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Ask a local: Your insider’s guide to the 5 best things about Auchterarder

Auchterarder fundraiser Estelle Nicol shares five of her favourite things about her home town

Estalle Nicol on Auchterarder high street.
Estelle Nicol says Auchterarder's high street is the envy of other towns. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

It should come as no surprise that Auchterarder is regularly named one of the best places to live in Scotland.

Surrounded by lush countryside and overlooked by Craig Rossie – one of the most northerly of the Ochil hills – it’s best known for its five-star neighbour, the Gleneagles Hotel and golf course.

Auchterarder High Street stretching east with the Perthshire countryside in the distance.
Auchterarder is known as the Lang Toon. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

A former mill town, Auchterarder is home to a high school, a hospital and a mile-and-a-half-long high street that gives it its local nickname, the Lang Toon.

Famous Auchterarder residents have included Great Escape hero Sandy Gunn, Hercules the Bear wrestler Andy Robin, and cult weatherman Windy Wilson.

Wrestler Andy Robin with Hercules, his pet grizzly bear
Andy Robin, seen here with Hercules the bear, was a well known Auchterarder resident.

It’s also home to Estelle Nicol. Auchterarder born and bred, Estelle, 56, has raised her own son Marcus here with husband Ken. Her dad John still stays in the town and Estelle is involved in many of its local organisations and activities.

She is also a committed fundraiser for a number of charities and is a familiar sight outside the Auchterarder Co-op, carrying her Marie Curie collection bucket and wearing her massive yellow daffodil hat.

Estelle Nicol wearing yellow tabard and daffodil hat collecting for Marie Curie in Auchterarder high street.
Auchterarder fundraiser Estelle Nicol.

“Auchterarder has been good to me,” says Estelle. So when The Courier challenged her to name five great things about the town, there was no stopping her.

1. The High Street

“Auchterarder High Street is so vibrant – lots of lovely independent shops and very few empty premises. When you hear about what’s happening with high streets elsewhere you realise how lucky we are here.

There’s a proper fruit and veg shop – Alexa Dunlop’s. You don’t see many of them any more. It’s open from dawn to dusk and the display out front is always beautiful.

Exterior of Alexa Dunlop shop with trays of fresh fruit and vegetables laid outside.
Alexa Dunlop’s fruit and veg shop is an Auchterarder institution. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

Then there’s James Urquharts – a real old-fashioned ironmonger. You can get everything in Urquharts, from a garden hose to a single nail.

We’ve got lots of lovely boutiques too. Plus gift shops, two butchers – Simon Howie and Allans – a pet shop, a bike shop, a baker, a deli, a massage therapist, a dance studio, an optician… It’s not quite ‘the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker’ but I’m sure Urquharts would find you a candlestick if you asked.

James Urquhart ironmongers shop on Auchterarder High Street.
If Urquhart’s doesn’t sell it, you probably didn’t need it in the first place. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

Even our charity shops are lovely. Whenever I have friends who come to stay they rave about our high street. Sometimes it’s good to see your home town through somebody else’s eyes.”

2. Food and drink

“We’re surrounded by countryside here – berry growers, farmers, the River Earn and the Ruthven – so we know all about good food.

Glendevon Hotel exterior on Auchterarder High Street.
The Glendevon Hotel is another popular place for food and drink in Auchterarder. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

I like to eat out, and there is something for every budget in Auchterarder, from Gleneagles and the Cairn Lodge at the top of the town, right down to the sandwich places and takeaways on the high street.

Cafe Kisa and Delvino both started in Auchterarder and now they have branches in Perth and Crieff too. Cafe Kisa moved to a bigger space across the high street recently and it’s always busy. It’s a lovely spot for a coffee, or a nice meal or a drink in the evenings.

Cafe Kisa exterior on Auchterarder High Street.
Cafe Kisa now has an outlet next to Perth Concert Hall, as well as in its home town, Auchterarder. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

There’s a good selection of hotels and bars too and when it comes to takeaways we’re spoiled for choice. We still get the football buses stopping for fish and chips in Auchterarder now, even if it means coming off the A9 on the way home.”

3. Amenities

“We have some great amenities in Auchterarder and it’s an ideal place for families. The main park has recently been refurbished with a new children’s play area.

Play equpment at Auchterarder public park.
The revamped children’s play area at Auchterarder public park. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

The Auchterarder Community Sports and Recreation group has been fundraising for a pump track at the park too, along with a mountain bike trail.

We have a really active group in the town who work hard to maintain all the core paths around Auchterarder, not just for walkers, but for cyclists and horse riders. And another group has been working on a Sandy Gunn memorial garden, which is due to open next year.

Sandy Gunn leaning on a spitfire aircraft.
Spitfire pilot and Great Escape hero Sandy Gunn was born in Auchterarder.

There are plenty of indoors venues around the town, including the Aytoun Hall and the sports hub at the community school. And there’s a lot of excitement around the plan to reopen the old Auchterarder Picturehouse as a community space. “

4. Get walking

“I’ve done quite a lot of charity treks over the years – my next one is in Ecuador in November – and I have a dog, Ruby, so I do a lot of walking for training, and for enjoyment and I never get bored with what we’ve got on our doorstep.

Auchterarder town crest bearing the motto 'A city set on a hill cannot be hid'.
The Auchterarder motto hints at its scenic location. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

There are lots of lovely walks around the town itself. The Provost Walk has been upgraded, with a new surface and lighting, to make it suitable for all abilities. And the Johnny Matthews Walk is just a short distance out of the town with lovely views looking back across Strathearn.

You can walk around the golf course at Gleneagles, which is gorgeous in all weathers, especially at dusk. Sometimes you’ll round a corner and there’ll be a deer grazing up ahead. There’s all kinds of wildlife around here – red squirrels, birds of prey, all sorts.

Gleneagles golf course, looking down towards Glendevon.
Gleneagles is popular with walkers as well as golfers. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

And if you want to go just a few miles further, there are loads of nice walks around Glendevon, Gask, Cloan, Craig Rossie. We’re very lucky.”

5. The people

“This has to be the best thing about Auchterarder. I’ve been raising funds for Marie Curie for 14 years now, since my mum died, and the generosity I have been shown is just incredible.

It’s a really community spirited town. I see it when I’m collecting on the street – people give so generously year after year, even when times are hard for everyone. And it’s there in the businesses when I go out to them and ask them for raffle prizes and things. Everyone gives what they can, and often much more than I’ve asked for.

Estelle Nicol, left, chatting with Auchterarder shopkeeper Maggie Robin outside her boutique, Bear Necessities.
Estelle Nicol, left, chatting with Auchterarder shopkeeper Maggie Robin, owner of Bear Necessities and widow of the late Andy Robin. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

We have a really active church community. And there are lots of groups for people to join, lots of people looking out for one another, whether that’s the food bank or the local Chinese takeaway donating hundreds and hundreds of pounds from its carrier bag tax to local groups and causes.

There’s just a real warmth about the place.”