Once the capital of Scotland, Perth is rightly proud of its history and its long relationship with the river on which it was founded. The mighty Tay bounds this small, compact city, which buzzes with a confident, genteel air. And thanks to the excellent game, fish and local produce from its fertile surroundings, Perth is a superb place for a weekend of good eating.
Take an evening stroll to North Inch Park to whet your appetite. Here you can watch the Tay surge past and follow a walkway upstream by the river’s edge. Beyond lies a confluence with the River Almond, where the Romans established a fort, Bertha, the highest point on the Tay their ships could reach. A thousand years later, silting meant the highest navigable point had moved downstream to the town’s present site, founded by King David I in 1125.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to eateries. Almost every central street has great food sourced from fine local ingredients. Try Deans at Let’s Eat for excellent Scotch beef and seafood served in comfy, unpretentious surroundings. To round off the night you could saunter back towards the river and along to Perth’s oldest pub, The Old Ship Inn, which dates from the mid-17th century.
Although known as the Fair City after Sir Walter Scott’s 1828 novel The Fair Maid of Perth, if truth be told Perth retains the atmosphere of a market town. Due to its central location, it was an important trading town for centuries – evidenced by its fine Georgian facades, terraces and crescents.
Exploring the city’s flat grid pattern is easy. A fun excursion is to seek out the plaque-marked site of the Blackfriars Monastery where former kings would have stayed; Perth, which regained city status last year, is considered by many historians to have been the first capital of Scotland from the 800s until 1437.
Enjoy a light lunch of French cuisine at Cafe Tabou, then nip across the river to nearby Scone Palace to see its superb gardens and sumptuous rooms. Scottish kings of old were crowned by the Stone of Destiny on Moot Hill in front of the palace. This famous stone, now in Edinburgh Castle, was used by an Irish king, Kenneth MacAlpin, who united the Picts and Celts to create modern day Scotland at Scone in 843AD.
To stretch your legs, make your way to Kinnoull Hill, where there are several way-marked walks through woodland and some heart-stopping vistas over the Tay valley.
Back in Perth, allow for some shopping time. If antiques and collectables tickle your fancy, then you’ll be in heaven. Pay a visit to Love’s on Canal Street to see some of the treasures on offer. Afterwards, settle into Hettie’s Tearoom on Princes Street to indulge in one of their magnificent muffins and finely blended teas.
Dinner at Cafe Breizh is a friendly, bustling experience with excellent Breton-inspired dishes and wood oven-baked pizzas. Round off your day by taking in a performance at the highly popular and charming Perth Theatre, complete with Edwardian-era auditorium.
Sunday is the perfect day to explore some of the stunning Perthshire countryside, by taking a 30-minute drive or train ride north to the twin villages of Birnam and Dunkeld. From the Tay car park in Dunkeld, you can follow an easy four-mile waymarked route along a lovely wooded stretch of river bank to reach the ancient Birnam Oak. This sessile oak is said to be the last survivor of the legendary Birnam Wood, immortalised in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
More literary associations are encountered on your return through Birnam, where Beatrix Potter holidayed as a wide-eyed child. Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and, of course, the lovable Peter Rabbit are all recreated in bronze sculptures at the Beatrix Potter Garden.
If you’re looking for something more exerting, hike up to Rohallion Castle high above the Pass of Birnam. Overlooking this strategic entrance to the Highlands, the ruins are all that remain of Scotland’s smallest castle. The grey sandstone gothic Dunkeld Cathedral
is also noteworthy, particularly for the intriguing tale of the Wolf of Badenoch, who is buried there.
In Dunkeld, The Taybank is the perfect place to savour a pint of local ale and a filling bowl of stovies (a Scottish stew).