Scottish Historical Short Break

Join Us for a Historical Short Break in Perth, Scotland

4 Day Itinerary Rundown

  • Day One - Perth Museum, St John's Kirk, Greyfriars Burial Ground, and King James Pub
  • Day Two - Black Watch Castle and Museum, The North Inch, and Medieval Tour
  • Day Three - Scone Palace and Gardens
  • Day Four: Public Transport Option - Killiecrankie Visitor Centre and Blair Castle
  • Day Four: Self-Drive Option - Scottish Crannog Centre and Fortingall Yew

As the ancient capital of Scotland, Perth plays an important role in Scottish history, and is a popular destination amongst those who wish to explore the heritage and stories of our country.

The name Perth derives from a Pictish word for wood or copse although during much of the later medieval period, it was known by its residents as St John's Toun, or Saint Johnstoun, thanks to St John's Kirk, the church at the centre of the parish, which was dedicated to St John the Baptist (more about this on Day 1). You can still visit and take service at the beautiful 15th century St John's Kirk today - and keen football fans will know that the name St Johnstoun remains very much in the heart of many locals!

Reach out into the wider area and you will find a wealth of information that illustrates Scotland's untamed past, its bloody history and its exciting journey from the Iron Age to the Jacobite rebellion and through to the Victorian period and beyond. It is here in Perthshire that Scottish kings - and a queen - were both crowned and toppled, where Iron Age loch dwellers left their mark, and where the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) was officially formed in 1739.

Accommodation in Perth City Centre

We've recommended using Perth as your base to explore the region. Why not add to the historical nature of your trip and stay in the Salutation Hotel, the oldest established hotel in Scotland?

Although the history of the building from 1699 to 1745 is vague, it has been thought that it may have been managed by the Franciscan Order, otherwise known as the Greyfriars monks. In 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie landed on the coast of Western Scotland it is said that he used Room 20 on the first floor of the hotel to hold meetings to plan his rebellion. Past this point the hotel has remained a busy accommodation right through to recent history.

Other Accommodation Options in Perth & Kinross >

Other Historical Attractions in Perthshire, Scotland > 

Castles in Perth & Kinross, Scotland >


Historical Itinerary Day 1

Morning | Perth Museum

The perfect way to start your historical adventure is in a place that pulls together all things history – Perth Museum. The newly opened museum spans over two floors and allows you to explore Scottish history in all its colours.

At the heart of the museum lies the iconic Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, one of Scotland and the UK's most significant historical artefacts. Returned to Perthshire after an absence of over 700 years, the Stone is free for all to visit, and is set within an evocative audio-visual display.

Alongside the Stone of Destiny, visitors can explore Perth & Kinross's Recognised Collections of National Significance, which illustrate the region's important role in Scottish history. Don't miss star objects such as the NUWSS Banner, the Strathmore Meteorite, the St Madoes Stone, and the Carpow Logboat, all of which bring their own unique stories of the past into the present day. 

You will also find visiting and temporary exhibitions aimed at showcasing important cultural stories and icons.   

  • Free entry, although booking is essential to visit the stone
  • Temporary exhibitions will come with a charge. See website for details
  • Open daily, 10am – 5pm (except Thursday, open 10am – 7pm)

Perth Museum Website >


Afternoon | St John’s Kirk

Taking in the wealth of artefacts in Perth Museum is tiring for any historian, so why not refuel by enjoying lunch in one of the many surrounding cafes - you’ll find an array of options for teas, coffees, cakes, and hot meals await you - before heading to St John’s Kirk. 

St John’s Kirk is Perth’s oldest remaining building, with the first historical reference noted in 1126 in a grant from King David I. The Kirk, dedicated to St John the Baptist, is one of Scotland’s most important burgh churches, so much so that the heart of King Alexander III was buried here after his death in 1286. 

Notable visitors include King Robert the Bruce, who ordered repairs in 1328, and John Knox, who preached here during the Scottish Reformation in 1559.


Information sheets are available in eleven languages from the front desk and run through all the key points of interest in the Kirk. 

  • Free entry with an encouraged donation
  • Open Monday to Saturday, 10am – 4pm 
  • As a working church, St John’s Kirk may close for events and weddings from time to time
  • From October the Kirk opens on more limited hours 

St John's Kirk Website >


Evening | Greyfriars Burial Ground and King James Pub

Morbid curiosity, we all feel it, don’t we? If you’re feeling up to a spooky – although some might say peaceful - evening walk, head over to Greyfriars Burial Ground, accessible from Tay Street or Canal Street. 

