A Scottish road trip for everyone: the Heart 200

If you love the unspoilt landscape of Scotland but are less enamoured of its circuitous single-track Highland roads, you are in for a treat! A new Perthshire tourist route aims to rival the popularity of the iconic North Coast 500, and promises to be easier on both locals and drivers too.

The Heart 200 will take in several of Scotland's lochs

The Heart 200 will take in several of Scotland’s lochs

At its southernmost point, the Heart 200 takes in the City of Stirling

At its southernmost point, the Heart 200 takes in the City of Stirling

A new Scottish road trip

The Heart 200 is a new touring route of approximately 200 miles around Perth, Stirling, the Trossachs and Highland Perthshire – the very heart of Scotland. In addition, the route uniquely links Scotland’s two national parks, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs and the Cairngorms.

Easier on drivers

But what distinguishes the Heart 200 from the world-renowned North Coast 500 – Scotland’s Route 66 – is that it is designed around major trunk roads, with a well-established built infrastructure, and there’s scope to accommodate increased numbers of tourists year on year.

So, if you’re daunted by driving on single track roads in a hire car, are not sure about the etiquette of passing places, are nervous about driving around sheep on a precipitous B-road, or want the reassurance of more frequent rest and re-fuelling points, then Heart 200 is for you.

No compromise

But be assured there’s no compromise on spectacle. The Heart 200 takes in some of Scotland’s most historic towns and cities, including Stirling at its southernmost tip. Travellers will be immersed in the captivating and unspoilt landscapes of Scotland’s two national Parks, as well as skirting the banks of Loch Tay. And that’s just a few landmarks along the route.

So, if you’re planning a first-time road trip in Scotland with Stirling as your base – then we’ve got you sorted!

More information:

Easter family fun in Stirling

Easter. Scotland is bursting into bloom and the days are noticeably longer. It’s time for getting outdoors, and catching up with the kids now the school term has finished. To help you plan an Easter to remember, we’ve rounded up some of the best family events throughout Stirlingshire for you!

Steam trains and Easter treats at Boness & Kinneil

Steam trains and Easter treats at Boness & Kinneil

Enjoy an Easter egg hunt at historic Blackness Castle

Enjoy an Easter egg hunt at historic Blackness Castle

Easter Egg Special Trains at Boness and Kinneil Railway

The railway’s hugely popular Easter Egg special trains run on Friday 19, Saturday 20, Sunday 21 April and Monday 22 April. There’s a prize for the best Easter bonnet, an Easter egg hunt in the Museum, and every child will get a free Easter treat during their train journey. Stay all day and explore the Museum, Model Railway and the railway site via the Visitor Trail at Bo’ness and the stations along the line. Bring a picnic and enjoy it in the comfort of the picnic railway carriages alongside the platform. For more information, see: https://www.bkrailway.co.uk/your-visit/events/

Cadbury Easter Egg Hunts with National Trust

Cadbury have teamed up with the National Trust for Scotland again this year to create Easter Egg Hunts in some of Scotland’s most historic settings. Chocolate and culture, combined! The nearest hunts to Stirling take place from Good Friday to Easter Monday at The Battle of Bannockburn Centre, Alloa Tower in Clackmannanshure, Culross Palace, Fife. Events are included in the normal admission price. Check your chosen venue’s Egg Hunt dates and other postcodes on the Cadbury website, where you’ll also find lots of free downloads for fun Easter activities at home: https://easter.cadbury.co.uk/

Easter Eggsplorer Trails with Historic Scotland

Not to be outdone, Historic Scotland’s Easter Eggsplorer Trails take place at a number of iconic castles, abbeys, forts and palaces throughout Scotland. All you need to do is find the clues and complete the challenge to be a winner.  Drop-in throughout the day, and the events are included in normal admission. Free to members. The nearest participating venues to Stirling are Linlithgow Palace and Blackness Castle, from Good Friday to Easter Monday, but you can search for other venues here. 

