The Historic South
The Historic South takes you to some of the most remarkable places the route has to offer. Visit Loch Leven, where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned on Castle Island, and marvel at the sight of geese – sometimes hundreds at a time – taking off and landing on this picturesque inland loch. Make your way up through Glendevon to the famous Gleneagles Hotel, and then onwards to the attractive market towns of Crieff and Comrie before heading on to historic Dunblane and Bridge of Allan.
An important burgh in Perth and Kinross, Kinross is the traditional county town of the historic county of Kinross-shire and a very popular destination for tourists given its convenient location between Glasgow, Stirling, Perth, St Andrews and Edinburgh. Located on the shores of Loch Leven, Kinross boasts no shortage of sporting and leisure activities – not least Loch Leven Leisure, its well-used sports centre, and the Loch Leven Heritage Trail initiative which offers a heritage path spanning thirteen miles of beautiful countryside around the loch’s shoreline which is perfect for walkers and cyclists of all levels of experience. Information on the trail is available here.
There are many areas of historical interest in Kinross, principal among them being Loch Leven Castle. Built on an island in the loch, the castle has huge historical significance on account of its links to King Robert the Bruce and Robert the High Stewart, though it is likely to always be remembered most keenly as the site of Mary Queen of Scots’ abdication of the throne of Scotland in favour of her then-infant son, King James VI. The castle remains an imposing structure amidst beautiful surroundings. Boat trips to the island, which take approximately ten minutes in either direction, are usually made a number of times a day on a shuttle basis, so anyone interested in paying a visit to the castle should check availability in advance.
Other historical sites worth checking out include the historic Orwell Parish Church and graveyard which lie on the Loch Leven Heritage Trail; the Standing Stones of Orwell (a megalithic circle – check with tourist information for location details); and nearby Milnathort War Memorial and Park which commemorates the fallen soldiers and officers of both World Wars. The ruins of stately Burleigh Castle can be found near Milnathort, accompanied by information boards explaining the building’s significance, while beautiful Kinross House Estate is a prime example of a 17thcentury rural mansion house which can only be visited by prior appointment with the estate owner.
Nature enthusiasts won’t want to miss the chance of a visit to the RSPB Scotland Loch Leven Nature Reserve, on the loch’s southern shore, where beautiful woodland and wetlands are home to birds, animals and fish of many varieties. Hides and trails are available for those seeking to view the wildlife in their natural habitat. Walking destinations around the area include hill walks to Kilmagad Wood and a ramble around Loch Fitty, as well as the stunning environs of Loch Leven National Nature Reserve which encircles the entire loch.
Anyone in search of a less strenuous experience may prefer to visit Loch Leven Brewery at the Muirs, Kinross – a modern building with knowledgeable staff and an on-site distillery which offers beer-tasting (along with many other beverages) in a warm and friendly environment.
If live music rocks your boat, then check out the latest list of gigs at the Backstage music venue at the Green Hotel in Kinross. You might be surprised when you see some of the names that perform there.
The attractive village of Dunning lies on the northern edge of the Ochil Hills, ten miles south west of Perth and two miles south of the A9 trunk road between Perth and Stirling. With not two, but six roads, leading in and out of the village, it is easy to build Dunning into your journey whether you are travelling by car, motorbike or cycle.
Take a look at a map of the area and choose from a wide range of small roads between Dunning and Crieff.
Visit St Serf’s church to see the Dupplin Cross and about a mile outside the village pause a while to look at the spooky monument to Maggie Wall who, some believe, was burnt as a witch in 1657.
The Dupplin Cross is a Pictish sandstone cross from the early 9th century. It had stood in a nearby field over the years, exposed to the elements and erosion, until being brought into St Serf’s Church in 2002, where it is now cared for by Historic Environment Scotland.
Mystery surrounds the story of Maggie Wall, with some believing that she never actually existed. Thousands of people, mainly women, were accused of witchcraft in Scotland between the 1500s and 1700s, and Maggie Wall may have been one of those women who was murdered as part of the witch hunt. However, an alternative theory is that this monument is a commemoration of all those who were murdered in Scotland during the witch hunts. A mystery indeed, and a quirky monument that is well worth a visit.
The A822 from Gilmerton, near Crieff, to Dunkeld is a popular tourist route and takes you through the Sma’ Glen and deep into the very heart of Heart 200 country. The road east from Amulree follows the lovely River Braan to its confluence with the River Tay at Dunkeld.
If you follow this road on a warm, sunny day, then the long lay-by at Newton Bridge must be one of the finest picnic spots in the whole of Scotland. Relax a while beside the beautiful River Almond and enjoy this special place.
