A little way up the narrow valley, before they reach the woods, the PCs notice the squat, tumbledown buildings by the riverside. They are hardly big enough for a human to stand in, and the complex cogs and shafts that occupy the central cavity of one of the buildings are perplexing. What were these buildings? And how safe are they to explore?
Alternatively a desolate place is the perfect setting for a derelict chapel or croft. There needn't be any actual physical encounter involved, but it adds atmosphere to a place to see its dead history. For instance, in the Outer Hebrides there are whole deserted villages which were razed to the ground by the English during the Clearances. Such stories give a setting authenticity and character.
Small tavern in an out of the way town. Serve a wonderful delicacy that is simply outstanding. It is a creamy white consistancy, sweet, good to eat alone or a sweetener on any dessert.
If the explore or ask they are shown where they get it. They breed a group of large catipillars or some other type of insect that basically spit the product onto a setup that they created for that particular reason. Or maybe the delicacy is the byproduct of feeding them something.