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Ask a Local: 5 of the best things about Errol

Bob and Ali Abercrombie run the Lass o' Gowrie cafe in Errol

Bob and Ali Abercrombie outside the Lass o Gowrie cafe in Errol.
Bob and Ali Abercrombie run the popular Lass o' Gowrie cafe in Errol. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

Errol is one of Perthshire’s hidden gems.

Thousands of motorists whizz past the turnoffs to the village on the A90 Perth-Dundee road every day.

But for those who decide to take a detour across the flatlands of the Carse of Gowrie, a host of treats lay in wait.

And since 2022, the Lass o’ Gowrie coffee shop has been high on the list of attractions.

Errol square, with statue and planters.
Errol is a pretty village in the Carse of Gowrie. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

Named after a local apple variety (but more of that later), it’s where Bob and Ali Abercrombie offer great coffee, delicious home-baking and the warmest welcome in the Carse.

The couple bought the crumbling Victoria Hall in the heart of the village and set to work transforming it into the inviting, bustling space it is today.

It’s popular with locals, many of whom remember the building in its former heyday, and with visitors from all over the country.

Bob and Ali Abercrombie employ 20 people at the Lass o' Gowrie.
Bob and Ali Abercrombie employ 20 people at the Lass o’ Gowrie. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

“Errol is a fascinating wee part of the world,” says Bob.

So let him and Ali be your guides to five of the best things about their home town.

1 Reed all about it

The reed beds that stretch for miles along the River Tay are one of the wonders of the Scottish natural world.

Planted by monks in the 16th Century, they were badly damaged in a huge fire in 2020. However, the reed beds and the many species that thrive there have bounced back. And the best place to access them is just outside Errol.

Aerial photo of charred reed beds beside River Tay near Errol.
The Errol reed beds have bounced back after the fire. Image: Steve Brown / DC Thomson.

“The reed beds were a big part of Errol’s history and they’re still really important to the area today,” says Ali.

“They used to use the reeds to thatch the roofs on the houses here. It was a big industry for the village. There was a ferry at Port Allan to take them across the Tay. And they were still being harvested commercially up until a few years ago.”

Today the reed beds are important to Errol in other ways.

“There are reed buntings and bearded tits and all kinds of wildlife there,” said Bob.

Bearded tit perched on reed bed
A bearded tit in the red beds at Errol. Image: Steve Brown / DC Thomson.

“They bring a lot of people to the area. You can easily spot them from the binoculars and muddy boots.”

2 Counting the days to berry season

The whole of the Carse of Gowrie is known for its soft fruit industry, and strawberries grown here are exported all over the world.

But for Bob and Ali and their neighbours, it all boils down to a simple shed with an honesty box, run by W Glen Ltd at Mains of Errol farm.

“All everyone’s talking about just now is when the fruit shack will be opening,” laughs Ali.

“It’s where everyone here goes for their strawberries and the season is just about to kick off.

Hands holding strawberries and fruit punnet.
Carse of Gowrie strawberries are some of the best in the world.

“The farm is run by the Arnott family and they’ve grown nothing but strawberries for their entire lives. So they’re REALLY good at it.

“It’s like a klaxon goes off in Errol when the fruit shack opens,” she adds.

“We get through 40 punnets every couple of days. And now they’re growing under polytunnels we were still getting strawberries right through to the end of October last year.”

3 Airfield still putting Errol on map

Once a wartime training station for RAF pilots, Errol airfield linked the village to the outside world. Today it’s a hive of activity once again – and a real asset to the area, say Bob and Ali.

“Errol airfield has a fascinating history,” says Ali

Vintage plane at Errol airfield.
Errol airfield’s Fairey Gannet is a relic of the village’s wartime past. Image: Lynn Smith.

“There’s still an old war plane there – the Fairey Gannet. And during the war, lots of Russian airmen were stationed at Errol while they were training for missions.

“They put up a memorial to them a few years ago, made from Russian granite.”

And Errol airfield is still being put to all sorts of uses today.

“There’s a sky diving club there,” adds Ali. “Lots of people come to Errol to do parachute jumps. And the TASH4Ukraine group uses it as a base for the aid it collects to send to Ukraine.”

And every weekend, bargain hunters make a beeline for Errol airfield when it hosts its popular Sunday market.

People browsing stalls of bric a brac at Errol Sunday market
Errol airfield’s Sunday market is a bargain-hunters’ paradise. Image: Steve MacDougall / DC Thomson.

“The Errol Sunday market and car boot sales are massive,” says Bob. “There’s so much traffic passing through the village on Sundays and people come from all over.”

4 Apples, evolution and great big trees

Patrick Matthew (1790-1874) was the Carse of Gowrie landowner and fruit farmer, who predicted the Tay Bridge disaster – and may even have pipped Darwin to the post on the theory of evolution.

He also left his mark on the area in the shape of the many giant redwood trees that still tower over the Carse today. Some of the trees he planted are still thriving in Errol, and Bob and Ali say the area is rightly proud of their local visionary.

“Patrick Matthew was the first person to grow redwoods in the UK after his sons sent home seeds from California,” says Bob.

Black and white portrait of Patrick Matthew.
The redwood trees that tower over Errol can trace their roots back to Patrick Matthew.

“Some people also credited him with discovering the theory of evolution before Darwin. They say Matthew was working on similar research at the time. But Darwin was better connected in scientific circles, so he’s the one who got all the recognition.

“There’s a Patrick Matthew heritage trail. You can walk around and see the redwoods at Errol park and other sites of interest between here and Grange, where he lived.

“But he also had a big interest in apple trees, which is something else this area is well known for.

Giant redwood tree
Scotland’s giant redwood trees were popularised by Patrick Matthew.

“We’re named after the Lass o’ Gowrie – an apple that was first discovered in Errol – so there’s a nice connection for us there.”

5 Help for hedgehogs

Hogscroft Hedgehog Rescue is one of the Carse of Gowrie’s newest attractions. It was started by retired teacher Alison Middleton in nearby Inchture last year, and Bob and Ali and their customers have taken it to their hearts.

“We started working with Alison at the start of the year,” says Ali.

“A lady in the village knits little hedgehogs and puts creme eggs inside and we’ve been selling them here. She couldn’t knit them fast enough for a while and we’ve raised £1,000 already.

Alison Middleton smiling holding a hedgehog.
Bob and Ali are proud to support Alison Middleton and Hogscroft hedgehog sanctuary. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

“Hedgehogs are incredibly rare and Alison does so much for them, with the rescue and the educational aspect. It’s just amazing what she’s achieved.”

Bob is particularly pleased to be able to help out.

“My late mum Moira loved hedgehogs,” he says.

“We had a big old fella who lived under the shed. He was about the size of a cat and she always looked out for him. So I like to think she would approve.”