Ted and I had visited Perth regularly until 2016 as my mother lived there for a number of years. Its central situation means that it is accessible from most of Scotland and the railway and road network makes it likely that most people touring Scotland by train, bus or car will pass through or close by and possibly stop overnight. It makes a perfectly pleasant base for a short break, though I could not say that it is one of my favourite places. For a town (sorry, city) of its size there never seems a lot to see or do and the class distinction between the tweed skirt bourgeoisie and the schemies banished to the outskirts seems particularly sharp to me. However, our friend Ken has recently moved there and we have visited him several times since April 2019.
The full name of the city is St John’s Town of Perth, which explains the name of the football team. The city centre is a planned town, not too badly mucked up by modern buildings. The townscape benefits hugely from the River Tay. One of the reasons for its existence was the ability to cross the river – until the Tay Road Bridge opened in 1966 it was the lowest bridging point by rad. Perth is still a small port. The bridges and riverside walks provide good views of the river, the town and its spires, while the open spaces of the North Inch (no longer an island) and South Inch (still an island) add to the green-ness of the city. I suspect that there are dodgy / interesting things happening on the South Inch at night, but I’ve never tried. The town seems quite vibrant and the town centre seems to be thriving more than many. The presence of large employers – as well as the local authority and NHS the town has Aviva, Scottish and Southern Energy and Stagecoach – may have kept the economy going. Most of the town is on the west bank of the Tay. On the east side suburbs climb the slopes and paths lead to the summit of Kinnnoul Hill, with excellent views over the river and the surrounding countryside. See WALKS Scotland.
Pub-wise Perth is a bit of a disappointment for a place of its size and finding decent real ale can be tricky. There are a number of pubs along South Street – Dickens, the Auld Hoose and the Royal, all typical Scottish bars with limited real or no real ale but plenty of whiskies. Near the river there is Greyfriars Bar – a tiny bar which sells good beer and was always my favourite. It is impossible not to get involved in conversation, usually interesting. The Old Ship Inn down the lane off the High St is friendly, has good beer and is Ken’s local. The Kirkside had improved when we visited recently. Of the chain bars the Foundry in Murray St is reasonable. In the last couple of years the Green Room (Canal Crescent) pub and music venue opened with an excellent selection of real ales, quickly became the local CAMRA pub of the year, and just as quickly closed.
Short trips can be made by train from Perth to Dunkeld and Pitlochry, both worth a day out. Dunkeld has a ruined cathedral by the river and a couple of pleasant pubs in the old village. Pitlochry is where every coach tour to Scotland stays and if you want some kailyard kitsch this is your place – the amount of tartanry is overwhelming. There are pleasant walks by the River Tummel and Loch Faskally (pictured) and the station is a small delight. In town the Old Mill Inn isn’t bad and, if you can face a mile or so uphill walk, the Moulin Inn and brewery are excellent. Blair Atholl with its castle is also easily reached by train and the pleasant small town of Aberfeldy by bus. In 2019 we visited Dunning and the fine ninth century Pictish stone Dupplin Cross (pictured) in St Serf’s former church and decent beer (and food) in the Kirkstyle Inn. We also visited Blairgowrie and the excellent Ericht Alehouse in the centre of town. In early 2010 we visited Dunblane, a small cathedral town, very twee with upmarket shops and a couple of good pubs including the Tappit Hen (pictured).
Trains to and from: Dunkeld, 9 daily Mon-Sat; 5 on Sun. 17mins. Pitlochry, 12 daily Mon-Sat; 7 on Sun. 30 mins. Blair Atholl, 9 daily Mon-Sat; 3 on Sun. 40mins. Dunblane, about 14 daily with some long gaps, 30mins, Scotrail.
Buses to and from Aberfeldy: hourly Mon-Sat, limited evening service. 1 journey on Sun. 1hr30mins. Stagecoach 23. Dunning, 8 daily Mon-Sat; 2 on Sun, 35mins, Stagecoach 17. Blairgowrie, every 30 mins Mon-Sat daytimes, hourly Mon-Sat evenings and Sun daytimes, 45mins, Stagecoach 57 & 58. Dunblane, every two hours daily daytimes, 40 mins., Citylink.
Regular trains to and from Inverness. Frequent trains to and from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Dundee and Aberdeen.
Copyright: Text and photos © Copyright Steve Gillon, 2018-2020