Crieff isn’t the largest town in Perthshire, but it’s one of the area’s most popular hotspots for tourists. If you want to delve deeper into its rich history and heritage why not start by exploring these 5 historic hotspots.
- Crieff Monuments
Crieff’s historic past is beautifully preserved in the landmark Town Hall located in the centre of the Strathearn capital’s bustling High Street.
The 8th Century Crieff Burgh Cross, the 17th Century Drummond Cross and the old Town Stocks – collectively known as the Crieff Monuments – are displayed to great advantage in a bespoke mini museum in the basement of the recently refurbished building which also doubles as a VisitScotland tourism hub (www.visitcrieff.scot).
The Crieff Town Stocks are particularly fascinating and date back to a time when miscreants – usually vagabonds or drunkards – were secured by their legs while people threw rotten vegetables at them. Some places specified only “soft material” was thrown, effectively preventing victims from being stoned (or turniped?) to death.
Elsewhere in the town centre, visitors should also check out the Diamond Jubilee Fountain in James Square, commemorating Queen Victoria’s 60 years on the throne in 1867. Often missed in the hubbub of activity in the town, the Fountain and its ornate features are worth seeking out.
- Drummond Castle Gardens
Fans of Outlander will recognise Drummond Castle Gardens (www.drummondcastlegardens.co.uk) from the smash hit TV series starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan as Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser. The stunning formal gardens – which were created in the 16th Century – were used to replicate the Palace of Versailles in the latest series based on Diana Gabaldon’s international best-selling series, which sees Claire and Jamie arrive in France determined to infiltrate the Jacobite rebellion and stop the Battle of Culloden. Drummond Gardens were also used as a film location for the Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange blockbuster Rob Roy.
Nestled at the foot of the 14th Century castle built by the first Lord Drummond, the formal gardens followed in the 16th Century, pioneered by the second Earl Drummond. Steeped in history, the Castle was sacked by Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1653 during the Wars of the Three Kingdom. However, the gardens survived and flourished to become one of Perthshire’s top attractions. Visitors should look out for the beech tree planted by Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert in 1842 who enjoyed a romantic stroll through the gardens.
- Cultybraggan Camp
As you’d expect, a WW2 high-security Prisoner of War camp required remoteness and Cultybraggan POW Camp 21 (www.comriedevelopmenttrust.org.uk) eight miles west of Crieff, offered this in abundance. Built in 1941, Cultybraggan was known as the ‘Black Camp of the North’, housing thousands of the enemy’s most dangerous prisoners including many German SS Officers.
Now owned by Comrie Development Trust, Cultybraggan is the last remaining intact high-security POW camp in the UK. Today, some of the Nissen huts are used for commercial businesses, but the first one at the entrance is home to a visitor centre which is open throughout the year.
With the huts still standing and the original nuclear bunker still present, it’s not difficult to imagine this quiet, scenic location being home to POWs during such dark times. A walk through the camp will do that, but if you’re looking for more, Comrie Heritage Group offers tours with local guides who will add even more colour with stories and extra details.
- Glenturret Distillery
Ancient, distinct and varied – there are so many reasons why whisky should be celebrated. Named uisge beatha in Gaelic, the ‘water of life’, it has been produced in Scotland for generations. Crieff is home to Glenturret Distillery, Scotland’s oldest working distillery and the malt added to the UK’s most popular blend, The Famous Grouse (www.experience.thefamousgrouse.com). Recently celebrating 240 years of whisky production, Glenturret still uses traditional hand-made distilling methods with the last remaining hand-operating mash-tun in Scotland.
See the stillmen using a big wooden rouser to hand mash the mill and water from nearby Loch Turrret during a tour of The Famous Grouse Experience. Look out for the distillery’s resident mousers, Glen and Turret, following in the pawsteps of the original mouser, legendary Towser, who caught 28,899 in her 24 years.
- Innerpeffray Library
This isn’t your average library. This is the very first free lending library in Scotland! Innerpeffray Library (www.innerpeffraylibrary.co.uk) was founded by David Drummond, Third Lord Madertie, whose vision was for the library and its adjoining school to make a real difference to the community. Built on a land dating back to the Romans, Innerpeffray first opened its doors to the public in the 1680s when lending books for free was a revolutionary concept. The library has barely changed over the centuries and modern visitors can marvel at the range of books, including The Borrower’s Register, which offers a handwritten record of all the local people who came to borrow books. It’s extremely popular with visitors who are researching their family trees.