to keep us going for the moment though.
Sadly we didn’t get the chance to check out the leisure facilities at the hotel but it was good to know that as guests who had checked out we could have access up until 5pm that day.
With the car all packed up again we decided to take a wander down by the river Ericht before we had to leave. A few steps leading off the bridge and down to the river and the sound of cars soon disappeared. The waymarked trail stopped at various viewpoints and points of interest and lead to some old mills. Most have now been converted into swanky apartments but back in the 1800’s the textile industry was booming in this area. One of which was the first mill in Scotland to spin jute for making items like sacks and ropes. Locally grown flax was also spun in these mills and then sent away to be woven into linen.
This small path forms part of the much longer and challenging Cateran Trail. A 64 mile waymarked trail through Perthshire and the Angus glens for those who are up for a bit of adventure.
Back to the car and following the road south to Perth we stopped at Scone Palace. Although I have been inside the palace, Dude hasn’t and with another gorgeous day it was perfect to explore both inside and outside.
After parking up we got our tickets from the little booth next to the car park and headed inside. It is a self guided tour with notes in each room and for anyone with extra questions there is also a guide in each room too. I like that you are free to take as much or as little time as you wish (or have) to explore the rooms. Nothing worse than feeling rushed on a group tour.
As always the gardens and pinetum at Scone Palace never fail to put a smile on our faces. We have seen the Celebration of Snowdrops event here for the last few years and it is a spectacular event but our favourite part are the magnificent giant sequoia trees planted at the far end. We’ve been lucky enough to see red squirrels here on many occasions, but not today.
Moot Hill with it’s chapel and replica of the Stone of Destiny always attracts the crowds (especially if the peacocks are hanging around too), with good reason too. The site where all the Kings of Scots were crowned – including Robert the Bruce in 1306. The last coronation on this site was King Charles II in 1651. The original Stone of Scone is currently housed at Edinburgh castle along with the Honours of Scotland.
Unfortunately we didn’t get our scone at Scone because the tea rooms and outside seating were all taken but we shall return in the quieter months for one (each, obviously).
It was then time for us to make our way across the city where we would be staying in our own bed again. But that’s not the end of the adventure.
With nothing set in stone for our final day of our five day itinerary for the Heart 200 we found it difficult to agree on what to do. I suggested cycling around Loch Leven at Kinross followed by a late lunch at the pub or a trip over to RSPB reserve at Vane Farm but then Dude dropped this….. “How about I go and play golf at Kinross and you can come for a walk. Then we can get dinner at the clubhouse?”
I’m sure to many that sounds like a real cop out but actually I do enjoy walking the course with him whilst he’s playing. Kinross golf club has two courses available to play and the backdrop of the Lomond hills from almost every fairway. There’s also a possibility that you get to see red squirrels and deer too.
So we loaded up the car and headed through Glenfarg (rather than the motorway) ready for a walk in the sunshine. We were grateful that the weather was being kind to us again, that’s for sure. With all the searching for lost golf balls, I walked about 11km and I was ready for a cold drink and some food.
The clubhouse is a friendly place and serves good hearty food for those who don’t fancy cooking after their round. Standard menu plus a specials board to choose from and predictably I opt for scampi.
We loved it
This route has it’s doubters (as with many new ideas) but I honestly believe that it should be enjoyed as a more general guide. We didn’t stick to the route rigidly, nor did we “complete” the whole 200 miles. I like being able to encourage visitors (and locals) to take their time when exploring, and this is no different.
Nothing in this five day itinerary for the Heart 200 took us more than 90 minutes away from home. I think that’s amazing. All of this practically on our doorstep and we barely scratched the surface of what there is to see and do. Not forgetting just a few weeks before we spent a day of two halves in Aberfeldy and Kenmore, trying stand-up paddle boarding for the first time and then relaxing at the HotBox at loch Tay. There really is something for everyone – museums, distilleries, castles, walks, outdoor activities galore, spa’s, munros and amazing places to eat and drink.
Without making it a box ticking exercise, it certainly ticks a lot of boxes for us and we will continue sharing any new Heart 200 adventures right here, on the blog.
To follow soon will be a YouTube video of our trip too.
I would like to thank Emma at Volpa PR for organising the bulk of this itinerary. All accommodation was gifted to us in return for this blog post and social media stories. The Segway and Highland Safaris experiences were also gifted. All thoughts on big bath towels and weather are all my own.
The Kia was also gifted to us for a week in exchange for social media posts and inclusion in the video.