Opened in 1580, Greyfriars Burial Ground offers a fascinating walk amongst almost 500 years of Perth’s inhabitants. It also hosts one of the best collections of early headstones in Scotland, and features highly ornate carvings, such as the Adam and Eve stone. Erected in 1782, the stone depicts the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. See our FAQs section underneath for more details.

  • Free to visit
  • Open daily, 9am - 4pm
  • Closed on public holidays

Just a few minutes’ walk away on Kinnoull Street, one of Scotland’s most historic pubs - The King James - offers up more of the macabre. Built over the original location of the medieval Blackfriars Friary, the pub is said to be the location of the grisly murder of King James I in 1437. Legend has it that the king had been staying at the Blackfriars Friary when he was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy to seek revenge and replace him as king. 

The foundation stones of Blackfriars Friary, dating back to 1231, can be seen through a section of glass floor in the bar. 

The King James Opening Hours

  • Monday to Wednesday, 11am - midnight
  • Thursday to Saturday, 11am – 12:30am
  • Sunday, 12 noon – 12 midnight
  • Kitchen open Monday – Saturday, 12 noon – 2pm

King James Pub Website >


Day 2

Morning | Black Watch Castle and Museum

Start the day with honour, at the Black Watch Castle & Museum, situated on Hay Street just a short walk from the city centre. Since its formation in 1739 The Black Watch has played a pivotal role in Scotland’s military history, taking part in almost every major global conflict. It is the oldest Highland regiment, and still exists today as the 3rd Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland. 

Balhousie Castle, formerly the base for the regiment, is now the setting of the museum and café. With daily guided tours through the regiment’s 250-year history up to the present day, you will learn the incredible stories of soldiers from years gone by - many told in their own words. Alongside this, the special collection of uniforms, medals, photographs, diaries and military equipment provides a direct connection to these soldiers. 

For a fun way to dig into the past, Hands on History packs are available at the museum front desk, full of fascinating objects and items of uniform to handle, try on, and learn more about.

  • Open daily 9:30am - 4:30pm (last entry to museum at 3:30pm)
  • Open daily during winter, 10am - 4pm
  • Entry from £5 - £12 for a standard ticket and £9.75 - £21 for a guided tour

The Black Watch Castle and Museum Website >


Afternoon | The North Inch Walk

For lunch, continue exploring the historic atmosphere of the Black Watch at the award-winning Bistro @ The Castle where you can enjoy a range of delicious hot and cold meals, cakes, teas and coffees. Gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options are also available. Top tip – the café is a favourite with locals so you may want to book when you arrive in the morning. 

  • Bistro @ The Castle open daily 9:30am - 4pm (last order for food at 3pm and last order for coffee and cake at 4pm) 

Once sufficiently full, take the castle steps onto the North Inch; a hidden gem in Perth’s history, this one is great for battle-lovers. In 1396 the epic Battle of the Clans (also known as the Battle of the North Inch) was arranged by the king in an attempt to settle a decades-old dispute between two rival clans. This was so bloody it has been largely left out of historical records. 

In both 1715 and 1745 - inspected by King James VII and Bonnie Prince Charlie respectively - the North Inch became one of many muster points for armies during the Jacobite uprisings. Two plinths commemorating these points in history can be found on the North Inch, just off Charlotte Street.

See our FAQ section underneath for more details. 


Evening | Medieval Trail

Enjoy more of Perth’s hidden history with a self-guided tour of medieval Perth. Download the map from the Medieval Trail website (link below) to discover a trail that begins on Tay Street at the Sherriff Court, and eleven stops later, finishes at the South Inch car park.  

Points of interest include the wonderful St Matthew’s Church (pictured), and the historic King James VI Hospital. 

Perth Medieval Trail Website >

From here, a short walk to Tay Street offers the perfect location to enjoy dinner with a view. There are a number of restaurants looking out onto the banks of the longest rivers in Scotland, all with different options for tasty meals and fine drinks.

Discover them all on our Tay Street Blog > 


Day 3

Morning | Scone Palace

Perhaps one of the most important Scottish attractions, Scone Palace, the crowning place of Scotland’s kings, is just a short bus ride or car trip from the city centre.

Interestingly, Scone has always held an important place in the history of Scotland - long before Scottish kings were crowned here. Two thousand years ago it was the most northern limit of the Roman empire, who were never able to defeat the Picts who ruled here. The first council of Scotland was held at Scone by King Constantine in the year 906, and the town was the site for medieval parliaments which set the laws for Scotland there until the 1450s. 

