Comrie lies on the banks of the River Earn and is situated in the heart of the scenic West Strathearn area of Perthshire at the meeting of Glen Lednock and Glen Artney, with the Scottish Highlands rising to the north. The village has a wide range of local businesses, a hotel, medical centre, butcher, bakery, restaurants and Sense spa for a holiday treat.
The focal point of the village is the ‘White Church’ previously a historic church and now providing the village with a community centre. Located just outside the village, Comrie Croft offers bike hire, activities and events throughout the year. The Lednock leads up to the Deil’s Cauldron waterfall and above this a hilltop granite obelisk commemorating Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742-1811). Stand at Melvilles monument and you can see the whole village of Comrie.
‘Comrie Fortnight’, is an annual two-week festival in July and August with music, family friendly events and a float parade. The Comrie Fortnight started in the late 1960s and has evolved over the years. Profits from the Comrie Fortnight are used to support events and groups in the local community.
Nearby Cultybraggan Camp is the site of the once-secret underground nuclear bunker. Cultybraggan was first used as a PoW camp during World War II, and then became an Army training area. It later housed a Royal Observer Corps (ROC) nuclear monitoring post, and a Regional Government Headquarters (RGH).The camp ceased to be used by the military in 2004. Thanks to recent funding the site has become a popular with tourists. Some of the original 100 Nissen huts on the western side of the camp were demolished in the 1970s to make way for a firing range, but the majority remain.
The surviving huts, together with an assault course and modern Officers’ Mess facility, make Cultybraggan “one of the three best preserved purpose-built WWII prisoner of war camps in Britain”. In 2006, Historic Scotland listed a number of structures at the camp. Huts 19, 20, and 44–46 are category A listed as being of national significance, while huts 1-3, 21, 29-39, and 47-57 are category B listed.
The Comrie Flambeaux is a unique Hogmanay ritual. On the stroke of midnight, December 31st, a torchlight procession marches through the village. Traditionally the procession involves the twelve strongest men of the village carrying long, thick birch poles, to which burning tarred rags are attached, to each of the four corners of the village.
The procession is usually accompanied by the village pipe band and villagers with floats and dressed in costume. Following the procession, the villagers throw the torches from the Dalginross Bridge into the River Earn. The precise origins of the ceremony are unclear. It is generally assumed to have pre-Christian Celtic or possibly Pictish roots and to be intended to cleanse the village of evil spirits in advance of the New Year (albeit the New Year’s commencing in January is a relatively modern convention). The use of the birch tree specifically may have significance as the first letter of the Celtic Ogham alphabet, and a symbol of new beginning.
The spectacle attracts thousands of visitors from all around the world to the small highland village each Hogmanay. A countdown to midnight is usually held at Melville Square and after the processions people gather here again for traditional Scottish music and dancing. Parties in village homes are common and other Scottish Hogmanay traditions like “first footing” are also observed.