The Complete Travel Guide to Perth, Scotland

things to do in Perth Scotland

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The more I explore Scotland, the more I realise this: I love discovering the history and beauty of lesser known areas.

Perth ticks this box and if often bypassed in favour of Inverness or Edinburgh, however it is one of my favourite areas I visited in Scotland this year. I enjoyed it so much I ended up visiting three times!

There are plenty of things to do in Perth, Scotland- from castles and traditional Scottish pubs to beautiful nature trails suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

There really is so much to do in the area, making it a perfect long weekend destination or romantic getaway. You’ll avoid tourists in Perth and mingle with the locals.

Being one of Scotland’s seven cities, it has full facilities, and makes a great place to base yourself if you want to explore Perthshire. My favourite time to visit Perth is during autumn to see the larch trees turn gold.

Here are my favourite fun things to do in Perth, Scotland.

Be sure to check out my interactive map at the bottom of this post for all of the activity locations.

Read more: What to pack for a trip to Scotland

17+ Things to do in Perth Scotland

The best things to do in Perth Scotland

1. Go Walking in Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park

I’ll kick off this list of the top things to do in Perth, Scotland with my favourite activity: exploring the walking trails of Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park.

Referred to as Kinnoull Hill by locals, this nature lovers spot is a stones’ throw from the centre of Perth- so close you can walk here.

Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park consists of five hills: Corsiehill, Deuchny Hill, Barnhill, and Biun Hill with Kinnoull Hill being the highest. There are many interconnecting walking trails across the hills, so you can have a ‘choose your own path’ experience [I recommend using an app like ViewRanger or Komoot to plan your walk.]

A popular walk is to Kinnoull Tower [a folly], and on to the summit of Kinnoull Hill which offers views of the city and surrounding Tay valley.

Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Kinnoull Tower on Kinnoull Hill in Perth, Scotland

Kinnoull Tower, overlooking the River Tay and surrounding valley

2. Discover where Kings were made at Scone Palace

Scone Palace is the location where Scotland’s Kings were once crowned, including legendary Robert The Bruce.

It was also once home to the Stone of Destiny- the stone on which Kings would sit when being inaugurated.

There is a replica of the Stone of Destiny that sits where the original once did, next to the tiny Presbyterian Chapel outside the palace.

The palace is surrounded by over 100 acres of woodlands and gardens, an excellent way to spend a fine day. There is also a pinetum to explore and a maze [which I can personally vouch is pretty fun.]

Other famous visitors to the palace include Bonnie Prince Charlie, Queen Victoria and Charles II- who was the last king to be crowned here in 1651.

How to get here: Less than 15 minutes by car, or catch a bus. Stagecoach #3 leaves from South Street and Stagecoach Strathtay #58 leaves from Perth Bus Station or Kinnoull Street. Check the Stagecoach website for times.

Cost: £14 per adult; £11.50 senior/student; £9 per child.

Scone Palace in Perth, Scotland

Read: The Ultimate 10 Day Scotland Itinerary

3. Visit Balhousie Castle / The Black Watch Castle and Museum

The Black Watch Castle and Museum is a five-star visitor attraction, housed within Balhousie Castle.

The Black Watch was an infantry that was formed after the First Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. The army was made up of loyalist Highland clans, and were tasked with policing and peacekeeping duties in the Highlands.

The army was so impressive that it went on to fight in nearly all the British Army’s campaigns and is now part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Some of these campaigns included the American Wars of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, and the First and Second World Wars.

You can learn more about The Black Watch in the museum- it’s fascinating and well-worth a visit.

Cost: Day tickets cost between £3.50-£20.

4. Explore Elcho Castle

Elcho Castle is a 16th century fortified mansion that sits on the banks of the River Tay. It was once the country retreat of the Wemyss family.

Despite the castle having any real historical significance, it is a fantastic castle to explore because it has been very well-maintained.

Three of its towers look out onto the River Tay, and you can see gun holes in the castle walls at ground level.

Read more: The most romantic places to visit in Scotland

It has an orchard which has been recently replanted with traditional varieties of apple, pear and plum. You’ll also find butterflies and other wildlife, including barn owls, pipistrelle bats, brown long-eared bats, and grey squirrels.

Cost: £6 per adult; £3.60 per child; FREE under 5s; £4.80 concession.

Peacock in the grounds of Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland

Peacocks roam the grounds at Scone Palace

5. Go hunting for history at Huntingtower Castle

If you’re looking for a castle in Perth steeped in Scottish history- visit Huntingtower Castle!

