See Scotland's heart, or head north

Scotland is rich with beautiful driving routes that wend their way through dramatic scenery, from giddy mountains and curving shorelines to glimmering lochs and dense forests.

This month, we’re exploring two very different routes that take in some of the country’s most majestic sights: the Heart 200 and the North Coast 500.

Can’t decide between the two? Allow us to help you narrow it down…

Hard to beat: Scotland’s beautiful Heart 200 route

Want to explore some of the most inspiring scenery in Scotland? There’s a route for that.

The incredible Heart 200 is a 200-mile touring route encircling Perth, Stirling, The Trossachs National Park and Highland Perthshire.

It promises a snapshot of Scotland’s finest scenery, history and culture, all of which can be enjoyed over a weekend itinerary – or as a slower, more relaxing tour if you want time to savour every experience. 

Set your satnav to Stirling

The route sets off from Stirling, one of the Scotland’s most central and historic cities – but before you leave the area, we’d recommend taking in a few sights first.

Stirling Castle tops any Stirlingshire to-do list. Perched high on a volcanic rock, this magnificent structure offers a fascinating glimpse into Scotland’s history, as well as gob-smacking views of the surrounding landscape. If there’s time, tackle the 246-step ascent to the top of the Wallace Monument too, where you’ll learn about the fabled Scottish warrior, William Wallace.

If that’s not active enough, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to explore the area on foot or by bike on the many trails and country roads. You can walk or cycle to Sheriffmuir, where the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 culminated in bloody battle, or enjoy a reasonable little hike to the summit of Dumyat to enjoy views over to Clackmannanshire.

Make a date with destiny in Perth

On your way to Perth, admire the beautiful scenery on the drive through Comrie and Crieff. From here, it’s worth making time to visit the formal 17th-century terraced gardens at Drummond Castle, just outside Muthill. The drive past Glendevon towards Kinross is also spectacular.

When you reach Perth, Scone Palace, the world-famous crowning place of the King of Scots is a must-see attraction, with its colourful history as one of Scotland’s most important stately homes. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch one of the many regular events held here, from their walled garden spring experience with the head gardener, to trail runs through the grounds.

If you’re visiting Perth any time after the end of March, you’ll also be able to enjoy the brand-new museum – where you can see the Stone of Destiny. The attraction has had considerable investment and will highlight many of the fascinating objects and stories of the city.

Then, bed down for the night in luxury and tranquillity at Murrayshall Country Estate, where you’ll find a roaring fire, comfy rooms and incredible views of the surrounding countryside when you wake in the morning.

Fonab Castle Hotel & Spa

Visit fantastic Fonab

From Perth, drive up to Pitlochry and visit the wonderful Fonab Castle Hotel & Spa.

This beautiful property is the only 5-star hotel in Pitlochry, on the scenic Tummel Valley overlooking Loch Faskally.

The 42 bedrooms have been individually designed to create a blend of modern elegance and traditional character. You can choose to dine in either the informal brasserie or the 3 AA Rosette Sandeman’s Restaurant, or in one of their luxury pods, located in the hotel gardens and overlooking the loch - which could make for a unique and memorable anniversary dinner.

The spa has a 15m swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and four treatment rooms. The walking and cycling opportunities are excellent in this area and you are perfectly situated to visit Blair Castle, The House of Bruar, Pitlochry Festival Theatre and a number of different whisky distilleries, including Blair Atholl.

House of Bruar

Hop on your bike in the Trossachs

The Trossachs National Park offers heaps more awe-inspiring Scottish scenery, with the highlight being the iconic Loch Lomond. This stunning scenery can be enjoyed on foot, by bike or from the water. There are lots of options for all ages, interests and fitness abilities.

One very popular option is to hire bikes at Loch Katrine from Trossachs Pier, west of Callander and take the steamship across the loch, before cycling back.

Start with a one-hour crossing on the steamship, Sir Walter Scott, or the cruiser, The Lady of the Lake. You’ll spot some majestic mountains as you sail, including Ben A’an, Ben Venue and Brenachoile as the crew share some lochside legends.

Then, enjoy a leisurely cycle back along the scenic banks of the loch – a perfect way to connect with nature, enjoy the benefits of exercise and take in the sights.

We hope this piece has given you a taste of what’s on offer in the beautiful heart of Scotland and has left you feeling inspired to explore the Heart 200 route.

Scotland’s most scenic driving route: the North Coast 500

Do you have a penchant for wild, untamed panoramas? Is it true escape you’re craving? If so, you need the North Coast 500.

This 516-mile-long touring route takes in some astounding coastal scenery in the far north of Scotland. It’s often compared to the storied Route 66 in America, and takes anywhere between five and ten days to drive – depending on how often you stop to enjoy the scenery.

Here are just a few rest stops to enjoy along the way…


Try island life in Kinloch Lodge

For authentic Scottish island hospitality, make time to visit the family-owned Kinloch Lodge on The Isle of Skye, nestled at the foot of Kinloch Hill.

Once the ancestral home of Lord Macdonald of Macdonald, it’s now a delightful hotel with a hugely popular restaurant run by Chef Jordan Webb, who has cooked in kitchens all over the world.

Retreat to this peaceful pearl of a place and spend your evening cosying up by the crackling fire or sampling the glorious whisky selection. This is worth delaying your journey for – at least for a night.


Make time for The Torridon

Known as the UK’s northernmost five-star hotel, this exquisite resort enjoys a fantastic highland setting, surrounded by dramatic mountains and sea loch.

Stretch your legs after the long drive with a walk through The Torridon's verdant kitchen garden, head off on a hill walk, or take aim at some clays with a bit of shooting.

Then, when it’s time to retire, sample their signature Arcturus gin by the roaring fire, or tuck into some produce with provenance in their 1887 restaurant. Bliss.


Go coastal at Glenmorangie House

Can’t get enough of the Highlands? Seek out the seascape surrounding the majestic Glenmorangie House and see if you encounter any of the 130 bottlenose dolphins that make the Moray Firth their home.

Then, head back to the confines of this beautiful country house to some wow-inducing dining. Not only do the menus change with the seasons – they’ve been carefully engineered to complement a dram.

And this is the place to indulge in a drop of whisky, given guests of the hotel also receive a complimentary tour of the Glenmorangie Distillery. Sláinte to that!


Drop into Rocpool Reserve Hotel

After a long day on the road, is there anything more soothing than simmering in your own private hot tub?

You’ll find this is just one of the charming reasons to stop at Rocpool Reserve Hotel, a Georgian mansion house perfectly situated in Inverness city centre.

Take some time to finesse your swing at nearby Castle Stuart Golf Course, saunter into town and explore Inverness, or simply fling yourself down on the emperor-sized bed and let out a contented sigh. Here, you snooze, you win.

Divert your course to Dunnet Bay Distillery

Located in sea-bounded Caithness, the stunning Dunnet Bay Distillery is a must-visit on any North Coast 500 jaunt.

The small, family-run distillery is most famous for producing the multi-award-winning Rock Rose Gin, which was launched to critical acclaim in 2015. And if gin isn’t your thing, there’s also the delightful Holy Grass Vodka and Mapmaker’s Rum.

Learn the craft of spirit-making on a tour, as the passionate team ply you with facts… and a few tasters. If you’re the designated driver, panic not – the well-stocked shop has plenty of bottles to buy for later.

Special membership offer for Luxury Scotland subscribers

To help you plan your North Coast 500 trip, buy a Traveller Membership. We’re offering a 50% discount – all you have to do is enter the code: LS50 at the checkout:

Happy travels!


First published 26 August 2020. Information correct at time of going to press.