IT’S no surprise that Culross is a favourite filming location for the producers of TV time travel TV show Outlander. After all, the south Fife village represents a real-life step back in time like no other.

It’s also something of a hidden gem, nestling quietly between a disused power station and a derelict coal mine, overlooking the Grangemouth refinery.

Now looked after by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), Culross offers a unique, beautifully preserved insight into 16th century life, complete with a palace, abbey and town hall set amid evocative cottages and wynds.

But that’s not to say everything is frozen in time, as the cute cafes and excellent swing park highlight.

Historic Highlights

Believed to have been founded by St Serf in the sixth century and thought to be the birthplace of St Mungo, Culross’s history is an historic and sacred place. The current Abbey was built in 1217 by Malcolm, Earl of Fife.

As a Royal Burgh and port, it prospered exporting coal and salt across northern Europe. You can see this European influence in the architecture, and many of the buildings are adorned with roof tiles and glass brought back from the Low Countries.

Scotland's Insider Guide: Anstruther

Merchant Sir George Bruce – resident of the palace – established a coal mine in 1575 and a Moat Pit in 1595, making Culross the first mine in the world to extend under the sea. Other key industries included salt panning and the production of baking girdles.

During the 17th century, the village earned a brutal reputation for dealing with witchcraft, hosting many trials and executions.

Culross’s fortunes declined from the 18th century onwards and by the 19th century it was described as a ghost town. In the 1930s, the significance of the architectural heritage was recognised once again and since then it has been beautifully and enthusiastically restored and preserved for future generations by NTS.

As well as Outlander, the village has had starring roles in Kidnapped, The 39 Steps and Captain America.

What to do

A visit to Culross is all about soaking up the history and atmosphere. There’s a generous car park to the west of the village, and all the main attractions are within easy walking distance. These days tourism is the main industry – only a few hundred people live there – and in summer it can be busy, especially with Outlander fans. Off-season, however, you may be surprised by the peace and tranquillity of the streets.

Start your visit with a walk round the harbour, thought to be one of the oldest in Scotland, which offers stunning views across the Firth of Forth. Locals are currently undertaking an ambitious community project to rebuild their ancient pier.

Next, head to the 17th century Town House – formerly also the court and prison as well as the commercial centre of the village – which now doubles as a visitor’s centre and gallery. Book ahead on one of the walking tours if you can – the hour-long witchcraft version is excellent – or simply grab a map and go.

You can’t miss the ochre-painted Culross Palace (really more of a stately home) built in 1597 by Sir George Bruce, with its stunning tiled roof and “hanging” garden. It’s well worth the £10.50 entry fee to see the beautifully restored interiors. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the rare Scots Dumpy Hens in the herb and fruit-filled period garden.

After that, walk up the narrow, cobbled streets towards the Mercat Cross and The Study (an excellent example of Scots Baronial architecture); look out for the evocatively named Stinking Wynd, which you’ll be pleased to hear doesn’t live up to its name these days.

It’s onwards uphill to the ruined but accessible Culross Abbey that sits at the summit of the village, offering beautiful views and a fascinating insight into medieval Scottish life. The 16th century Abbey Parish Church next door is still a vibrant centre of community life; it’s also the ideal place to enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation and soak up the 1,500 years of history all around you.

If you’ve got youngsters in your party, head back down the hill, treat them (and you) to some locally-made Nelson’s ice cream and let them loose in the swing park. Further along the front is a more extensive park area with plenty of room for ball games and some lovely old trees to picnic under, while you admire the pantile rooftops above.

Where to eat

Bob Barbour recommends The Admiral Café, next to the Mercat Cross. “Niall and the boys do homemade fayre to die for,” he says. Indeed, the tea served in a mini cauldron makes for a nice touch, while the scones are big and suitably fluffy. And if you're looking for a tasty light lunch, try the homemade beans on toast.

The Biscuit Café, above the Greengate Gallery on Sandhaven, serves a delicious brie and bacon flatbread. The coffee and cake – especially the moist carrot cake – don’t disappoint, either.

For something more substantial, The Red Lion – the only pub in the village – offers friendly service in a cosy setting. Kerry Black is a regular visitor. She says: “The ceilings are painted with words and pictures from Robert Louis Stevenson, which is a really nice touch, and there are shelves full of old bottles and artefacts. The Fife Coastal Path runs along the back of the place, making it a popular spot for walkers, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating – complete with bowls for four-legged customers!

Kerry adds: “I always enjoy the Ploughman's Lunch, which includes homemade soup, and my husband loves the haggis creggans, a brilliant starter of haggis topped with cheese, served with oatcakes. The pies are famous locally, too - the peppered steak pie is particularly delicious. I have never had room for a dessert, although they always look stunning. There are also daily specials and an excellent children's menu - no plastic sausages and cardboard chicken nuggets here.”

Where to shop

Housed in a former 17th century granary in Sandhaven, the Greengate Gallery has a lovely selection of contemporary Scottish jewellery, art, crafts and gifts. Later this month it will launch and sell Culross’ first ever tartan, made by local weaver Claire Hunter.

Photographer Graham Harris Graham sells his stunning fine art landscape photography from a 1,000 square feet gallery inside the Town House. The visitor’s centre also stocks a lovely range of Culross curios.

If you want to see where Nelson’s ice cream is made, pop up to Blair Mains Farm, just outside the village, where you can try and buy the 11 delicious flavours. My favourite? That’ll be Nip o Whisky.

Where to stay

Cosy cottage: Built in 1750, the modern, elegantly styled Tanhouse Studio sleeps two and offers views across the rooftops to the Forth bridges. From £43 a night. See for details. Also in the village and available through Airbnb, 2 Cunninghame House has two bedrooms and sleeps four. Available on a weekly basis.

Historic: Airth Castle and Spa, which was once owned by Robert the Bruce, is just five miles away, and offers country house luxury and expansive grounds, at reasonable prices. From £107 a night.

Country comfort: Keavil House, in nearby Crossford, Dunfermline, has spacious, luxurious rooms and serves excellent food. From £110 a night.

What to do nearby

If you’re feeling fit, make your trip to Culross a stop on the Fife Coastal Path, which stretches from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Tay. This section of the route runs the 11 miles from Kincardine to Limekilns and takes four to five hours.

Go red squirrel spotting amid the Scots Pines of Devilla Forest, just a five-minute drive from Culross.

Not palace-d out? It’s just 30 minutes’ drive from Culross to Linlithgow.