Holiday Clubs with Historic Environment Scotland

With events at both Holyrood Park and Linlithgow Palace Peel, the Ranger team are offering a number of Easter holiday ‘walks on the wild side’ to help kids discover the birdlife, minibeasts and burrowing animals of these historic natural venues. Lasting from two to three hours, these events are aimed at children of 8 upwards, accompanied by an adult. The sessions are free, but booking is essential. More information here.

Kids can learn about birdlife with the rangers at Holyrood and Linlithgow Palace

Kids can learn about birdlife with the rangers at Holyrood and Linlithgow Palace

Outlander fans will enjoy the egg hunt at Culross Palace

Outlander fans will enjoy the egg hunt at Culross Palace

Photo credits:

  • Culross Palace: By Palickap (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Boness and Kinneil: Thomas Nugent [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Blackness Castle: Dr John Wells [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

Five reasons you should spend spring in Stirling

There’s nothing better than planning a spring break to lift the soul and give yourself something to look forward to. We think Stirling is the perfect place to spend this crisp and beautiful season – and here are five good reasons why!

Coorie in by a wood burning stove in one of our properties

Coorie in by a wood burning stove in one of our properties

Enjoy carpets of snowdrops around Stirling this spring

Enjoy carpets of snowdrops around Stirling this spring

You can coorie in

To ‘coorie’ or to ‘coorie in’ basically means to cuddle up or snuggle in Scots, and nothing beats a coorie with a loved one at a warm fireside. Oakside Cottage, Castleview, Gladstone and Tigh Mor are just a handful of our many properties with wood burners or open fires, perfect for a spring break when the weather can still be on the chilly side. Browse these and more here: https://www.stirlingselfcatering.co.uk/properties/

If you’d like to huddle by the fire with a wee dram and friendly company, head to the Portcullis or Nicky Tams in Stirling, or the Westerton Arms in Bridge of Allan. You’ll find a warm welcome and the comforting atmosphere of hearth and home in each of them.

Carpets of snowdrops

It seems the snowdrop sums up everything we love about spring: it’s a hopeful, beautiful and determined wee bloom that reappears undaunted every year despite late snows and biting cold. You’ll spot blankets of snowdrops in Bridge of Allan, University of Stirling Campus, as well as the King’s Park in Stirling – home to several of our properties. And in addition, Scotland’s annual snowdrop festival kicks off in January, with stately homes across Scotland opening up their gardens for visitors to witness the stunning carpets of snowdrops within. Find a participating garden near you here: http://discoverscottishgardens.org/

Seasonal produce

Stirling Farmers market takes place every second Saturday, with around 25 or more friendly stallholders setting out their season’s wares in Port Street, Stirling from 10am till 4pm. You’ll find fine Scottish produce as varied as dry-aged Highland beef and lamb in season, pork and bacon, venison and wild game, high welfare rose-veal, smoked fish and shellfish from the east coast, bread in great variety, chilli jams, chutneys and preserves, Scottish cheeses and butter, free-range hen/duck eggs, organic vegetables, deli items such as olives and pesto, award-winning fudge and tablet, savoury pies, country fruit wines, flavoured gins and crafted meads. Wow – what more could you want? For details see here: http://www.stirlingfarmersmarket.co.uk/

Remarkable theatre and cinema

As a cultural venue, Stirling rivals cities twice its size, with The Macrobert Arts Centre, The Albert Halls, and the Tolbooth all hosting regular theatre and live acts. See, for example, Ballet West’s The Nutcracker at The Macrobert Arts Centre at the beginning of February, folk legends McGoldrick, McCusker and Doyle at the Tolbooth, or Dan Snow at the Albert Halls – both in March. Keep an eye on the Macrobert’s eclectic cinema listings, too, with films you’d just never see elsewhere, as well as live screenings from the National Theatre and more. For more details: https://macrobertartscentre.org/whatson/stirling-cinema/

Your gateway to Scotland

Most of us turn our thoughts to our next holiday in January and February in order both to get good deals and to give us something to look forward to after winter’s festivities. So, if you’re planning to spend your spring in Scotland, make Stirling your base. The historic city offers easy access to Glasgow and Edinburgh by rail, and you can reach the southern Highlands in around an hour by car, too. The City’s central location literally gives you the key to explore the very best of Scotland and still be home in time for dinner. And, of course, it’s a stunning destination in its own right! Browse our properties and check availability here. We’ll be delighted to see you!