For the more energetic, the track that follows the River Almond upstream from Newton Bridge takes you into some very remote country indeed, and for those looking for a long walk it is around 24 kilometres through to Ardtalnaig on the south side of Loch Tay.
A scenic village popular with visitors making the trip between Kinross and Auchterarder, Glendevon is a peaceful place situated amongst some striking scenery. It has become a well-liked stopping point for walkers and cyclists in the area, with particular admiration amongst ramblers for the Glen Sherup Circular route – a pleasant woodland walk with some jaw-dropping views from the summit of the nearby hills. Another popular destination is the Glen Sherup Fisheries, a trout loch on beautiful unspoilt waters off the beaten track. It is recommended to check ahead of time if you want to pay a visit. Speciality lodgings are available at the picturesque Glendevon Country Park, situated near the village.
A location that is immediately synonymous with its most famous attraction, the luxury Gleneagles Hotel has been offering the height of sumptuous accommodation since it first opened in 1924. A Category B listed building since 1980, Gleneagles is famed for its three golf courses (the King’s Course, Queen’s Course and PGA Centenary Course) as well as its nine-hole course (the PGA National Academy Course), and has been the location of several major international golf tournaments. The grounds are also home to the British School of Falconry, while the hotel has hosted numerous major conferences including – perhaps most famously – the international G8 Summit in July 2005.
Gleneagles Hotel has won a large number of major awards, both for its hospitality and its status as a prominent golf resort. Complete with its own railway station, Gleneagles remains much more than a golfer’s paradise; the hotel offers just about every possible kind of amenity to ensure that visitors enjoy their stay. With its impeccably-maintained grounds, legendary customer service, well-stocked fitness centre and array of fine dining options, a visit to Gleneagles will almost certainly be among the highlights of your Heart 200 travels.
Known locally as the ‘lang toun’ (‘long town’) on account of its one-and-a-half mile long high street, Auchterarder is only a short drive away from Gleneagles Hotel and has plenty to see and do. From its independent shops to its diverse eateries, the town is popular with tourists and is regularly visited by guests staying at Gleneagles.
History aficionados will be interested to view the ruins of Auchterarder Castle in the town’s Castleton area, once used by King Malcolm Canmore for hunting in the 11thcentury, as well as the historic Tullibardine Chapel. Visitors looking for outdoor activities can find out about the best ways to cycle around this picturesque area by checking in with Synergy Cycles for information about how to make the most of their time in the area. For a less strenuous way to view the surroundings, Virgin Balloon Flights are available in good weather. Checking ahead for availability is advised.
The town is also home to the welcoming, well-maintained Auchterarder Golf Club, while fans of more extreme sports may prefer to seek out Skydive Strathallan which has been offering memorable skydiving experiences since 1960. Why not find out more about this breathtaking pastime, carried out safely under the supervision of the company’s highly-trained professionals. For those who prefer to stay on solid ground, the nearby Tullibardine Distillery based in Blackford is on hand to reveal the art of producing their prized, handcrafted single malt Scotch whisky.
The village of Muthill is a must-see destination for anyone with an interest in Scottish history. It is particularly well-known for its historic religious buildings, including Muthill Parish Church (completed in 1828 by architect James Gillespie Graham) and the ruins of the medieval Muthill Old Church which date back to the 12thcentury. Visitors can find out more about the interesting and often surprising history of the community at Muthill Village Museum near the old churchyard. Discover why this ancient village was once an important religious centre, and hear more about how its name may derive from ‘Moot Hill’: a place of judgement.
Other activities in the area include the well-regarded Muthill Golf Club, and the fascinating Strathearn Wool Studio – operated by Strathearn Fleece and Fibre – which is a working sheep farm with much to share about the process of how wool is made, from herding the flock through to shearing and dying the wool. Yarn is also available to buy on the premises.
The market town of Crieff is home to attractions for just about every taste. The site of one of Scotland’s leading spa resorts, Crieff Hydro Hotel, the town is perennially popular with visitors to the area. A handy resource for new arrivals is Crieff Visitor Centre in Muthill Road, which provides not only information but also a shop which sells gifts, fashion items and accessories, a restaurant and even a garden centre.
Walkers to the area will be spoiled for choice, as there are many areas of interest that are based in and around Crieff. These include the beautiful Drummond Castle Gardens, the wide open spaces of Macrosty Park (the perfect place for families and picnics), and local attractions such as the Category B listed Crieff Bridge over the River Earn, the town’s Diamond Jubilee Fountain between Rosslyn Street and Gower Street, and Buchanty Spout on the River Almond – where, if you are very lucky, you might spot a salmon leaping through the water on its way upstream. Those seeking more energetic pursuits will want to visit Action Glen, a top-rated adventure centre at Ferntower Road, which offers a wide variety of activities including quad-biking, treetop adventures and Segway treks.
