As the home of Obi-Wan Kenobi (and his uncle), the famous Hydro, whisky, Caithness Glass and – as I discovered – a burgeoning food and drink scene, Crieff is first on my list for a food tourism ‘daycation’ summer experience.
Traditionally a market town, nestled on the edge of the Highlands amidst the rolling hills, lochs, big skies and breathtaking scenery of the Strathearn Valley, Crieff is an hour-ish away from Glasgow and Edinburgh and an easy journey to make for a generous portion of foodie heaven.
Where to shop
Lose yourself in two floors of food and drink nirvana at the Crieff Food Company, a farm shop, but not on a farm; it’s on Crieff’s bustling high street and offers a gastronomic experience you won’t find in too many destinations. The food hall has a vast array of artisan breads, meats, cheeses, oils, herbs, fish, beer, wine and spirits sourced from 70 local suppliers to get lost in (my dream like diversions ended abruptly with a step backwards into a balsamic vinegar display; my shoes and the floor were treated to a liberal splash of deliciously pungent strawberry flavour…).
You could spend a good couple of hours in here feasting your eyes, geeking out on suppliers’ stories, leafing through cookery books, browsing the gift shop and enjoying some tasty treats in the café. Come prepared to want to leave with as much as you can carry (they have trolleys…it’s that good). I had two shopping lists – the recipe items I needed for cooking my very own ‘Crieff Fest’ and the ‘take home to try’ items. A joyful food shopping experience with a super friendly vibe and staff only too happy to chat about the products they clearly have a passion for stocking and selling.
Wander down the high street to J.L Gill, a small but tardis-like purveyor of fine single malt whiskies; there are hundreds to cast your eyes over, plus spirits and liqueurs. This is the place to come for rarer whiskies – the ones you hear about, make a mental note to try but never do. Top tip; they’re right here.
Step back in time as you enter Gordon & Durward confectioners next door for a quarter of your childhood favourites (sugar mice, toffee frying pans and a tin of Creamola Foam anyone?); this is one of Scotland’s oldest sweet shops and a must-visit.
Up the road you’ll find Campbell’s bakery, a seventh generation Scottish bakery specialising in all the old faithfuls; an empire biscuit makes for a reassuringly old school comfort treat on the high street hop!
Where to eat
Check out Delivino, a deli and wine café on King Street. A sourdough margherita washed down with a glass of Prosecco is the stuff that Saturday lunch dreams are made of.
Yann’s up the road is one of those ‘if you know, you know’ restaurants; here you’ll find what I would regard as one of the finest French restaurants in Scotland. Yann was born and bred in the Haute Savoie in the French Alps and started cooking at the age of 13, making crepes at his parents’ restaurant in Chamonix. The menu features typical bistro style classics; French onion soup, steak frites, coq au vin, tarte tatin and of course Yann’s legendary crepes.
Sticking with the French connection, Barely Bree just outside Crieff in the village of Muthill is a charming, multi award-winning restaurant with rooms owned by chef patron Fabrice Bouteloup from Brittany and his wife Alison. The menu focus is on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients cooked and served with Fabrice’s signature French flair.
Give yourself enough time to not only meander and munch; Crieff and the surrounding areas offer a wealth of walks, views and visitor attractions. Take a stroll along Lady Mary’s Walk, a wooded walk on the banks of the river Earn, climb to the top of The Knock – a 900ft hill – and be treated to panoramic views stretching north to the Highlands and across the valley.
Nearby, Drummond Gardens is one of Europe’s most stunning formal gardens (think Palace of Versailles…). Visit the interactive Famous Grouse Experience at nearby Glenturret Distillery and if you fancy an adrenaline buzz after your foray into Crieff’s food scene, Action Glen at Crieff Hydro offers all the thrills of the great outdoors.
My take home to try items? The best artisan sourdough I have ever eaten, made by the Wild Hearth Bakery at Cultybraggan, Summer Harvest oils and dressings from the nearby Ferneyfold Farm, Glen Lyon Coffee from Aberfeldy, steaks from the Crieff Food Company, Strathearn Cheese, seafood from George Campbell & Sons in Perth, locally grown veg and a box of strawberry tarts for an afternoon treat.
Learn more at visitcrieff.scot