Stirling's historic Old Town is the perfect place to explore on foot this spring

Stirling’s historic Old Town is the perfect place to explore on foot this spring

The cobbled streets of Edinburgh are just a short train journey away

The cobbled streets of Edinburgh are just a short train journey away

Putting the joy back into January

So many people bemoan January as a dreich but necessary month after Christmas when we’re all supposed to go dry, go vegan and generally have a very dull time. We disagree! For us, it’s the perfect time to see Stirling’s historical landmarks at their least busy, embrace Scotland’s stunning winter landscape, and finish the month with a wee dram for the Bard. Here’s how.

Blackness Castle, hosting Brick City in January

Historic Blackness Castle, hosting Brick City this January

Lego in a historic venue - the perfect family day out this winter

Lego in a historic venue – the perfect family day out this winter

Castles ­– with extras

In the winter months, Historic Environment Scotland works hard to keep visitor numbers up by adding extra enticements included in your admission price, or free to Historic Scotland members. For example, at Stirling Castle, you can not only breathe in the sights and history of this Scottish landmark, but immerse yourself in the wonders of LEGO® too! Open until 23 January, the Brick Wonders exhibition features recreations in LEGO® bricks of sights from around the world, curated by artist Warren Elsmore. Beginning with the seven wonders of the ancient world, the exhibition also takes in modern, natural and historic wonders from all continents. For more information, visit: https://www.stirlingcastle.scot/whatson/events/brick-wonders/

And if you miss that one, or just can’t get enough Lego, you can visit Brick City at Blackness Castle until 24 March. While Outlander fans will be blown away by spending a day in the film location that doubled as Fort William, their kids will love seeing iconic buildings from cities around the world, recreated in LEGO® bricks. Again, it’s all part of your ticket. For more information, visit: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/whats-on/

Wildlife with historic backdrops

If you are someone who loves nature whatever the weather, you’ll love the Winter Wildlife Workshop at Blackness Castle on 13 January, included in admission price. Visit the Castle, then enjoy a bid of bird-spotting on the beach before heading to the visitor centre. There, you and the family can create a bird feeder, bird box, or minibeast home to take away. Again, it’s all included in your ticket price, or free to members. For more information, visit: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/whats-on/

If you miss that date, and enjoy a bracing winter walk, where better to do it than in the stunning surrounds of Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots? On Sunday 10 February, enjoy a guided walk round Linlithgow Loch with a local ranger, who will offer insights into the wildlife of the Palace, loch and grounds. Outlander fans will also relish this view of the Palace, used as a backdrop for Wentworth prison in the series. The walk is free, but you need to book. For more information, visit: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/whats-on/event/

Celebrate Rabbie Burns

Want to celebrate Burns Night, but don’t know where to start? The Ghillie Dhu in Edinburgh will take care of absolutely everything for you. Take the 50-minute train ride from Stirling and head to Rutland Place, where the Ghillie Dhu staff will welcome you with an arrival dram before you’re seated for dinner in their splendid auditorium. The haggis will be piped in, with all the traditional readings and toasts. Throughout dinner, there’s live Scottish folk music, and afterwards, you can dance the night away with a proper Scottish ceilidh. Tickets are available for 18 January to 27 January. And if you prefer a more-low key Burns knees-up, the Main Bar offers its normal menu alongside a toast to the haggis and live piper from Thursday to Sunday. That’s Burns Night sorted! For more information: http://ghillie-dhu.co.uk/burns-night/

Learn about Scotland's wildlife at Blackness Castle and Linlithgow Palace

Learn about Scotland’s wildlife at Blackness Castle and Linlithgow Palace

Dance the night away in honour of the Bard

Dance the night away in honour of the Bard

Photo credits: Blackness Castle: Dr John Wells [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Time to ‘coorie in’ the Scottish way – and here’s how!

Over the past couple of years, you’ve probably got to grips with the concept of ‘hygge’ – that cosy, simple and mindful way of life that has, by all accounts, made the Danish the happiest people on the planet. But right here in Scotland, we have our very own route to happiness. Now that the nights are drawing in, let’s coorie!

