Here's my guide to spending a day in Perth. Make the most of the city's outdoor spaces and riverside location before heading to George Street where you will find the best independent retailers and Perth Museum and Art Gallery.
There is a map at the end of the blog to help you navigate to the places I have suggested here.
Perth's location on the banks of the Tay, Scotland's longest river, is one of its greatest assets. Make this your first stop- it's just a 10 minute walk from the train station.
Wide pavements on the west side of the river provide a grand, urban perspective, akin to a Parisian stroll along the Seine. However, the most delightful walks can be had on the east side of the river where you will find the Riverside Park.
This park has water features, sculptures and the largest collection of heather in Scotland- over 950 species. The pathways look onto the river and the city skyline.
Kinnoul Hill View
If you fancy a bit of a hike, head up Kinnoull Hill for one of Scotland's best views. Allow for about 2 hours to make the return walk to the viewpoint shown in my photo. You could also pop into Branklyn Garden to see the Himalayan Blue Poppies.
My blog about Branklyn and Kinnoull Hill has more detail about these places.
Continental Cafe Culture
The layout of the streets that surround Saint John's Kirk is reminiscent of an Italian Piazza. The cafes and restaurants have outdoor seating facing the church.
A good spot to enjoy the atmosphere is Hinterland, a cafe with superb coffee, home baking and sandwiches bursting with flavour. I opted for the lentil and vegetable soup and a toasted ciabatta with roasted vegetables, mozarella and pesto.
Perth city centre is full of the usual high street names, but for something different head to George Street. This is where you will discover the city's independent retailers. I have highlighted the food and drink shops here, but you can also get your hands on clothing, jewelry, gifts, crafts and bicycles on this street.
The Bean Shop
The Bean Shop offers up the delightful retail experience of buying coffee that is ground whilst you wait. The smell of the black stuff enters your nostrils from the street and gets even better when you step inside. It's like going back to the Victorian era with the floor boards, chandeliers, ceiling rose, cornicing and big wooden counter. I was handed a menu of coffees so that I could make my choice. I noticed that the Gourmet Blend is the best seller, so I went for this.
It is a busy place with staff going to and from the store room, grinding coffee, weighing it on the scales and then packaging it up in the brown bags that have a picture of the shop on the front.
The bag of coffee is such a tactile object- Squeezing it, smelling the coffee inside and feeling the rustic material of the bag. It's just such a nice experience shopping for coffee in here. I am pleased to report that the Gourmet Blend was smooth and mellow and very easy to drink.
Provender Brown Deli
On one side of this shop there is a long refrigerated deli counter with cheeses, olives and charcuterie. On the other side there are shelves brimming with interesting treats like chutneys, jams, spices, biscuits and pasta.
In the rear room of the shop there is a great selection of alcohol, including whisky, gin and Scottish beers. There are also sweet treats, like these lovely chocolates that I purchased.
Casella & Polegato
What a treat to have an Italian bakery in the city! This is the place to come for artisan bread, pastries and more. I treated myself to a packet of hazelnut meringue. This was melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness, light, but with a nutty crunch.
Relax with some Scottish craft Beer at Brewdog's Perth bar. This company was one of the Scottish craft beer pioneers and it has grown into a huge brand, but retaining the independent streak beloved of beer fans. There is a neon sign on the wall that states 'fiercely independent. Forever craft.'
The interior has all of the hallmarks of an indie beer pub. There's the retro movie sign that lists the beers on tap, the exposed brick walls and the natural wood tables. The leather seats and cosy corners are a perfect accompaniment to a cool IPA.
The outside of this building, with its jagged edge on a corner street, reminds me somewhat of New York's Flatiron building.
Perth Museum and Art Gallery
Right opposite Brewdog is the museum, a grand Victorian building. Step inside the wonderful dome entrance and discover many fascinating items. I shall share with you some of my favourites.
The sculpture court has this gem- a vase that was made for Napoleon's first wife:
One of the rooms is dominated by this bronze age log boat, made from a hollowed-out oak tree, that was found in the River Tay in 2001:
I love these Neolithic carved balls. They look so tactile. They are 6000 years old, their funtion unknown, but possibly for ceremonial purposes:
There is a great display about the largest salmon ever caught in Britain. It was realed in from the River Tay by Georgina Ballantine in 1922. It weighed 29kg and was used to feed the staff and patients at the hospital. The museum has a copy of the plaster cast of the fish, but I think this photo gives you a much better idea of how massive it was:
Old Fashioned Sweet Shop Experience
Don't leave Perth without paying a visit to this wonderful shop. It's been here for over 100 years and retains a shop front with an Art Deco/1920s vibe. B.A. Kerrigan is both a tobacconist and a sweet shop. It can be found on Methven Street, about a 6 minute walk from the train station.
If you are a smoker they've got cigars, pipe tobacco and all the accessories. They have something like 120 different types of sweets and buying these is a nice little experience. The jars of sweets are on the customer side of the shop so you are asked to pick up the jar and bring it over to the shopkeeper. What kid (or adult) wouldn't want to pick up one of these big sweetie shop jars?
The shopkeeper then empties the sweets out of the jar to clatter onto the scales. You choose your weight or just do it by eye and your treats are then poured into a paper bag. What I am describing might sound like a normal everyday thing, but the reality is that with Internet shopping and supermarkets this has become a special and rare experience. Go and enjoy it!
