The Highland North

The Highland North

For outdoor activity enthusiasts and history buffs alike, there is something to suit just about every taste on the Highland North section of Heart 200. From Neolithic stone circles to boat tours and wildlife pastimes, there is much to enjoy for those who are seeking the attractions of the great outdoors. There are also plenty of surprises and unexpected delights in store for anyone who wants to venture into the beauty and tranquillity of Scotland’s Highland North.

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KEY STOPS

Killin is situated beside the spectacular Falls of Dochart, an area of great natural beauty where the River Dochart descends at great speed towards Loch Tay. The tranquil island “Inchbuie” is situated in the Falls of Dochart at Killin. Access is by a small iron gate down a flight of stone steps on the side of the Dochart Bridge at the western end of the island. An enclosure, which contains the graves of Clan Chiefs and other resting places, can be found at the end of the island. 

Other historical places of interest include Killin’s famous stone circle (ask a tourist information representative for information about its historical significance and access details) and Moirlanich Longhouse, which is maintained by the National Trust for Scotland. A traditional 19thcentury cruck frame cottage and byre, the longhouse remains virtually unchanged since its last inhabitants left the premises in 1968.

In the village itself, Killin Watermill is a useful stop for Tourist Information, books and exhibitions. Killin has a selection of independent shops and places to eat, while the Wildgrass Studio showcases fine art photography by Dave and Gill Hunt and other invited artists. Instructional training sessions are also available. Arts enthusiasts may also find the Breadalbane Folklore Centre – based in a renovated water-wheel-driven mill on the main street – to be a place of considerable interest.

There are plenty of options for keen walkers around Killin. Popular walks include Loch Tay, Acharn Forest, Sron a’Chlachainand Creag Buidhe. The Killin railway viaduct commands remarkable views from Loch Tay. The Colin Burt wildlife reserve offers an appealing contrast of wetland, woodland and river environments, especially for nature lovers hoping to see birds and animals in their natural habitats. Many walkers reach Killin from Strathyre on the Rob Roy Way, heading on to that route’s next destination at Ardtalnaig.

Killin Outdoor Centre and Mountain Shop offers canoe and kayak hire as well as maps and guides for walking and cycling. The village is also home to the well-regarded Killin Golf Club on Aberfeldy Road; a beautifully-maintained nine-hole golf course.

From Killin, going north along Loch Tay, a small diversion to Ben Lawers is well worth taking time over. Making a short detour up the road towards Glen Lyon, walkers can visit the Ben Lawers Nature Trail which offers some truly amazing views. Lawers is also home to the Lawers Horn Carver, and Georgia Crook Willow and Paper Arts (by appointment only).

Looking for somewhere to stay in the Killin area? Take a look a the Loch Tay Highland Lodges situated on the north side of Loch Tay to the east of Killin.

An alternative to driving the narrower roads around the northern section of the Heart 200 route is to follow the River Tay downstream from Aberfeldy until you come to the twin villages of Grandtully on the south bank of the river and Strathtay on the north side.

The white-water rapids on the River Tay at Grandtully are a Mecca for canoeists and rafters, whilst the 9-hole golf course at Strathtay is particularly attractive. If chocolate is your thing, then be sure to visit the Highland Chocolatier in Grandtully and if you enjoy spectacular gardens then don’t miss the famous Clunie Gardens to the west of Strathtay.

By taking this alternative route along the A827 you eventually arrive at its junction with the A9 at Ballinluig from where you can head north to explore Pitlochry, Killiecrankie, Blair Atholl and Bruar, or turn to the south towards Dunkeld, Blairgowrie and Perth.

Situated at the eastern end of Loch Rannoch, the village of Kinloch Rannoch is a peaceful place to spend some time enjoying the views over the loch and up to nearby Schiehallion. You might also wish to explore further up the loch and even make your way to Rannoch Station and the remote mountains beyond.

For a wee bit of peace and quiet, well away from busy main roads, a side-trip out to Kinloch Rannoch might just be what you’re looking for.

If you happen to be around at the right time, the Kinloch Rannoch Highland Games always takes place on the third Saturday in August. This traditional event is hosted by the local community and includes piping, caber tossing, a hill race and lots more.