There's nothing like a wood fire for a wee coorie in

There’s nothing like a wood fire for a wee coorie in

Head outdoors to make the most of shorter days

Head outdoors to make the most of shorter days

Coorie in

To ‘coorie’ or to ‘coorie in’ basically means to cuddle up or snuggle, and nothing beats a coorie with a loved one at a warm fireside. Oakside Cottage, Castleview, Gladstone and Tigh Mor are just a handful of our many properties with wood burners or open fires, perfect for a winter or early spring break. Browse these and more here: https://www.stirlingselfcatering.co.uk/properties/

And if you prefer a huddle by the fire with a wee dram and friendly company, head to the Portcullis or Nicky Tams in Stirling, or the Westerton Arms in Bridge of Allan. You’ll find a warm welcome and the comforting feel of hearth and home in each of them.  

Get outdoors

The best coorie comes after you’ve been outside, got some colour in your cheeks, and made the most of the great outdoors in the shorter winter days. Wrap up warm, and get the slow-cooker on for your return home.

For a view like no other on a crisp winter’s day, head to the Wallace Monument and follow the footpath to the top of the Abbey Craig. There’s no need to pay entry to the Monument itself unless you want to explore it too. From here, you’ll have a panoramic view of Stirling, the River Forth, and across to the Castle and Stirling Bridge. On clear days, you’ll see right to the Trossachs. Unbeatable.

For an insight into how wildlife copes with the Scottish winter, book a place on Linlithgow Palace’s Winter Warmer Walk on 9 December. Discover the animals that make the loch their home and learn the history of this extraordinary Palace. For more information, visit: www.historicenvironment.scot

Eat hearty

Wonder what to put in that slow-cooker? Come winter, Scots eat local produce that’s hearty and simple, but top quality. Stock up from these suppliers.

Stirling Farmers Market is held on the 8 and 22 of December, from 10-4, in Port Street Stirling, and things are getting festive. There will be stalls laden with fresh fish and shellfish, highland beef, wild venison and game, free range hens’ and ducks’ eggs, olives and deli products, Scottish cheeses and handmade preserves, as well all sorts of gift ideas. Take time to ‘blether’ (chat) to your stall-holder too, and make your shopping a day out rather than a chore. For more information, visit: http://www.stirlingfarmersmarket.co.uk/

Falleninch Farm has some of the best beef for miles around, perfect for colder nights, slow-cooking and comfort food. Pop in to see them at their farm butcher’s shop under the shadow of the Castle – the parking is free. The butchers there will be delighted to give you cooking tips, too. If you’re pushed for time, there’s free local delivery for orders over £50 too. https://www.falleninchfarm.co.uk/about-us/

And lastly, a wee dram

Nothing goes better with a coorie in than a dram. Whisky is the perfect drink to cosy up with, releasing its complex flavours when the glass is warmed gradually in your hands, with amber hues reminiscent of flame and ember. It’s best drunk slowly, in the company of friends and good conversation. And lastly, there’s nothing like the ‘wee leery’ that a dram delivers – that comforting heat in throat and chest from the very first sip on a chilly evening. Here’s how to find your perfect dram:

Located in Doune, just eight miles from Stirling and nestling at the entrance to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Deanston Distillery is a hidden gem. This former cotton mill sits beside the River Teith and has been distilling whisky using traditional methods since the 1960s. Take a tour, enjoy a dram and take home your own bottle of Deanston malt, renowned for a sweet flavour that delivers a malty, honeyed spiciness on the palate. There is excellent food to be had in the distillery’s café, the Coffee Bothy, too. For bookings, directions and more details, see: http://www.deanstonmalt.com/

If you’d like advice on finding your perfect dram, head to the Stirling Whisky Shop within the Stirling Highland Hotel. There you will find Stirling’s largest selection of Scotch Whiskies, gins, vodka, liqueurs and beers, accompanied by a selection of wine, champagne, cognac, plus much more. There are daily whisky tastings, a monthly whisky club, and you’ll benefit from the experience of a small team of dedicated staff who really do know their whisky! For information, see: http://www.stirlingwhiskyshop.com/