Anyone with an interest in history will be keen to seek out the Library of Innerpeffray, the oldest lending library in Scotland (founded by Lord David Drummond in 1680), which contains a treasure trove of rare publications. Art-lovers will also enjoy a visit to the Strathearn Gallery on West High Street, where there is a wide selection of paintings, ceramics, jewellery and studio glass on display. The gallery contains a healthy mix of work by established artists and newly-emerging talents alike.
One of Crieff’s premier visitor attractions is the Famous Grouse Experience at the Glenturret Distillery, Scotland’s oldest working whisky distillery. As well as tours, whisky tasting is available, as is a bar, restaurant, café and a shop area. Other retail destinations in the town include Caithness Glass at Crieff Visitor Centre, where visitors can watch glass being hand-crafted by experts, and (by appointment only) take part in glass-painting themselves. A wide range of Caithness products, as well as other glassware and crystal items, are available to buy from the shop. Lastly, no visit to Crieff would be complete without a visit to the Nutcracker Christmas Shop – one of the largest stores of its type in the UK. Decorations and other festively-themed items are available to buy all year round in this celebration of all things yuletide.
The town is also host to the Crieff Highland Gathering, which takes place on an annual basis and invites spectators to watch competitors in the gruelling Highland Games as well as offering live music and other activities.
Feeling peckish in Crieff and just want to try some fresh baking? Pop into Campbell's Bakery at 59 King Street.
Comrie is known throughout Scotland as the ‘shaky toun’, due to the fact that it experiences more tremors than any other town in the country on account of it being located on the Highland fault line. This part of Comrie’s history is immortalised in the story of the Earthquake House, situated in a field near the town – check out the adjacent information board to learn the story of the town’s seismograph.
Comrie is a well-liked place amongst walkers, with destinations including the Deil’s Cauldron and the ‘Circular Walk’ around Glen Lednock, as well as a stroll around the town to take in local sights such as the Dalgincross Bridge (constructed in 1904 by Sir William Arrol) and the Melville Monument which overlooks the town.
Nature lovers will be keen to visit the family-oriented Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre with its wonderful assortment of animals ranging from Highland cows to llamas and emus. A wide range of activities are available, and the staff members are very knowledgeable. Those who prefer their outdoor pursuits to be a bit more energetic may prefer Do It Outdoors, where pastimes such as archery and axe-throwing are the order of the day. Many other activities are on offer, including bushcraft courses and instruction in fly-fishing, and the company is also a popular venue for children’s parties.
Anyone seeking to blend retail with an interest in art need look no further than the Riverside Garden Centre and Art Gallery, where plants can be purchased alongside a fine range of arts and crafts including hand-carved wooden boxes, original artwork, jewellery and glassware. For those with an interest in history, visits are available to Cultybraggan Camp, a World War II prisoner of war camp which has been preserved near Comrie. Advance booking is recommended to find out more about the story of this camp and its inmates; information boards and display panels are situated around the area to explain what life in the camp was like during the 1940s.
Since the 1960s, the town has hosted Comrie Fortnight – a two-week celebration between July and August consisting of many events such as a float parade, competitions and dances, with proceeds being used to support local community endeavours.
Fancy trying some fresh baking in Comrie? You'll be sure of a tasty treat at Campbell's Bakery at 38 Drummond Street.
Braco is an ancient village, dating all the way back to the Roman Fort of Ardoch which was situated just north of the existing settlement. The fort’s ditches and ramparts are still visible today. The village’s North Park hosts another historical structure of interest, Ardoch Old Bridge (otherwise known as the Knaik Bridge), which has its origins in the 15thcentury. The bridge is now rated Category A by Historic Environment Scotland.
The village has become popular with walkers who have an interest in history, as there are many monuments and culturally significant sites based in and around Braco. These include the 18thcentury Ardoch Parish Church, the tower of Ardoch Free Church (the main building was demolished after a lightning strike, leaving only the tower standing) and Ardoch Parish War Memorial. Additionally, Braco’s Lodge Park is host to the Braco Show, an agricultural event which takes place in the village every year.
If you're looking for local arts and crafts in this area, then check out the Swallow Shed.
The centrally-located town of Dunblane, situated on the banks of the Allan Water, is a bustling community with much to offer its visitors. Though it has become well-known in the area for its luxury hotels such as Cromlix House and Dunblane Hydro, the town has much more to offer than just opulent accommodation.
