IT may be best known as the home of the Gleneagles Hotel, but there’s much more to Auchterarder than golf.

Foodies, in particular, will find much to love in this charming, historic town just north of the Ochil Hills, as will those who enjoy the outdoor life.

Autumn is arguably the best season to visit Perthshire, as it bursts into a spectacular display of fall colour, and Auchterarder makes for the perfect base from which to explore the hills and forests, whether on foot or bicycle.

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Historic Highlights

During medieval times Auchterarder was known as the “town of 100 drawbridges” because of the narrow crossings across gutters, and one of its earliest mentions comes in a charter of 1227.

Over the years the weaving industry became a big local employer, and in 1834 it became one of the first towns in Scotland to build a Free Church, pre-empting the schism in the Church of Scotland that took place almost a decade later.

The five-star Gleneagles Hotel and golf course was opened in 1924 by the Caledonian Railway Company and served as a hospital during the Second World War. It hosted the G8 summit in 2005 and the 2014 Ryder Cup. The leisure and hospitality sector remains key to the town's prosperity.

What to do

The proximity of Gleneagles, with its visitors from all over the world, gives the town a international feel and the indie shops and cafes add to this cosmopolitan vibe.

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With one of the longest high streets in Scotland – at 1.5 miles – Auchterarder deserves its “Lang Toun” moniker. The walk from one end to the other will reveal a plethora of historic and handsome buildings, including the Old Parish Church and graveyard, whose tower dates back to 1660, and the Free Church, now the Aytoun Hall community hub.

For those who like to see things from above, Virgin (virginballoonflights.co.uk) offers hot air balloon flights from the town. As well as spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, each flyer gets a glass of champagne.

If you’d rather stay on terra firma, the Provost’s and Oak Walk, which takes its name from 1930s provost TE Young, covers town and countryside and takes around two and a half hours. See walkhighlands.co.uk/perthshire for more details.

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Even if you’re not staying at Gleneagles – once described as the “eighth wonder of the world” - you can get a taste of the lifestyle with the elegant afternoon tea (gleneagles.com). Served in the beautiful Glendevon room with views to the Ochils, it is a genuine treat.

Right next door to the hotel, meanwhile, Phoenix Falconry (scottishfalconry.co.uk) lets visitors get up close and personal with majestic birds of prey in a safe and accessible setting. A great day out for bird-lovers young and old.

Golf fans are certainly spoiled for choice in this part of the world. Auchterarder Golf Club (auchterardergolf.co.uk) welcomes visitors all year round, and there are three courses at Gleneagles. There’s also a PGA standard gold academy at the hotel, offering individual and group lessons to players of all levels, from beginner to advanced.

If you need a good dram after all that fresh air, pop along to Tullibardine Distillery (tullibardine.com) where you can see how the local uisge beatha – water of life – is made. They know what they’re doing here, having been making whisky in the district since the late 15th century.

Where to shop

True chocolate heaven is on offer at Chocolate Galley (chocolategallet.co.uk), on the High Street, opened by artist Carol Wood in 2015. As well as selling exquisite homemade artisan chocolates in a range of flavours – reader Linda Robertson highly recommends the truffles - the store offers chocolate-making workshops for adults and children. And there’s a great café too, where the savouries are just as tasty as the sweets.

Family butcher Allan's of Auchterarder stocks local meat and game, and Ellie’s Cellar (elliescellar.com) has a great selection of wines - as well as beers and gins - to accompany it. Gift shop Grace and Favours stocks an impressive collection of jewellery as well as textiles, candles and essential oils.

If you’re looking for something extra special to wear, meanwhile, try Bear Necessities (bearnecessitiesfashion.co.uk), which has been dressing bridal guests for a generation, with collections from all over Europe. There’s also a full range of hats, shoes and bags.

Synergy Cycles, also on the High Street, is more than just a bike shop (synergycycles.cc). As well as sales and service, it is also a hub for the area’s bike activity and organises regular social rides. The staff are hugely knowledgeable and there’s also a cute café serving coffee, soup and toasties.

Where to eat

Ann Fotheringham is a regular diner at Delivino (delvino.co.uk) on the High Street. “Always, always a warm welcome from the team and the food is amazing. Very few better ways to spend a frosty autumn morning than with one of their smoked bacon ciabatta rolls and some Illy coffee.” Those who enjoy the experience may also want to try the nearby Crieff branch.

The menu at Max and Ben’s Bistro (maxandbenbistro.co.uk), just along the road, is particularly attractive to carnivores thanks to the impressive selection of steaks and burgers.

Jon and Fernanda’s Restaurant (jonandfernandas.co.uk), meanwhile, serves up beautiful seasonal Scottish produce – lamb, salmon, duck – in relaxed surroundings. The owners previously worked at Gleneagles and the quality shines through.

Those looking for a quick soup and salad or sandwich stop should try Café Kisa. The fluffy scones are a delight and the coffee is extremely good, too.

Where to stay

Luxury: Gleneagles really is one of the world’s great hotels and staying there is an experience in itself, as is dining at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Scotland’s only two Michelin star eaterie. Rooms from £385.

Comfortable: The Persie Croft B&B on Townhead has a great location just off the high street and four vintage-styled bedrooms. Rooms from £72.

Cosy: Fully restored in 2016, Ivy Cottage is a cute but spacious self-catering property near the centre of the town. Two bedrooms, sleeps four, from £75 a night on Airbnb.co.uk.

Famous faces

The aforementioned Andrew Fairlie, who owns and runs the restaurant at Gleneagles, lives in the town. Born in Perth, he trained in London and Paris and is recognised as one of the best chefs in the UK.

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Eve Graham of the New Seekers was born in Auchterarder in 1943. She had a global hit with I’d Like To Teach The World to Sing.

Seven-time world snooker champion Stephen Hendry lived in the town for many years before moving to Berkshire.

What to do nearby

A couple of miles outside the town is historic Innerpeffray library (innerpeffraylibrary.co.uk), the oldest free lending library in Scotland, which was founded in 1680 by David Drummond.

The pretty market town of Crieff is just a 20-minute drive, with its bustling town centre and visitor attractions including the Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery and the Caithness Glass centre.

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The walk up Birnam Hill to the north of Auchterarder provides inspiring views across Perthshire and beyond. Pop into Birnam Arts Centre (birnamarts.com) for coffee, cake and the Beatrix Potter exhibition and garden.

Stunning Fiskally Forest, with its walks along Loch Dunmore, is 50 minutes away by car.

In the coming weeks I'll be going to Newton Stewart, Stornoway and Balloch. Send your hints and tips for things to do and places to eat, drink and stay, with a few lines about what makes them so memorable, to marianne.taylor@heraldandtimes.co.uk