Learn how Scotland's wildlife copes with winter at Linlithgow Palace

Learn how Scotland’s wildlife copes with winter at Linlithgow Palace

A wee dram, the perfect accompaniment to a coorie in

A wee dram, the perfect accompaniment to a coorie in

Five great reasons to spend autumn in Stirling

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Autumn in Scotland can be one of the most rewarding times to visit. Burnished leaf displays, quieter streets, temperate weather, and good value accommodation too. Here’s where to stay, and what to do, as we leave summer behind in Stirling.

Explore Edinburgh's Old Town this autumn

Explore Edinburgh’s Old Town this autumn, a short trip from your Stirling base

Find out where to spot red squirrels this autumn

Find out where to spot red squirrels this autumn

Great value accommodation

If you’re considering a city break in Stirling, why not choose from our budget accommodation portfolio at budgetacommodationstirling.co.uk? Each one of our properties is perfectly equipped for your stay, with crisp, modern interiors and ideal central locations in both Stirling and in Bridge of Allan. Offering exceptional value for money, these apartments will provide you with the ideal base to explore Stirling and its beautiful surrounds without hammering your budget in the run up to Christmas!

Gateway to Glasgow to Edinburgh

Slap bang in the heart of Scotland, Stirling is the perfect place for a city break. Not only is it the gateway to the Highlands (heck, you can be in the wilds of Glencoe in under two hours!), but its central location opens up both Glasgow and Edinburgh as easy day-trip destinations too. Direct trains run frequently from Stirling City centre to both cities, and you could be in the heart of Glasgow or Edinburgh in around 50 minutes. Plan your Edinburgh day trip here: http://edinburgh.org/ or your Glasgow adventure here: https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/

Experience Scotland ‘in the fall’

For those who love autumn colour, there’s no need to fly long-haul to New England. Stirling can provide the perfect base for ‘leaf peeping’. Take a stroll round the campus of Stirling University for some stunning autumn displays, right on your doorstep. Further afield, but just an hour from Stirling by car, or even less by train, Perthshire has earned itself the title of ‘Big Tree Country’. Here, you can find Europe’s oldest tree, the world’s highest hedge, Shakespeare’s Birnam Wood in present day, and lots more. Visit some of the stunning sites recommended for leaf peeping by Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust at https://www.pkct.org/News/top-10-autumn-walks-in-perthshire. Wow.

Scottish autumn wildlife

From spotting red squirrels to leaping salmon and the bellow of red deer stags, autumn is an exciting time in the Scottish landscape, and it’s probably the best time to see our more elusive animals as they prepare for winter. For general information on what to look for and where, see VisitScotland’s autumn wildlife e-book here: http://ebooks.visitscotland.com/scottish-wildlife-series/. For specific spots to see deer rut, salmon leap, and red squirrels, check out this link: https://www.pkct.org/News/best-autumn-walks-for. And if you want the help of an expert guide, there are many companies who can help you get the sighting you want. Check out this website for full information: http://www.wild-scotland.org.uk/

Seasonal produce

One of the best things about the autumn is the bounty it brings, and Stirling is a brilliant place to get your hands on it. Visit Stirling Farmers’ Market on the second Saturday of every month, from 10-4pm in Port Street Stirling. There, more than 25 stallholders will brave all elements to bring you the very best seasonal fare from their farms, orchards and kitchens. For more information, see: http://www.stirlingfarmersmarket.co.uk/. And if seasonal, foodie events are your thing, take a look at http://foodfestivalfinder.co.uk/scotland to ensure you don’t miss any during your Stirling city break!

Enjoy autumn colour in Perthshire: Photo by Ronald Weir

Enjoy autumn colour at Craigvinean Pine Cone Shelter: Photo by Ronald Weir

Buy seasonal produce in the heart of Stirling

Buy seasonal produce in the heart of Stirling

Photo credits: Craigvinean Pine Cone Shelter: Photo by Ronald Weir and originally supplied by Perthshire Big Tree Country, now http://www.pkct.org/