The castle once belonged to the Ruthven family. Mary Queen of Scots once sought shelter here during a rebellion- her son, James IV, wasn’t that lucky and he was held captive here by the Ruthven family for 10 months. He eventually escaped, and later stripped the Ruthven family of their castle and land. The castle then became royal property until the 17th century.

Inside the castle you can see a delicately painted ceiling which dates back to the 1540s. See if you can find a secret hiding place- a cupboard within a cupboard, hidden behind a stone. It was once a hiding place for the Ruthven treasures.

Cost: £6 per adult; £3.60 per child; FREE under 5s; £4.80 concession.

6. Stanley Mills

The Stanley Mills are textile/cotton mills that were founded in the late 18th century during the heart of the industrial revolution. The mill closed in 1989, and the factory is now an interactive museum with interesting exhibitions that show what factory life would have been like during the 18th-20th centuries.

Cost: £6 per adult; £3.60 per child; FREE under 5s; £4.80 concession.

MONEY SAVING TIP:

You can visit Huntingtower Castle, Elcho Castle and Stanley Mills plus many other attractions in Scotland with the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass. With it you can visit over 70 attractions throughout Scotland, including Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle and more! I have an annual membership but they have consecutive 5 and 14 day passes for visitors to Scotland.

7. Expand your mind at Perth Museum and Art Gallery

Perth Museum and Art Gallery is one of Scotland’s oldest established museums. You’ll find an array of things to discover here, including a collection of insects and fossils, and the famous Strathmore Meteorite in the Natural History section.

The Archaeology section has ancient objects including a Bronze Age sword, and a mummified body from Egypt.

There’s also a section dedicated to Perth’s history, so you can learn more about the surrounding area.

Best of all entry to the museum is free!

 Read: My tips for travelling Scotland on a budget

8. Relax at Branklyn Garden

Branklyn Garden is a colourful garden located next to Kinnoull Hill which has plant species from afar as China, Tibet and Bhutan.

It’s a great place to go for a stroll, or even a picnic!

9. Visit Greyfriars Burial Ground

I find graveyards in Scotland incredibly fascinating, and they can tell you a lot about an area.

Located in the city centre, this intricate graveyard has some of the oldest headstones in Scotland. The oldest surviving grave stone, the Buchan Stone, dates back to when the burial ground opened in 1580!

There are many interesting gravestones and monuments in this burial ground, including the ‘Weeping Woman’ and the ‘Adam and Eve’ stones.

The replica of the Stone of Scone aka the Stone of Destiny in Perth, Scotland

The replica of the ‘Stone of Scone’ at Scone Palace

10. Marvel at River Tay: Scotland’s Longest River

The River Tay is 188km (117 miles) long- making it Scotland’s longest river.

It originates on the slopes of Ben Lui in the west, threads through the middle of Perth [where it becomes tidal], and meets the North Sea via the Firth of Tay south of Dundee.

My favourite spot to photograph the river and the city of Perth is on the South Street bridge [see the map at the bottom of this post.]

For the adventurous you can book a guided kayak tour on the river with Outdoor Explore.

11. St Matthews Church of Scotland

Perth’s most iconic landmark, St Matthews Church of Scotland is often captured in photographs of the city due to its towering height and prominent location on the banks of the River Tay.

Inside the church there are stunning examples of stained glass, and the church offers tours from April through to September.

12. St John’s Kirk

St John’s Kirk is the oldest building in Perth and it’s centerpiece; it was founded in 1126 and is a rare example of a medieval Scottish kirk.

St John’s Kirk played a key role in the Scottish Reformation after John Knox preached a powerful sermon there in 1559. The speech caused riots in the streets, and St John’s Kirk was stripped of Catholicism.

Scottish King Alexander III’s heart was also buried here in 1286.

13. Perth Cathedral, St Ninian’s

Named after Scotland’s first saint, St Ninian’s was built in 1849 and belongs to the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The Cathedral was the first new Anglican cathedral to be built in Britain after the Reformation and stands on ground that originally belonged to the House of the Blackfriars, one of the four monasteries and friaries of medieval Perth.

Entry to visit the Cathedral is free, however there is a donation box if visitors would like to make a contribution.

Click here for the visitor guide.

14. Willowgate Activity Centre

The Willowgate Activity Centre offers something for everyone.

There’s canoeing and kayaking, target and combat archery, paddle boarding, outdoor education and bush craft, and aqua zorbing.