When you’re in or around Kinloch Rannoch, your eyes are naturally drawn to the impressive conical shape of Schiehallion. This symmetrical mountain, with its Munro status due to its lofty height of 3,553 feet (1,083 metres) was the scene of an important scientific experiment as far back as 1774 when Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal, spent 17 weeks on the slopes of Schiehallion conducting work to calculate the weight of the earth. The experiment on Schiehallion required help from a mathematician, and that drew in Charles Hutton, whose job was to measure the volume of the mountain. In order to do this, Hutton invented contour lines which are still used on maps to this day, and all these years later, the scientific community believe that Maskelyne’s estimate for the weight of the earth was actually very accurate given his rudimentary equipment of the time.

The two roads into Kinloch Rannoch from the east (B846 from Tummel Bridge and the unclassified road from near Loch Kinardochy) are both narrow and twisty, and unsuitable for large vehicles. Kinloch Rannoch and Loch Rannoch are beautiful places to visit, but please be aware that these roads require drivers to go slowly. A trip to this corner of Heart 200 is worth taking time over and savouring.

Another excursion from Kinloch Rannoch is to explore the roads around Loch Rannoch. To drive or cycle round the loch involves a journey of around 22 miles (36 kilometres). Add another 6 miles (10 kilometres) onto that and visit the remote Rannoch Station. Whilst you’re there you call in for a bite to eat and have something to drink at one of Scotland’s remotest cafes, the Rannoch Station Tea Room. Whether you arrive at the Tea Room on foot, or by bike, car, motorbike, canoe, kayak or horse, by the time you get there you will have earned your piece of cake.

Looking for accommodation around Kinloch Rannoch? Have a look at Dunalastair Estate Holiday Cottages.

Please also note that the area around Loch Rannoch has suffered from a certain amount of inappropriate and irresponsible roadside camping. If you are looking to camp in this area, please consult our guide to Camping on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code page at the foot of every page on this website.

Situated at the north-east end of the 14-mile-long Loch Tay, Kenmore has become a very popular destination for watersports. Taymouth Marina Watersports and Loch Tay Boating Centre are well worth your attention. Informative and entertaining tours on the loch are also available from Loch Tay Safaris, where visitors can learn about the rich past and present of the area including the loch itself – one of the deepest in Scotland. Loch Tay Safaris also operates a Red Deer Centre which offers activities to suit the wildlife enthusiast in all of us.

For pony trekking, Mains of Taymouth Stables offers riding around beautiful woodland areas under the supervision of trained staff. For golfers, Mains of Taymouth Golf Course offers a challenging golf experience in astonishingly beautiful parkland scenery, which has led to the course being dubbed ‘Perthshire’s finest nine holes’. For those who prefer walking, following the Drummond Hill Walk will take visitors to the stunning vistas of the Black Rock Viewpoint.

When you approach the village from Killin, you are welcomed by the huge archway at the gateway to Taymouth Castle Estate. This beautiful and imposing location is where Queen Victoria spent part of her honeymoon. The castle is currently closed and undergoing renovation. Visitors interested in history will also want to visit the Scottish Crannog Centre, which offers guided tours of a reconstructed Iron Age loch-dwelling. The museum features historic exhibitions hosted by knowledgeable staff, with many crafts and music demonstrations taking place on various dates.

Around a mile and a half beyond the end of Acharn Falls, near Kenmore, is the Greenland Stone Circle – a site which contains information about its intriguing historical details as well as offering many beautiful views along the way.

Instantly recognisable thanks to its association with Robert Burns’ famous 1787 poem The Birks of Aberfeldy, this historical market town has no shortage of attractions for the Heart 200 visitor. There is now a one-and-a-half mile walking trail around the Birks; a beautiful valley which no countryside wanderer will want to miss. The town is especially well-known for its Tay Bridge, a William Adam-designed ‘Wade’s Bridge’ constructed in 1733 affording striking views of the town and considered by General George Wade himself to be among his greatest accomplishments.

