Perth, Western Australia definitely has its charms. It’s located a handy 45 minute commute from the sun, has more swimming pools than people and does pretty good ice cream. At around 19 hours flying time from Heathrow, however, it’s not ideal for a quick getaway. You don’t want to get all that way and find you’re lactose or chlorine intolerant.
70 minutes’ flying time from London is the considerably more convenient and picturesque city of Perth in Eastern Scotland, from which the Southern imposter stole its name.
Perth reminded me a lot of Bruges, especially the much-photographed and painted views of St Matthews and its neighbouring buildings, snapped or painted from alongside the river Tay. ‘The fair city’ used to be the capital of Scotland. With that accolade and so much of the tourist press heading south to Edinburgh, Perth today is a quiet gem; little hyped but all the better for it.
This chapter of the Mercure story is one of the more storied ones: Mercure, Perth Hotel is based inside a renovated 15th century waterworks. There has been a mill on the site in the early 12th century and people have lived in what is now Perth since prehistoric times.
The lade (man-made stream) is still flowing as quickly as ever, part of it even flowing right through the centre of the hotel. I am a sucker for a hotel with a unique selling point. With a stream running through the middle and much of the auld mill machinery used to decorate inside, this place definitely qualifies.
The hotel is centrally located. If you’re coming by train it’s less than ten minutes’ walk from the station and the same again from the town’s iconic landmark, the spire of St Matthews. As far as cafes, restaurants and other shopping goes, they’re all around. As with so many Mercure hotels, there was a large number of communial areas and a super comfortable bed to come back to.
As a self-contained ‘city break’ Perth is a pleasant getaway from the big smoke. However its other nickname – ‘Gateway to the Highlands’ is how I used it. For the hardier traveller with time on their hands, trekking in these parts is no doubt the proper outdoorsman’s way to ‘do’ this achingly beautiful part of Scotland…I did it the cheat’s way.
After a hearty full Scottish breakfast, we left Perth and drove North, making a quick detour mid-morning to call in at Scone Palace for coffee and a…well, you couldn’t not have one there, could you? Back to the main road, next stop was the ethereal Hermitage, Ossian’s Hall and the Black Linn falls. We then headed West, stopping for lunch at the sleepy little town of Aberfeldy, then onwards to our second castle of the day – Menzies – a more brooding prospect than the majestic Scone.
After that we headed South, through another section of the Tay Forest and along (you guessed it) Tay lock, stopping briefly to take in the Queen’s view. Then it was full steam ahead, on to castle #3 – Drummond – and its famous gardens, before completing our loop and returning to base. After our mini tour of Perthshire it was great to return to our own medieval mill hotel, with its babbling brook (sorry, I mean ‘lade’) and friendly staff there to welcome us home.
PS: My favourite castle? Scone and Drummond were both stunning with beautifully manicured gardens…but my Perthshire castle award goes to the menacing Menzies.