Perth Stories and Tips

Things to See and Do in Perth

Perth Photo, Perth, Scotland

Perth is a big town (which likes to think it's a city, and in a colloquial speech is often referred to as a Fair City) on the banks of Tay, approximately 50 miles north of Edinburgh. It has good rail, coach and road connections to Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow and towards the North.

===Perfect Centre?===

Another slogan, this one printed on the name signs as you enter the town is "the perfect centre" and, however much one might wish to question the "perfect" part of it, Perth is indeed a very central place in Scotland, pretty much right on the border between the Highlands and the Lowland/Central part, and between east and West.

Its origins lay far back in time in the Roman times (yes, the Romans did get as far back as here, there are still fort remains all along the Gask ridge nearby), but the modern town was set up in by King David in 1125.

It was a port (as it remains - you can sea small coasters making their way up the Tay quite often, and there is a small but noticeable harbour in Perth) but foremostly, an important crossing point. Until the building of the Tay Rail Bridge in Dundee (1878 - but not for long, and then permanently 1887), it was the lowest crossing point on the Tay, and for road traffic, it remained the lowest bridge until 1966. If you come up north from either Glasgow on M9/A9 or Edinburgh on M90, you will come via Perth, although mercifully, both of those major roads bypass the town almost completely.

Perth is located mostly on the western bank of the Tay, although the nearby Scone on the eastern bank is almost a suburb of the town, and the western bank has some of the best houses, facing the river.

===County Town===

Modern Perth is still very much a county town: it feels bigger than its actual population of barely over 40,000 people and its array of services and shopping provision serves a comparatively vast are of the largely agricultural Perthshire.

It still caters for the "county lady", which is very noticeable in the retail mix in the centre. Many shopping streets feature rather expensive boutiques filled with not exactly fashionable clothing, a large Lakeland, its own independent department store McEwens; an AGA store side by side with Fire Earth and kilt hire.

As a tourist destination in itself, Perth is definitely in the second league. A visitor to this part of Scotland wouldn't lose out much by missing it. There is nothing particularly wrong with it, just nothing very exciting either.

The surrounding area is a different matter altogether, rich in attractions, sights and interest. Perth is best used as a base for exploring the area. It has reasonable public transport links, particularly for the car-less. The very nearest sights include the Scone Palace and Huntingtower Castle; Elcho Castle, Stanley Mills, Dunkeld and (at a push) Kinross and Loch Leven Castle are all within half an hour's drive.

===See the Town===

Still, the town itself is pleasant enough and not without interest, and if you have a day or two in Perth you can easily occupy yourself.

As mentioned earlier, the banks of Tay are a very pleasant place to walk along. The western bank (Tay Street) is actually a busy street, but the riverside pavement is wide and pleasant, with sculptures, information panels and benches for the visitors. The eastern bank of the Tay is also a good little walk, mostly through parkland, enlivened by an interesting modern sculpture trial in Rodney Gardens .

As far as larger green spaces and parks are concerned, the centre of Perth boasts two: The South Inch and the North Inch.

The South Inch is smaller and the riverside part is often a host to visiting fairgrounds, circuses and the like. The other half of the South Inch has a busy play park with a paddling lido, boating on the pond and good climbing frames, crow's nest made of ropes and other typical play equipment.

The North Inch is nicer, bigger and better kept, with many playing fields, a golf course and another lovely riverside walk. There is also a play park, but much smaller than the one on the South Inch. The best value parking in town is by Bell's Sports Centre on North Inch, where you can park for 20p for up to five hours (although it's a bit of a walk from the centre).

Perth has an excellent, modern Concert Hall, with frequent art exhibitions and installations in the foyer space, and the theatre (Perth Playhouse) on the High Street is also pretty decent.

St John's Kirk bang in the centre is the oldest building still standing in town, and although not particularly striking on the outside, it's has pretty impressive medieval nave worth a look if you manage to find the church open. St John's historical significance is huge, though. A sermon by John Knox on 11 May 1559 started riots that resulted in a destruction of Perth's three monasteries and an almost instant de-Catholicisation of the church itself.

Perth Museum and Art Gallery, in an impressive old building topped with a glass dome, contains a vast array of objects and is very much worth visiting. Although recognised as a collection of "national significance", it's not something that will blow you away with its magnificence, but a visit will certainly afford an informative and pleasant couple of hours to half a day.

Fergusson Gallery is a home to over 5,000 artwork (including 150 oil paintings) by a renowned Scottish Impressionist, John Duncan Fergusson. The gallery is housed in Perth's old waterworks building, itself a very attractive building and an industrial architecture monument in its own right (it is round and looks more like a temple than a cover for tanks and machinery). The displays are modern and imaginatively done, and change a lot, as not all exhibits can be shown at the same time. It's a great gallery and anybody even slightly interested in painting will find it well worth visiting. Free admission.

Balhousie Castle, itself a noticeable building in a vaguely Scottish Baronial style, situated near the North Inch, houses The Regimental Museum of the Black Watch. This is touted as a major attraction of Perth, and the admission is free, but I can't imagine many people apart from fanatics of military history that would be that interested in the museum's displays. There are some models (for example a soldier in the trenches), and the historical information is quite interesting, but I always had a feeling such things are better learned from a book than museum displays.


===Verdict===

Very much a B-list as a place to visit itself, but not without its charms and interest, Perth is best used as a base to explore central Scotland and the southern part of the Highlands.

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