On the banks of the River Tay can be found the commanding and moving Black Watch Monument, a famous statue which commemorates the service and sacrifices of the Black Watch battalions. Visitors seeking to know more about the area’s history will also want to visit the nearby Castle Menzies, a 16thcentury castle that was once occupied by the forces of Oliver Cromwell and which would later play host to Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746. Animal lovers will enjoy a trip to Cluny House Gardens, famed for their red squirrel population, and Errichel Farm which features rare breeds of farm animal as well as archaeological tours.

Top destinations for walkers include St David’s Well along the Weem Forest Trail, delightful Bolfracks Garden on the banks of the River Tay, and the peaceful environs of the Lundin Farm Stone Circle. Another popular landmark is Tomnadashan Mine, which – though quite far off the beaten track – is a famous pilgrimage of comedy fans due to it having been a filming location in Monty Python and the Holy Grail… namely the mysterious home of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

One of Aberfeldy’s top tourist destinations is Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery, which features a whisky lounge, café, and plenty of information about Scotland’s most famous alcoholic beverage including an interactive exhibition. For younger visitors to Aberfeldy, there is Victoria Park – the largest and most popular public park in the town – which features play areas including a skate park, a vintage steam road-roller, swings, slides, grassy areas for ball games, and picnic benches.

Aberfeldy features a nine-hole golf course amidst stunning parkland scenery. Aberfeldy Golf Club also presents a unique feature in that the Aberfeldy Footbridge – which spans the River Tay and was built entirely of composite materials – famously connects two holes of the golf course which are divided by the river.

There is also much to offer the arts enthusiast in Aberfeldy, not least the Birks Cinema right at the heart of the town. Originally operating between the 1930s and 1980s, the cinema was reopened in 2013 by the Friends of the Birks organisation and now offers a 92-seat auditorium and café bar. Those who prefer the literary arts will want to visit The Watermill, a winner of the UK Independent Bookshop of the Year, which is a converted mill that houses a bookshop, contemporary art gallery and café. Aberfeldy is also well served by arts and crafts galleries which include Aberfeldy Gallery, Keltneyburn Smithy Gallery, Artisanand, the Temple Gallery and the Audrey Slorance Gallery.

A scenic village which features some remarkable thatched cottages and plenty of rural charm, Fortingall has been home to some momentous history in its lifetime.

The village was remodelled and rebuilt by shipping magnate and Member of Parliament Sir Donald Currie in the early 1890s, with buildings including the church and hotel being remodelled in the Scottish vernacular style which later inspired internationally-acclaimed architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Fortingall Parish Church is built on an early Christian site, thought to be founded around 700AD by Bishop Coeddi of Iona as a daughter monastery; the ‘arts and crafts’ style of the current church building was intended to harmonise with the rest of the village when it was remodelled. The churchyard is home to the Fortingall Yew Tree, now protected by a walled enclosure. The tree is considered to be between 3,000 and 9,000 years old, and also thought to be one of the oldest living organisms in Europe.

After an article on the subject was published in The New York Timesin 1899, it has been claimed that Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate was born in Fortingall.  Pilate lived from around 20BC to some point after 36AD, and was the Prefect of the Roman Judea from 26AD to 36AD. According to local legend, Pilate was born in the shade of the Fortingall Yew Tree and played games there during his childhood.

A standing stone, Carn-na-Marbh, is situated near the village and dates back to the 14thcentury when the village was all but wiped out from the Black Death; the stone is believed to mark the site of the mass grave that the villagers were buried in by the only survivor.

Fortingall also has an unexpected claim to fame in that it was considered potentially the ideal filming location for Vincente Minnelli’s famed 1954 MGM musical Brigadoon. Director Minnelli and star Gene Kelly were both eager to film in Scotland, but the high production costs and unreliability of the weather meant that the movie was eventually filmed on MGM’s sound stages in the United States instead.

A trip to the Forestry Commission’s Visitor Centre at Tummel Bridge is highly recommended for anyone seeking to get the most from an outing to this picturesque area. The Queen’s View along Loch Tummel, now an iconic vantage point, offers the breathtaking sight of one of Scotland’s most famous mountains, Schiehallion. The loch is home to the Loch Tummel National Scenic Area, and has become popular with walkers, campers and anglers (with fishing managed by the Loch Rannoch Conservation Association, which is responsible for issuing permits). Loch Tummel Sailing Club is situated at Foss, on the loch’s south-west shore, for boating enthusiasts.

