LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Perth

Former royal capital celebrates successive cup wins

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

The Fair City of Perth welcomed home cup-winning sides twice in 2021, no common occurrence during 140 years 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 all too rare have locals cheered an open-top bus meandering down George Street in triumph. On that occasion, it was 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.

Welcome to Perth/Natália Jánossy

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 2009-10, this 10,696-capacity ground has hosted solely top-flight games, the longest streak with the elite in the club’s history. Continuity has also been provided at the top, Geoff Brown buying the ailing club in 1986 and passing it on to his son Steve in 2011. After lifting three domestic trophies in recent seasons, Steve Brown then bowed out in 2023.

During that time, European visitors have ranged from Galatasaray to Alashkert of Armenia – though recent forays may have lacked the thrill of the adventures behind the Iron Curtain experienced by Willie Ormond’s team in 1971.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

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 Scottish Citylink M92 service that runs three times a day (currently 11.19am, 3.19pm and 5.19pm), running to Broxden Park & Ride outside Perth (£10, journey time 1hr). From there, you’ll have to a bus or taxi into town (see below).

Alternatively, head from the airport into Edinburgh city centre by Lothian Bus Airlink 100 (every 10mins) to St Andrew Square (£5.50, contactless on board, exact change if cash, journey time 25mins) near Waverley station or tram (every 7mins) to St Andrew Square for Waverley (£7.50, journey time 25mins).

Half-hourly direct trains to Perth (£10 advance online, 1hr 30min journey time) depart from Waverley and Edinburgh’s other station of Haymarket. From Glasgow Queen Street, the train (£12) takes 1hr.

Perth train and bus stations are on the southern edge of the city centre. St Johnstone’s ground of McDiarmid Park is on the far western outskirts of town, and you’ll need local transport or a taxi to get there. 

Public transport in Perth consists of local and regional buses. City buses are run by Stagecoach, which offers an all-day DayRider ticket for £4.

Perth Radio Taxis (01738 580 058/01738 622 000) charges £85 from Edinburgh Airport and £135 from Glasgow Airport.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Plenty of city-centre pubs and bars show 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 Ormonds Bar, near Perth Theatre at 273 High Street. 

The oldest pub in town is the cosy Old Ship Inn, with just enough room for a TV in its cosy interior. Nearby Half A Tanner provides karaoke once the TV match is over – no football colours, though. In the same vicinity, right on the river, The Capital Asset is the main Wetherspoons in town.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the ground and around town

The Perth City & Towns has a database of accommodation options, from quirky to pet-friendly.

Across from Perth’s rail and bus hubs, the Radisson Blu occupies the former Station Hotel, built around the same time that St Johnstone was founded. Today, 75  rooms complement big-screen TV sports and a beer garden in the common areas.

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 Travelodge Perth A9 is close to the stadium as the crow flies but only accessible by car. 

If you 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, these are also walking distance to McDiarmid Park.