The Palace itself was the original home of the Stone of Destiny (which you have already seen at Perth Museum!) and witnessed many years of turbulence, starting with Kenneth MacAlpin, the first King of Scots, and ending with Charles II in 1651, the last king to be crowned at Scone. Today, you can enjoy a walk around the historic hallways, and see the rooms where kings and queens dined, and the chambers where they slept. 

  • Open daily, 10am – 5pm, last entry 4pm
  • Entry £12.50 – £18.50 for the Palace and Gardens
  • Take the number 3 bus from South Street or number 58 from Perth Bus Station out to Scone to reach the Palace

See our FAQ section underneath for more details. 

Scone Palace and Gardens Website >


Afternoon | Scone Palace Gardens

Grab a bite to eat and a refreshing drink at the Old Servants' Hall coffee shop, serving up a range of homebaking, pastries, sandwiches and hot drinks. If you prefer to soak up the surrounding nature, then head over to the Horsebox in the gardens, serving the same delicious food as the Old Servants' Hall to be enjoyed on one of the many picnic benches available. 

With their own distinct story, the Palace Gardens are just as interesting as the house itself, and well worth extending your visit to explore. 900 years ago, Augustine monks first began tending to the gardens around the abbey at Scone and 100 acres of this woodland still stand today.

Close to the palace, you will find an old sycamore tree, believed to be planted by James IV and I in 1617 during his only visit to Scotland following the Union of the Crowns in 1603. As well as James’ Sycamore, the Palace Gardens are home to several old cedars of Lebanon which surround the chapel, and the David Douglas Fir, brought to the grounds by the famous Scottish botanist, David Douglas, who was a son of Scone.


Evening

Catch the number 58 bus back into Perth in time for dinner. Perth city centre has a fantastic selection of venues with restaurants ranging from Mediterranean to Asian, and options to fit all dietary requirements. 

Perth City Centre Restaurants Blog >


Day 4: Public Transport Option

Keen historians can extend their stay to experience the rich history of Highland Perthshire. There’s so much to explore off the beaten track, where history’s secrets often lie.

Morning | Killiecrankie Visitor Centre

Grab the M90 bus from Perth Bus Station to Pitlochry town centre. You can either enjoy a coffee and stroll and around this picturesque town, or head straight to your next stop - catch the number 83 or number 87 bus to Killiecrankie Visitor Centre (The 83 heads to Bruar, and the 87 heads to Struan). It is here that you can discover the bloody history of the Jacobite Battle of Killiecrankie, told through stories, weapons and replicas from the event. 

Killiecrankie was an important battle in the Jacobite Rising in 1689 when, against the odds, John Graham of Claverhouse (Bonnie Dundee) led his men to victory in support of the exiled King James VII & II. 

The troops travelled through the Pass of Killiecrankie both before and during the battle. Despite being outnumbered by 1,000 men, Killiecrankie was one of the few battles the Jacobites won. Legacies of the battle can be seen in the town, including that of Donald McBane who is said to have jumped 18 feet across the River Garry to escape pursuing Jacobites. 

The Soldier’s Leap, where this legendary jump took place, can be found in Killiecrankie just a two-minute walk from the visitor centre, while the battlefield is situated about a mile north. 

  • Open Monday to Friday, 10am – 5pm

Visit Killiecrankie Visitor Centre Website > 


Afternoon | Blair Castle

The visitor centre’s aptly named JacoBite Café offers a range of lunch options as well as cakes and coffee, with both vegan and gluten-free options available. 

Once satisfied with lunch, head back to the Village Hall and catch the number 87 bus towards Struan. From here, a 20-minute bus journey will drop you at the Atholl Arms, Blair Atholl, a short five-minute walk from the mighty Blair Castle. 

This great stately home has housed over 19 generations of the Stewarts and Murrays of Atholl, and has a rich history, spanning from the medieval period to the Great War. Most of the castle’s residents added something of their own to the grand home, making it a unique combination of many different eras and architectural styles. The earliest part of the castle is Comyn’s Tower which dates to 1269, however the house has been added to as late as the Victorian era, when the exterior was remodelled. 

Today, you can explore three magnificent floors of the house, witnessing over 750 years of Scottish history that has seeped into each of the 30 rooms. 