They also have plenty of hire equipment (including bike hire) so you can do your own thing if that’s more your style.

They also have a fabulous award-winning cafe.

Exploring the pinetum located in the grounds of Scone Palace in Perth, Scotland

Exploring the pinetum at Scone Palace

15. The Fergusson Gallery

The Fergusson Gallery is devoted to the life and love of Scottish Colourist John Fergusson, and his wife, Margaret Morris who was a dancer.

The gallery itself is an architectural marvel; a cast-iron building that was once a waterworks.

Cost: Free.

16. Shop George Street

George Street is an indie lovers dream, home to Perth’s sometimes quirky yet diverse shops.

You’ll find anything here from vintage jewellery and clothing to yummy food and drink.

The Bean Shop is a cute wee cafe with great coffee. For clothing and jewellery that is a little different, check out Revival, a stylish thrift store.

It’s a perfect place to shop if you like shopping locally and supporting the local community.

17. Walk the River Tay Public Art Trail

The River Tay Public Art Trail is a short walk that connects a number of beautiful artworks located along the River Tay.

The artworks pay tribute to the heritage of the city, and you can find the list of sculptures here. It’s a great wee walk to help you get familiar with the city.

Starting Point: Corner of Tay Street and South Street.

Distance of walk: 1 mile.

Kinnoull Hill in autumn in Perth, Scotland

Autumn in Perth is one of the best times to visit

Recommended Pubs and Restaurants in Perth

For dinner we went to Paco’s- an American-themed restaurant with burgers, pizza and Mexican dishes. I’m a sucker for fairy lights and quirky decorations- plus they have a great cocktail list!

If you’re looking for traditional Scottish food served in a swanky atmosphere, The Bothy on Kinnoull Street is great.

For a cheap bite and a drink head to The Capital Asset which is a Wetherspoons brand [hint: most cities and towns in Scotland will have a Wetherspoons pub and restaurant. They’re great for those travelling on a budget!]

If the weather is nice out, pick up some local produce from Provender Brown Delicatessen and go for a picnic at Branklyn & Rodney Gardens.

For a pub with history, have a dram at King James Pub. It was in the basement that King James I was assassinated here in 1437. There is a glass panel on the floor of the pub so you can see into the basement.

The Venue is one of my best pubs in Scotland for a drink and some live music and Greyfriars Bar is a small, traditional Scottish watering hole where you’ll find the locals.

Recommended Accommodation in Perth

We stayed at the Salutation Hotel which was very comfortable and surprisingly affordable, given its incredible history.

It is the oldest ‘established’ hotel in Scotland [or one of the oldest hotels in Scotland] welcoming guests since 1699.

If you’re a fan of traditional- you’ll love this hotel.

Salutation hotel in Perth, one of the oldest hotels in Scotland

The Salutation Hotel, located in the heart of Perth

The hotel is believed to have received its name after the proprietor shook hands with Bonnie Prince Charlie, who stayed at the hotel to plan his Jacoite Rebellion. It’s rumoured that he stayed in room 20, which is now known today as ‘The Stuart Room’ and can be hired as a meeting room.

Other famous guests include The Beatles and a long list of musicians- you can find framed photos of the famous guests on a wall in the hotel!

Some of the rooms have four poster beds [but unfortunately they were sold out when we booked.]

We went for a superior room and it was well-worth the upgrade.

Map of the Best Things to Do in Perth, Scotland

Summary

I hope you enjoyed my guide on the best things to do in Perth in Scotland. If you do visit Perth, let me know in the comments what you thought of Scotland’s ‘Fair City.’

SAVE ON PINTEREST

PLANNING A TRIP TO SCOTLAND?

For booking hotels, I recommend Booking.com

Airbnb is another affordable alternative to accommodation in Scotland (psst- get $33USD credit for your first booking here)

Hostelworld is the best place to book hostels

Need car hire? I recommend Auto Europe

Check the Scotrail website for train times and to buy tickets in advance

I recommend buying these Scotland maps: Northern Scotland, Western Scotland + Southern Scotland.

I sell Personalised Scotland Map Prints in my Etsy store

Shop my Amazon store for my Scotland favourites [click here if you’re from the USA; click here if you’re from the UK]

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2 thoughts on “The Complete Travel Guide to Perth, Scotland”

  1. I’m thinking of relocating to Perth so I’m so happy you wrote this up! Thank you!

    1. Yvette Webster

      I’m so glad you found it useful! I love Perth, it offers a bit of everything in a neat package 🙂

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