A Day in…Perth

By | Category: Travel destinations

Black Watch Museum

Arriving at Perth railway station shows you how important the town once was. There are platforms linked by ornate bridges and, at one time, it must have been a huge junction. Today it is a complicated shadow of itself and in some ways the town is too. But as the station is getting refurbishment so might the town. The High Street is a builders’ site as the cobbles are being put down and it becomes further pedestrianised.
For a start the town might become a city. To many, it seems peculiar that it isn’t already a city. After all wasn’t it once the capital of Scotland? But the town is petitioning to become a city as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations next year. If it is awarded city status it might be the shot in the arm to pull in visitors.
Surely any town with a world class museum, a well-known river, a military link, scenic countryside and a heritage to be proud of should be a visitor magnet? But first thoughts are often the most lingering. As you leave the station, the shops seem to be either barbers or Chinese take-aways. Are there that many men that need haircuts? Does everyone live on take-aways in the evenings? Even when you get to the centre you still come across the odd barbers shop. The centre looks a little short of TLC (eg the flaking statue of Prince Albert) but that disappears as you walk around.
Unless you plan to leave the town to visit Scone Palace, Cairn o Mohr or take in the countryside, you probably don’t need the plus Bus addition. Because Perth is quite contained it is easy to walk through and it shouldn’t take you more than about 15 minutes to walk from one to the other. For shopping you have the enclosed St John’s Centre and outside the town are retail parks. Even the two acre Branklyn Garden which claims a fine collection of plants from China, the Himalayas and nearby countries is within walking distance.
If you drive, there is plenty of parking but expect to pay something like 80p an hour and there are two park-and-rides outside the town.

Let’s start with the river. The Tay flows through the town. Walk to the 240 year old Perth Bridge and you will see, marked in the red stone, the height to which the river has flooded over the years. From the Royal George Hotel (given the royal warrant by Queen Victoria because she enjoyed her stay there) just south of the bridge you can watch the fast flowing Tay from the lounge as it passes a couple of small islands. Eventually it wends its way to Dundee but it is still wide enough at this point for it to have been a port in days gone by. Or you can sit in North Inch, the park that has a golf course in it. And a petanque rink, a rugby ground and a bowls club. The golf course may even contain holes that formed the world’s first course. Whether this is true or not records show that King Robert II in 1450 banned golf there as he felt it was distracting people from practicing their archery.
The sporting theme continues for Perth has the UK’s most northerly racecourse and it winds it’s season up with a two- day Glorious Finale on the 21st and 22nd of September. Many racecourses have beautiful locations and Perth’s is no exception. With the town’s links to the armed forces it is not surprising that in late July they hold a Forces Day at which the armed forces contribute displays as well.
Just off North Inch is The Black Watch Museum housed in Balhousie Castle. Open all year round, the museum records the events of one of the most famous regiments of the British army indeed the oldest Highland one going back over 265 years.
The Perth Museum and Art Gallery is a short walk away from Perth Bridge and is free to visitors. Here the Scottish Glass Society and the local council is presenting an exhibition of contemporary glass. Many of the pieces you can buy. And is it only 50 years since Caithness Glass was founded? My father-in-law seemed to have been collecting them forever. Another room has a display of some of the early work. The museum is the only local one to be designated as having a collection of national significance so a visit is worthwhile. Look out for Millie, a highland sheep that was commissioned for the museum in 2010. It was created by Carrie Fertig. And had kids who would have dearly loved to touch it. Incidentally, more of her work has been shown at Chichester Cathedral and the nearby West Dean College as well. In one corner of the museum you can see the St Madoes Stone, a standing stone going all the way back to the eighth century with both Christian and Pictish symbols. Who said the dark ages were dark with sculpture of this quality
The oldest building in Perth is the Fair Maid’s House which is thought to be from the 1400’s. At present it is covered with scaffolding but it is still open for visitors as it will forever be linked to the Sir Walter Scott story, the Fair Maid of Perth. It has been refurbished by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and their collections are housed there as well. This house isn’t the only one clad is scaffolding as you’ll see at least one church surrounded by it as well. Perth is well suit on Hand in hand with the heritage goes culture and Perth not only boasts a high street theatre but a concert hall as well. Each May, the town holds a festival of the arts.
This coming weekend sees the 148th Perth Show. It runs on the Friday and Saturday rather than the normal weekend days and some 20,000 people attend. You don’t have to leave the town as it is very conveniently held on South Inch which is to be found not far from the railway station. And then the weekend afterwards, again on South Inch are the Perth Highland Games.
If you have a car, Scone Palace (open until the end of October) is the original place of the stone and the crowning place of Scottish kings. Connected to Robert the Bruce and Macbeth today this distinctly un-highland looking Scottish palace has huge gardens to wander in and a star shaped maze that’s not easy to get out from. And that’s before you get in the palace to see the aniques and marvel at the granduer. Another nearby place you might consider is Cairn o Mohr, perhaps the last thing you might expect to find up here. For its a winery and next year it reaches its 25th anniversary. It produces fruit wines from local Perthshire produce. Seemingly not taking itself seriously it produces what it calls “strange” micro beers and fruit wines (no grape ones) such as raspberry, strawberry and gooseberry ones not to mention bramble and oak leaf wines. Plus an elderflower drink that it describes as …”elderflowers picked by desperate, illegal immigrants…hand stripped by country style maidens on their thighs…mildly hypnotic!” It’s open in Errol not far away from April until October from just Wednesdays to Sundays. Maybe they spend the rest of the time writing more witty promotional ideas.
Even despite the ease that you can get around the town, you’ll be hard pressed to see Perth in a day.

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