  • Open daily, 10am - 5pm (last entry 3:45pm)
  • From 26th October 2024, the castle will be closed for the winter
  • Entry from £11.50 - £17.50 for the House and Gardens
  • Book online or buy a ticket at the gate (additional charge of £1 per ticket)

Blair Castle Website >


Evening | Old Mill Inn

When you’ve finished exploring Blair Castle and its gardens, catch the number 87 bus from the Atholl Arms back to Pitlochry where you can treat yourself to dinner at the Old Mill Inn, Pitlochry’s oldest inn and pub, dating to the 19th century. The building was once a functioning mill, and features of the working building can still be seen today, such as the water wheel in the pub garden.

  • Restaurant open daily, serves food between 12 noon - 3pm then again 5pm - 9pm

Old Mill Inn Website >


Day 4: Self-Drive Car Option

Perth has a number of car hire options that you may wish to explore should you be arriving in the city by public transport.

Morning | Scottish Crannog Centre

After a fill of breakfast, make your way to the Scottish Crannog Centre, situated along Loch Tay, 38 miles outside of Perth. The Scottish Crannog Centre celebrates the way of life for people in Scotland’s ancient Iron Age. 

Crannog dwellings were found all over Scotland 2,500 years ago and Loch Tay was home to 17 of these. The Scottish Crannog Centre is home to the Iron Village, which consists of replicas of these buildings based on archaeological findings, as well as a museum which houses ancient artefacts from the Iron Age.  

Here you can discover the lives of Scotland’s ancient ancestors through a series of hands-on activities and workshops, as well as a guided tour of the Iron Village and museum delivered by Iron Age Interpreters. 

  • Museum open daily, 10am - 4pm 
  • Entry from £10 - £15
  • Several workshops are available throughout the week for an additional cost starting at £70, check website for details

The Scottish Crannog Centre Website >


Afternoon | Fortingall Yew Tree

The on-site café at the Crannog Centre is the perfect setting for a spot of lunch and if your hunger for history still isn’t satisfied, then you can take a quick 5-mile drive up to the Fortingall Yew Tree. 

Located in Fortingall Churchyard, the yew is confirmed as the oldest tree in Britain, and believed to be one of the oldest living things in Europe, with estimates of its age ranging from 2,000 to 9,000 years old.

The yew has connections to early Christianity in Scotland, and this particular species of tree is commonly found in churchyards across England and Wales (although less so in Scotland). 

Photo ©

More Information on the Fortingall Yew Tree >


Evening | Walk Wade's Bridge and Enjoy Dinner in Aberfeldy

Head back into Aberfeldy, and take a stroll over the famous Wade's Bridge. Following the Jacobite uprising of 1715, General George Wade was appointed to carry out his own recommendations for securing the Highlands of Scotland. An important aspect of these was the construction of a series of military roads, one of which passes through Aberfeldy, and which occasioned the building of Wade's Bridge across the River Tay, complete in 1733.  Famously, a few years later, Bonnie Prince Charlie crossed General Wade's bridge as he fled north towards ultimate defeat at Culloden near Inverness.

Wade was also responsible for the raising of companies of soldiers which would eventually become the famous Black Watch regiment in 1740, when their first muster took place close by the bridge. Today, there is a monument to that historic gathering.

Enjoy dinner in The Three Lemon's Restaurant in town. No historical significance, but highly recommended by locals!  

More About The Historic Locations Listed

The destruction of Greyfriars Monastery in 1559 proved to be a perfect solution to a rising problem in Perth; the kirkyard at St John’s was full, and there was a need for a new burial ground. In 1580 that need was met with the opening of Greyfriars Burial Ground.  Sitting on the original site of the monastery and comprising many ornate headstones - the earliest of which that still survives and dates to the year of the grounds opening - the thing that sets Greyfriars apart from any other old burial ground is the 13 stones that stand under the shelter within the walls of the site. These stones are one of the best collections of early headstones in Scotland, and feature highly ornate carvings, such as the “Adam and Eve stone”, erected in 1782 and depicts the biblical story of the Garden of Eden.

The destruction of Greyfriars Monastery in 1559 proved to be a perfect solution to a rising problem in Perth; the kirkyard at St John’s was full, and there was a need for a new burial ground. In 1580 that need was met with the opening of Greyfriars Burial Ground, sitting on the original site of the monastery and providing an area for many ornate headstones, the earliest of which that still survives dating to the year of the grounds opening. However, the thing that sets Greyfriars apart from any other old burial ground is the 13 stones that stand under the shelter within the walls of the site. These stones are one of the best collections of early headstones in Scotland, and feature highly ornate carvings, such as the “Adam and Eve stone”, erected in 1782 and depicts the biblical story of the Garden of Eden