Somehow our usual autumn holiday downgraded itself in 2016 to a couple of nights in Perth in early December! I’m not complaining, Perth is a beautiful city and the weather, though cold, was wonderfully bright. We spent most of our day there, Sunday, following the River Tay Public Art Trail.
Our hotel (Sunbank House – highly recommended) was on the east bank of the river so we started there and followed the trail through a series of parks and gardens before crossing the river and returning along Tay Street. Here are some highlights.
This was my favourite part of the trail with the tall spire of St Matthew’s Church an ever-present landmark.
We crossed the river by the Perth Bridge which is equally attractive by day and night. It was built in 1766 and widened in 1869. On the other side are the Museum and Art Gallery and the Concert Hall – we didn’t go in this time, but enjoyed visits to both earlier in the year.
Returning to the river, some of the art serves a very practical purpose as flood gates.
We passed the war memorial and regimental monument and admired the beautiful houses on the side of the river we’d just come from.
Then we crossed under the bridge to walk up Tay Street.
West bank and city centre
On the section of Tay Street between Perth Bridge and Queen’s Bridge there are ten wall carvings and several other sculptures, of which my favourite is Shona Kinloch’s chubby eagle standing proudly atop its fish.
The trail now took us away from the river into the city centre – lunch! But also more to see. The Salutation Hotel is another historic landmark, dating from 1699.
St John Street has decorative lampposts and gratings – I’m not sure if they’re meant to remind me of Munch’s The Scream, but they do. Round the corner, Walter Scott’s Fair Maid of Perth sits forlornly on her bench.
Nearby, Nae Day Sae Dark is another literary sculpture, inspired by Perth poet William Soutar. The two figures represent happiness and misery. It wasn’t possible to get a picture of the full circle because a (tuneless) busker had plonked himself right in the way.
After lunch, we continued along the riverbank, passing another sculpture inspired by Soutar, Soutar’s Menagerie, until we reached the Fergusson Gallery. Housed in an old water tower, this is dedicated to the work of Scottish Colourist JD Fergusson (1874-1961). It’s not open on Sundays, but we’ve been before and it is well worth a visit. It also has information about Fergusson’s partner, the dancer Margaret Morris, and their life together.
From the Fergusson Gallery we set off to follow another trail – there was life in the old legs yet – which focussed on the life of the aforementioned poet, William Soutar. We set off across South Inch (large grassy area) – Soutar was born in one of its bordering terraces.
We then walked uphill to areas Soutar would have played in as a child, passing Craigie Waterfall and climbing Craigie Knowes, a little patch of wilderness in suburbia. In Soutar’s day, the waterfall was surrounded by malt barns, a laundry and a flock mill. Now it’s all houses, though some of the windy roads probably had their origins as farm tracks. Higher still is Craigie Hill, where you can see John striding along below. This looks like the country, but to the left of the picture is a golf course and out of sight on the right traffic thunders along the motorway to Dundee.
Descending again, we passed 27 Wilson Street where Soutar lived in the last years of his life. Here he spent 13 years bedridden with an incurable arthritis of the spine, all the time writing his poetry and receiving a constant stream of friends, neighbours and literary admirers. He died of tuberculosis aged just 45.
Finally, we returned to South Inch and amused ourselves watching the birds on the frozen pond.
Linking to Jo’s Monday Walks where you’ll find her on trail in the Algarve and her friends – well they’re cyber-walking all over the globe.