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Ask a Local: 5 of the best things about Crieff

With sugar mice, Michelin stars and eccentrics around every corner, you won't be short of things to do in Crieff, says June McEwan.

June McEwan giving two thumbs up next to metal Highland sculptures depicting a Highland cow, bull and calf in Crieff.
June McEwan with the cattle sculptures which celebrate Crieff's heritage as a drovers' town. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

It’s the home town of Ewan McGregor AND his actor uncle Denis Lawson. And they’re not even the most famous names associated with Crieff.

Rob Roy MacGregor was said to be a frequent visitor when the Perthshire town was a gathering place for cattle drovers. And Bonnie Prince Charlie held his last council of war in Crieff, just weeks before his defeat at Culloden in 1746.

It became a fashionable tourist destination in the 1800s. And visitors still arrive in their droves, drawn to destinations such as the Crieff Hydro Hotel and Glenturret Distillery, with its two Michelin-starred restaurant.

Ewan McGregor with parents Jim and Carol on a red carpet at a film screening.
Ewan McGregor with his parents Jim and Carol. Image: James Gourley/Shutterstock.

But it’s June McEwan who can truly claim to have put Crieff on the map.

Artist and willow sculptor June is a late convert to Crieff, arriving here 33 years ago. But she is as proud an ambassador as any place could wish for.

She created the map, portraying popular Crieff landmarks, on the tourist board in James Square.

June McEwan smiling next to tourist map in James Square, Crieff.
June McEwan’s drawings adorn the tourist map in James Square, Crieff. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

And June has put her stamp on almost every corner of the town, through her work with the Crieff Community Arts group and her involvement in other local causes.

So who better to give us an insider’s guide to the best that Crieff has to offer?

1. Location, location, location

“Crieff is in the heart of Strathearn which, along with Perthshire in general, is just gorgeous,” says June.

Viedw of MacRosty Park with pavilion, and hills in background.
MacRosty Park in Crieff with the stunning landscape behind.

“As an artist, I have travelled around the country painting landscapes, and I used to say that Perthshire has everything.

“Well almost everything. It doesn’t have a coast. But what it does have is the most stunning scenery.

“Everywhere you turn in Crieff there’s a view, whether it’s the mountains, or the trees, or the mists that come up from the Earn down in the strath.

People walking through trees at Lady Mary's Walk Crieff.
Lady Mary’s Walk beside the River Earn is much loved by locals and visitors to Crieff.

“You can’t help but be inspired, as an artist or just someone who lives here.”

2. Crieff past and present

“Crieff has a rich history,” says June. “I have been involved in projects making that history known. But there is so much more to shout about.

“Take the Campbell brothers, who were born very close to where I live. There’s a plaque on the wall outside. Each left Scotland to find their fortune in America and each joined local militias. They ended up fighting during the civil war on opposite sides, surviving and reuniting.”

June McEwan standing on railings outside Crieff Town Hall.
June McEwan outside the Town Hall – and home of the new Crieff museum. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

“I was involved in the campaign to save the old St Michael’s Church and graveyard when the council wanted to pave over it with a car park,” she adds.

“And I’m excited about the new Crieff Museum opening in the town hall at Easter. It’s time Crieff had a museum of its own. There’s so much to tell.”

3. Narrow pavements, wide smiles

June hails from Dundee originally. But try strolling up the high street with her and you’ll soon realise she’s part of the fabric of Crieff now. Passers-by stop to chat and friends wave from passing cars.

“Maybe it’s the size of the place,” she says.

June McEwan smiling next to Murray Fountain in James Square, Crieff.
June admires the Murray Fountain in Crieff’s James Square. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

“Maybe it’s the fact that our pavements are so narrow you can’t get away from folk. But I love the fact that when you walk down the street people say hello to you.

“It’s much friendlier than larger towns and cities, and it’s reminiscent of a time gone by.”

4. The characters who make Crieff

“I have met so many interesting people in Crieff, from the mildly eccentric to the bat crazy,” she laughs.

“My friend David Cowan is one of our best known worthies. He’s Crieff’s own ghostbuster. David dealt with a poltergeist in one of the shops in the town, and he came and divined bad spirits in my studio. He’s known worldwide for his research on ley lines.

David Cowan standing next to a big rock in a field with foreboding clouds behind.
David Cowan is known as the ley line man of Crieff. Image: David Cowan

“I’ve started recording conversations I have with random folk I meet – with their permission of course.

“Fiona Tracey is another proper Crieff character. She has been promoting crochet for as long as I’ve known her. She wants the whole world to learn to crochet and she won’t stop until she’s done. I love people who have a passion for something and Crieff is full of them.”

5. Crieff, at your service

There are plenty who say Crieff High Street isn’t what it used to be. Like any town, it’s seen a lot of changes in June’s 33 years. But it still has lots going for it, she insists.

“During lockdown many of the local shops stepped up to the mark and delivered to the residents of the area,” she says.

Exterior of Valentines clothes shop off James Square, Crieff.
Valentines has been a favourite with generations of Crieff shoppers. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

“Maybe that helped people to appreciate what we have here in Crieff.

“We’ve got some great independent traders here, proper Crieff institutions. Valentines looks like an old-fashioned department store from the outside but it’s filled with really nice clothes and they do a great sale.

“There’s Gordon and Durwards, the confectioner. It’s the home of the sugar mouse and their chocolates are amazing. You can see them working away making the sweets in the back shop.

“And J.L. Gill has such a lovely shop front with its two windows saying ‘cheeses’ and ‘whiskies’. Well, what more do you need?”

Front of JL Gill shop, with old fashioned timber and patterned windows with the words 'whiskies' and 'cheeses' written either side of the door
The J.L. Gill shopfront on Crieff High Street. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

It’s not just the high street that makes Crieff so appealing, June adds.

“The high standards of the local schools have attracted many new people to the town, along with its excellent medical centre, dental practice and sports facilities.

“We’re really very lucky here.”