WHEN it comes to pretty towns set among rolling hills, Perthshire has an embarrassment of riches. And few are more charming than Comrie.

Set between Glen Artney and Glen Lednock on the River Earn, this conservation village has it all: interesting history, handsome architecture, good shopping and some great places to eat and stay.

Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities come for the walking, wildlife and watersports, all just an hour or so from the central belt.

Historic Highlights

Comrie has long been a site of importance, as recognised by the Romans, who built a fort opposite where the village stands today.

Originally a weaving centre and a droving stop, it expanded during early 1800s, becoming an popular place for the wealthy to live and visit. This brought the railway in 1893 – running west to nearby Crieff – though the line closed in 1964. Hydroelectric power became an important employer in the area and tourism continues to play a prominent economic role, especially now Comrie marks the half way point on the Coast to Coast Walk from Oban to St Andrews.

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The village's quirkiest claim to fame is being the UK’s earthquake capital. Sitting close to the Highland Boundary Fault, the “Shaky Toun” or “Am Baile Critheanach” in Gaelic, receives more - and more intense – quakes than anywhere else in the British Isles. The first was recorded earthquake was in 1597 and in the 1830s more than 7,000 tremors were noted.

What to do

There are loads of interesting landmarks in this settlement of around 2,000, most notably the White Church on Dunira Street, built in 1805, which sits proudly on the banks of the river. Formerly the parish church, it is now a vibrant community centre and culture hub, offering a full programme of events, activities and services. For the best views of the church, head to Dalginross Bridge, built by engineer Sir William Arrol in 1904.

Few people know that Scotland’s most famous and celebrated architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, left his mark on Comrie, rebuilding an 18th century townhouse gutted in a fire. It is now a popular holiday accommodation, and fans of the great man will recognise many of his trademarks – including the elegant Scots Baronial turret - both externally and internally. A photograph of Mackintosh’s handwritten workbook for the project from 1903-04 hangs on the staircase.

Built in 1874, the Earthquake House on the western outskirts of town is a must-see, providing a fascinating insight into Comrie’s unique history of seismology. Thought to be the smallest listed building in Europe, inside there is a replica of the world’s first seismometer, installed in 1874.

Kathleen Fraser has close connections to the village and visits every year with her young family. “It’s such a fantastic location, nestled in the hills with lots to do and with easy access to Loch Earn if you want to enjoy water sports,” she says.

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She recommends two walks. First up, the spectacular Deil’s Cauldron, the rocky gorge and dramatic waterfall at the back of the town. “If you want more, carry on up the hill to the Melville Monument, a steep but short climb and at the top you can see the whole of Comrie and surrounding landscape.”

Next is the Glen Lednock circular walk. “You can start the walk at various place in the village or from Laggan Park,” says Kathleen. “This is a lovely varied walk for all the family that takes you through wooded areas and along the river.”

Wild swimmers also love Comrie. The Linn, one of the village’s best kept secrets, is a sizeable swimming hole just across the Ross bridge.

Also just outside the village and well worth the walk or cycle is the Cultybraggan Camp, a former Second World War POW camp recently developed by a local community trust. As well as being a fascinating slice of history in itself, it is now home to artists, craftspeople, gardeners and food producers.

Where to eat

Hansen’s Kitchen, on Drummond Street, is one of best delis in Perthshire, selling a dazzling array of cheeses, cooked meats, breads, cakes, and the most delicious strawberry tarts. Says Kathleen: “We can never walk past this place. It has amazing coffee for mum and dad and, according to Islan AIlsa and Innes, the best chocolate brownies you will ever taste. When we're visiting the kids love to walk or cycle to get croissants for breakfast – the perfect start to the day.”

Wild Hearth, the wood-fired bakery at Cultybraggan, bakes and sells superb sourdough, not to mention an array of pastries and fruit breads.

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The Tea Garden at Comrie Croft, between Comrie and Crieff, is also a big favourite with locals and visitors, offering delicious soups, salads, sandwiches and traybakes. Vegetarians, vegans and those on gluten-free diets are particularly well catered for. There’s great outdoor seating, too.

For a more substantial meal, The Royal Hotel on Melville Square serves up local produce cooked simply and elegantly in beautiful surroundings. The lamb with spring vegetables and mint jus is a delight. The Deil’s Cauldron on Dundas Street also has a fine menu.

For a tasty fish or chicken supper, the Comrie chip shop on Dunira Street is the place to go. Says Mark Fleet: "Everything is cooked to order. Perfect nourishment after a day in the hills."

Scotland's Insider Guide: Dunkeld and Birnam

Where to shop

Bev’s Tea Company, on Burrell Street, sells exotic loose leaf teas from around the world.

David Comrie & Son is an award-winning butchers known for its burgers, sausages, pies and roasted chickens.

Talented glass artist Mairi Urquhart has a studio on Drummond Street selling beautiful bespoke jewellery and homeware.

Where to stay

Four-poster luxury: The Royal Hotel – named following a visit by Queen Victoria – offers classic stying in a traditional setting. From £110 a night.

Riverside: Dundas Cottage offers cosy self-catering accommodation for two near the centre of the village, compete with its own outside space.

Glamping: Barry Didcock recommends with the eco-friendly tepees, Nordic tents and two bunkhouses at Comrie Croft, a short cycle ride from the village.

What to do nearby

Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre has something for animal lovers of every age, from cows, pigs, goats and lambs to more exotic creatures such as lemurs and otters. Attractions include feeding time and a hatchery, not to mention milking, kids' tractor driving, pony rides and mini golf. There’s also an indoor playbarn and a relaxing café.

For those who enjoy getting wet, Loch Earn Watersports Centre offers an array of loch-based activities to enjoy and try, from kite-surfing to waterskiing, kayaking to wakeboarding.

If you’re looking to bag yourself a Munro, Ben Chonzie (931m) is most easily approached from a start point at Invergeldie, just outside Comrie. The views over Strathearn to Loch Tay are spectacular.

Established in 1775, Glenturret Distillery, in nearby Crieff, is the country’s oldest working distillery. Enjoy a dram on the entertaining tour. Foodies will also enjoy the award-winning café, which showcases the Perthshire larder.

In the weeks to come I'll be visiting Arisaig, Culross, Port Charlotte. Send your recommendations to: marianne.taylor@heraldandtimes.co.uk