Need a destination for a weekend away? Perth is perfect for day trips and nights out finds Natalie Walker
We had two nights to sort out. The three of us live in different parts of the country and we wanted somewhere central for us all which was fun, with plenty to do. After lots of to-ing and fro-ing we opted for Perth. And we were not disappointed. In fact, we probably had one of our best girlie weekends in Scotland’s fifth largest city.
I had thought of Perth as being full of quaint old tea rooms, antique shops and home to as many OAPs as Bournemouth. Although some of that is quite true, we discovered there is so much more to this vibrant and friendly destination.
The heavens opened on our arrival but smiles were back on our faces the minute we checked into Pitcullen Guest House, on the edge of the city. We found this idyllic place through a website which specialises in offering small, privately owned, home-from-home accommodation. Owners John and Jan greeted us with genuine smiles, cups of tea and a wealth of information on local spots for us “three fun-loving lassies”. We wasted no time and jumped in the car for the short drive to Quarrymill Woodland Park where we had a lovely stroll amongst trees, ferns and wildflowers. The site derives its name from the 18th century sandstone quarry and mills where cotton was spun and starch extracted from potatoes. We learned it had been bought by whisky supremo Arthur K Bell who gave it to the people of Perth. The coffee shop in the grounds, run for the cancer charity Macmillan, refreshed us along with tasty homemade soup and cupcakes for afters.
We ventured back to Pitcullen where a bottle of bubbly (with flute glasses) and chocolates had been left in our room. The rooms are gorgeous, very homely but modern at the same time. The three of us shared the huge family room (sleeps up to five) and each had our own comfy bed, swish dressing gowns and sofa/TV area. Surprisingly there were enough mirrors and plug sockets in our room for us all to use our straighteners at the same time before hitting the town. The free wi-fi was an added bonus – as was the cute little snug room along the corridor which was stocked with maps, books, restaurant menus and reviews and a list of places to go within what seemed like a 100 mile radius of Pitcullen.
Personal touches abound here, from the array of different types of tea-bags to bespoke breakfast banquets. But even we were stunned when John insisted on driving us to our dinner destination. “It’s like having your own rent-a-dad,” my friend squealed. He gave us lots of interesting facts about the River Tay, bridges and buildings as we headed into the centre of town.
We feasted on a delicious array of tapas at Sante, in the heart of Perth’s burgeoning cafe quarter. Having previously lived in Barcelona I often find tapas in the UK to be bland, tasteless and uninspiring. But these were pretty authentic – the puy lentils and goats cheese, saffron chicken and patatas bravas were our favourites. The restaurant was heaving, easily the busiest spot in town, and the staff attentive, friendly and fast. A load of tapas, two desserts, coffees and two bottles of wine cost £90. Jan had recommended we nip into the Greyfriars Bar to see some local nightlife. We were greeted by smiling bar staff, enjoyed drinks half the price of what you pay in most cities and were entertained by a melodic local musician.
As a poor sleeper I was thrilled to find the room had blackout blinds and windows which actually opened. We had even been asked if we wanted an electric blanket. This was Perth in May – but we had picked a freezing week for our trip.
After a hearty breakfast (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs highly recommended) we headed to nearby Scone Palace. We just had enough time to see the gardens (£6) which were good but slightly over-priced in our opinion. We nipped to Bonhard Garden Centre for coffee and sublime pear and ginger scones. A quick look round the walled garden inspired us to buy a few plants to take home, all reasonably priced and really healthy.
Branklyn Garden, a National Trust property not too far from the city centre, was next on our to-do list. It was an oasis of peace and colour with an impressive collection of plants. The primulas and rhododendrons were spectacular, as were the sections of the gardens thriving with plants from China, Bhutan and the Himalayas.
We rounded off the trip with a visit to some of the quaint shops in the centre of town. Big name brands sit perfectly next to one-off boutique shops where we picked up shoes, gifts, hand-made birthday cards, exotic coffee and oatcakes. We ended our visit with a trip to the Bothy for a snack. The food was fairly disappointing (some of it cold, burnt and micro-waved) but the ambience and comfy sofas were relaxing and much needed. All in all Perth gave us three girls a fun, friendly and fascinating wee break.
Pitcullen Guest House, 17 Pitcullen Crescent, Perth, Perth and Kinross PH2 7HT (01738 626506, www.privatehousestays.com). A family room for three guests in September costs £260 for two nights.
Sante Wine Bar & Restaurant, 10 St John’s Place, Perth PH1 5SU (01738 449710, www.sante-winebar.co.uk).