The jewel in the crown of Dunblane’s historical attractions is the commanding structure of Dunblane Cathedral, which is of huge interest to architecture enthusiasts; the town’s most prominent landmark, the building has gradually been expanded over the centuries – the lower half of its tower dates from the 11thcentury, with its upper half added in the 15thcentury, while the Gothic cathedral itself was constructed in the 13thcentury before the entire building was restored by Victorian architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson between 1889 and 1893. Historic Scotland is custodian of the cathedral, with entrance to the building free of charge to members of the public.
Dunblane Museum, located at The Cross in the town, relates the history of Dunblane over the centuries, including the construction of the cathedral and even the story of a four thousand-year old necklace that was excavated near the town. Also worth visiting is the nearby Leighton Library, the oldest purpose-built public library in Scotland, which now contains approximately 4,500 books. The building is open between May and September, and sightseers may want to check opening times ahead of their visit.
Walkers will enjoy the sight of Queen Victoria’s Horseshoe – an eccentric piece of preserved history at the corner of the town’s Bridgend and Stirling Road, where a horseshoe thrown from one of Queen Victoria’s royal horses when her carriage passed through the town was attached to the wall for posterity after a local blacksmith reshod the horse in question. (A commemorative plaque marks the spot.) Other popular walking destinations around the town include the picturesque Darn Road, the Faery Bridge near the entrance to Laighhills Public Park, and a real historical curiosity in the form of a wartime mock-up of the German Atlantic Wall near Sherriffmuir Road, constructed to train Allied soldiers in assaulting heavily fortified emplacements during the Second World War. For younger visitors, there is the well-stocked children’s play area at Laighhills Park, which also features a skate park.
During your stay in Dunblane, don’t forget to visit the gold Royal Mail pillar box in the town’s high street. It was painted gold in 2012 to celebrate Dunblane sporting hero Sir Andy Murray, two-time Wimbledon champion, winning the Men’s Singles Tennis Gold Medal at the London Olympics that year.
Situated close to Stirling, Bridge of Allan boasts many independent shops and businesses which are popular with tourists. Developed as a spa town in the 19thcentury (though its origins stretch back as far as the Iron Age), the town retains many Victorian villas and grand public buildings. Visitors can enjoy seeking out landmarks such as the painstakingly-repainted Fountain of Ninevah on Fountain Road, Pullar Memorial Park and Henderson Street’s Paterson Memorial Clock, built in memory of eminent local figure Dr Alexander Paterson by sculptor Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson.
The town is home to the popular Bridge of Allan Golf Club on Pendreich Road, with its attractive nine-hole course, and visitors can also check in at the Allan Centre Sports Hall. Another popular destination is the Allanwater Brewhouse on Queens Lane, which offers tasting sessions and information about the brewing process in a welcoming and comfortable environment. Day tours around the town’s historical landmarks can be arranged from Outlandish Journeys, guided by a knowledgeable professional historian and genealogist, which cover a comprehensive range of facts about the local area.
A little-known fact is that the Beatles once performed at Bridge of Allan; the band played at Henderson Street’s Museum Hall in January 1963, the penultimate venue of their tour of Scotland. Though the Museum Hall no longer functions as a public auditorium, having closed in 1978 and since being converted into private apartments, the distinctive exterior of the building can still be seen to this day.
Walkers will also find much to enjoy on the University of Stirling campus, voted one of the most scenic in Europe, where they can take in the sights of beautiful Airthrey Loch which is the focal point of the university grounds. A wander around the extensive Aithrey Estate, which houses the campus, is highly recommended. The campus is also the location of the Macrobert Arts Centre, which houses a variety of live performance spaces and a cinema; check ahead to consult their schedule and see what’s on offer.
A little-known episode in Bridge of Allan’s history is that in 1864 and 1865 it was at the centre of a major gun-running operation. During the American Civil war, the Confederate Government’s illegal and clandestine gun-running operation had British support in the form of shipments of arms to the southern states, and it was being masterminded from a secret headquarters in a mansion in, of all places, Bridge of Allan. Their rural headquarters in a sleepy village was all part of the ploy to avoid detection and avoid raising suspicions. It’s a remarkable story that has just been uncovered by a maritime historian from Edinburgh University.
Bridge of Allan Highland Games (also known as the Strathallan Meeting), at the beginning of August each year, is one of Scotland’s most popular highland games events. Watch the traditional games events including, tossing the caber, throwing the weight over the bar, hammer throwing, running, cycling, plus pipe bands, highland dancing and wrestling. A visit to a highland games is a must-do activity for anyone touring Scotland in summer, and Bridge of Allan is one of the top-drawer games to see.
A popular walk from Bridge of Allan is to follow the Darn Walk from Bridge of Allan to Dunblane. This 4-kilometre walk, which dates back to Roman times, follows the River Allan for most of the way. Options for the return leg include walking it in both directions or taking a train or bus back to Bridge of Allan.