The Fair City of Perth has only recently welcomed home a trophy-winning side after a century or more of football. When flagship club St Johnstone won the Scottish Cup in 2014, they ended a 130-year drought. Macbeth and Robert the Bruce may have been crowned here at Scone Palace but only once has an open-top bus meandered down George Street in triumph – and triumph over Dundee United, one of two Tayside rivals whose modest achievements had long overshadowed Perth’s.
In terms of city rivalry, St Johnstone has no peers. Originally, when this football team sprang from a local cricket club in the mid 1880s, Perth was also home to romantically named outfits such as Caledonian and Fair City Athletic. But St Johnstone, a bastardisation of the medieval name for Perth, prevailed.
Moving in 1924 from the Recreation Grounds by the Tay to Muirton Park, also by the railway lines but way north of the town centre, St Johnstone consistently brought the big clubs to Perth. They only began challenging them, however, under the mercurial stewardship of Willie Ormond in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
When St Johnstone moved again, five years after Ormond’s death in 1984, the club named one of the stands at McDiarmid Park after him.
Since 1989, this 10,696-capacity ground has hosted an almost equal number of top- and second-tier games, pretty much in keeping with the club’s previous eight decades.
European campaigns have been few, far between and concise in nature – with the honourable exception of the club’s initial foray under Willie Ormond in 1971. Another bash at the Europa League is not out of the question for 2016-17.
The nearest airport to Perth is Edinburgh, 50km (31 miles) away, 9km (six miles) west of the capital. The only direct public transport to Perth is the Megabus (£13-£14) to Broxden Park & Ride, so you’ll have to get another bus into town. Journey times from the airport also vary greatly.
Alternatively, head from the airport into Edinburgh first, either by Lothian Bus Airlink 100 (every 10min) to Waverley Bridge (30min, £4.50) by the main train station of Waverley or tram (every 10min) to the other station of Haymarket (35min, £5). Hourly direct trains to Perth (1hr 20min; £16) depart from both stations.
From Glasgow Queen Street, the train (£16) takes 1hr.
Public transport in Perth consists of local and regional buses.
Across from Perth’s rail and bus hubs, the Station Hotel was built around the same time that St Johnstone was founded, and now has 70 modern, comfortable rooms. Big-screen TV sports and a beer garden are other boons. Nearby three-star, the Best Western Queens has a pool, spa, sauna and jacuzzi.
The landmark Royal George once hosted Queen Victoria. Many of its 45 rooms have views over the Tay. Also central and said to be the oldest established hotel in Scotland, the Salutation has a homely feel in its 84 rooms, bar and restaurant.
Of the chains, the Mercure is quiet and convenient while the Premier Inn is handy for buses to the stadium. Note that the Perth A9 Travelodge is close to the stadium as the crow flies but only accessible by car. If need a room close to the ground, there’s a string of affordable B&Bs lining Dunkeld Road, including the Scotia. Close to the site of the club’s old ground of Muirton Park, they’re also walking distance to McDiarmid Park.
Plenty of city-centre pubs and bars show TV football. Several screens are set up around the spacious Sandeman, set in a former public library and close to buses for the stadium from Mill Street.
Across the street, The Foundry is another good choice, with an authentic industrial past. You should find a fair few footie fans at the Ormond Bar, near Perth Theatre at 273 High Street. Near the St Johnstone supporters’ club on the north side of town, Corinna (44 Atholl Street) also shows soccer and is popular with locals.
The only Wetherspoons in town is Capital Asset, right on the river.