Tea and Cake at Effies
If you haven't overindulged in the sweets and are in the mood for a traditional tea room experience then pop into Effies. It is a 2 minute walk from the sweet shop, on the High Street. It is a little piece of vintage joy with its Victorian parlour atmosphere of chandeliers, old portraits and silver tea pots. Cakes are light, fluffy and yummy and they have over 30 teas to choose from.
That's my suggestion for a day in Perth. For more ideas of things to see and do in the city check out perthcity.co.uk
How to get to Perth
The city is well connected by coach and train, but if you are bringing your bike then train is the way to go. From Glasgow it takes just over 1 hour and from Edinburgh it is around 1 hour and 20 minutes. Some services require a reservation to take a bike. See my guide to taking your bike on the train.
Suggested Cycle Routes from Perth
If you want to explore a bit further try these cycle routes:
Many cyclists love coffee and believe a good bike ride should be accompanied by a good coffee. I am one of those cyclists, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to review some products from Rave Coffee.
"No Jargon, no BS, just great coffee made simple."
These are the words you will find on Rave's packaging and website. They capture the coffee roaster's ethos about sourcing great coffee without any of the faff that you sometimes get with other coffee companies, like fancy ways to describe coffee and too much emphasis on packaging. That's why Rave's coffee arrives in no-frills packets, but I think they still look pretty cool and distinctive. I like the crossed out phrases, used by a certain coffee-chain to describe their drinks- I think this is the 'BS' that Rave are getting at.
A bit about Rave
They have a coffee roasting operation and cafe in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. It is in the Cotswolds region, about 80 miles from London. Their range of coffees is impressive, so much to try! There are coffee blends with enticing flavours, including one called 'fudge blend evolution' that tastes of fudge. There is a vast range of single origin coffees and they do Nespresso compatible pods. There is also decaf coffee and cold brew coffee. Just take a look at their website; it is a very enjoyable browsing experience with lots to discover. Let's move straight on to the taste test...
Signature Blend for Cafetiere
First up is the Signature Blend- the photo at the top of this blog shows the packaging. I love that there is an air vent on the back of the packet so that you can smell the contents. It is an important part of the coffee drinking experience to take in that wonderful aroma. Boy, does this stuff smell good!
Then it is time to open the packet and take a look at the lovely black dust inside. These packets can easily be resealed after opening them, so you can keep the contents fresh and not worry about having to transfer it to another container.
All of Rave's coffees feature a little card with a taste profile. In the case of the signature blend it is chocolate, almond and caramel. I am not the best at picking out flavours in coffee, but I think I got the chocolate and the caramel. What I will say is that I found this coffee very easy to drink. It is smooth and not too bitter, making it easy to sink back cup after cup. It gives that all important caffeine hit, most welcome for my post-cycle java. I have really enjoyed having this coffee in my life and would not hesitate in recommending it.
The Signature Blend is currently £6 for a 250g bag and you can make savings by ordering larger quantities and/or taking out a subscription.
Nespresso Compatible Pods
I tried three different coffees from Rave's range of pods. The Signature Blend, The Italian Job and Columbia El Carmen.
The pods are 100% compostable so you can put them in your food waste bin.
Signature Blend Pods
What I liked best about this coffee was the crema, that layer of coffee foam that sits on top of the drink after it has finished coming out of the Nespresso machine. In the Signature Blend the crema is a gorgeous smooth and creamy concoction that feels lovely in your mouth. These pods have a caramel, chocolate and almond taste profile. I could pick up the first two flavours, but I wasn't too good at detecting the nut taste. It is a smooth, easy drinking coffee, so good for those that don't want something that tastes too strong.
I found these pods to be very flavoursome to the extent that I wanted to keep going back to it and taking little sips. I found it quite an addictive taste and it was pure pleasure to take in the chocolate and hazelnut flavour. I really enjoyed the strong aftertaste that remained in my mouth after I had finished the coffee. The caffeine buzz is strong on this one and this makes it ideal when you need that extra boost. A good one for when you need to get up early and on the go quickly.
Colombia El Carmen
This single origin coffee has a stunning crema formation on the top with little bubbles that feel silky in the mouth. It also came out my machine with a little swirl pattern. I could not resist taking a photo to show you this- don't you think this is a beautiful looking cup of coffee?
The best thing about this coffee is the subtle fruit taste that comes alongside chocolate and caramel. I was so pleased at myself for being able to identify the fruit flavour and not just 'coffee taste'! I loved the fruity taste so much and each day I looked forward to making my pod so that I could have this flavour in my mouth. Note that this is not an overwhelming fruit flavour and does not make this into a weird drink, but it adds something very special, in the background, to your coffee.
The Colombian El Carmen is Rave's main sustainability project. The beans are grown on a farm that supports 300 families.
The pods work out around 29 to 32p per pod, depending on the quantity you buy and if you take out a subscription to have them delivered to your home on a regular basis.
I like that Rave encourage their customers to learn more about everything that makes coffee such a wonderful drink. They do this through the tasting notes and their sustainability projects. And then there is their subscription service which is about more than getting coffee delivered to your- they call it 'monthly coffee education.' With your coffee you will receive brewing techniques, tips and knowledge. I received a brewing guide with my coffees and this is an impressive, detailed and nicely presented manual.
I was very impressed with Rave's ethos, the value and the quality of their products. If you are seeking out some new and exciting coffees to accompany your cycling life then its definitely worth checking out Rave.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.