There are two bridges over the River Tummel at Tummel Bridge; the eldest was built in 1734 and is now pedestrianised, while the most recent carries traffic from nearby Aberfeldy along the B846. Tummel Bridge is of great archaeological interest due to the large number of duns, stone circles and fort ruins in the area, including the Clachan Aoraidhstanding stones in the Allean Forest. There are also several listed buildings including one of Scotland’s first hydroelectric power stations, built in 1930, and Fincastle House – a 17thcentury structure with historical links to the Stewart family.

Foremost amongst the natural features of Bruar are the famous Falls of Bruar, a beautiful series of waterfalls in woodland surroundings which is just a short two-mile walk starting from the famous House of Bruar shopping complex. There are two walking routes, each leading to two different waterfalls depending on how far visitors want to trek.

Popular with shoppers is the House of Bruar, considered one of Britain’s foremost Scottish country clothing specialists. However, clothing is not the only thing on sale in this expansive complex; customers are also invited to browse the gallery of artworks, consider the large array of gifts and fishing supplies on sale in the store, pay a visit to the food hall, and enjoy the restaurant and conservatory area.

A striking village founded where the River Tilt and River Garry converge, Blair Atholl is now included in the Cairngorms National Park and offers plenty to enjoy for the history aficionado in particular. The village’s most prominent feature, Blair Castle, is now one of the best-regarded stately homes in Scotland, and holds the distinction of having been the last castle in British history to have been under siege (in 1746, during the last Jacobite Uprising). The historic seat of the Earls and Dukes of Atholl, thirty-two of Blair Castle’s rooms are open to the public as part of guided tours which describe the building’s long history and its highly significant collections of artwork, fine furniture, historical artefacts and hunting trophies, amongst many other features. The expansive grounds also contain many fascinating features including the nine-acre walled Hercules Garden, a Gothic folly and a red deer park, amongst many other sites of interest.

Scottish history is also on display at the Clan Donnachaidh Museum and Knitting Shop, and the historic Blair Atholl Watermill which features a museum (open during the summer months) and a tea room which is a popular destination for lunch and snacks. The Atholl Country Life Museum, situated conveniently near the local caravan park, also provides an informative experience with many exhibits which outline Scotland’s cultural and social history.

Those who prefer the outdoor life will enjoy a walk around Glen Tilt, a scenic glen near Blair Atholl which offers a number of different trails from the gentle to the more challenging. Cycling trips and advice on various routes around the area are also available from nearby Blair Atholl Bike Hire.

The village has another claim to fame in the form of Blair Atholl Jamborette, which has taken place in the grounds of Blair Castle every two years since 1946. This is the largest regular Scout camp in Scotland, where well over a thousand Scouts from many countries across the world converge on Blair Atholl to take part in a range of events.

Looking for good value accommodation in Blair Atholl? Check out the Blair Castle Caravan Park.

A historic village on the banks for the River Garry, Killiecrankie (from the Gaelic Coille Chreithnich, or ‘aspen wood’) is famed for being the site of the eponymous Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689, and became immortalised by the folk song The Braes of Killiecrankieas well as being the location of the BBC’s music series The Highland Sessions.

A National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre is available at Killiecrankie, which gives plenty of information about the village including the famous ‘Soldier’s Leap’ – the point where Redcoat soldier Donald MacBean is said to have cleared the Pass of Killiecrankie in a single bound (a distance of approximately 18 feet across the River Garry). A Memorial Field to soldiers killed in action during the Battle of Killiecrankie is situated in the grounds of Urrard House, a listed building near the village.

Killiecrankie also features a footbridge with commanding views of the area’s awe-inspiring natural landscape, and a Roman fortified mound and ditch known as Gask Ridge which also includes the nearby ruins of signal towers used by the Romans to warn of approaching Picts.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Highland Fling Bungee at the Killiecrankie Bungee Centre offers the chance for participants to see this beautiful village from a slightly different perspective as they leap from a jump platform on the Garry Bridge for a forty metre freefall experience before returning safely to terra firma, all under the watchful management of experienced bungee supervisors.

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