Books, bookshops, authors and festivals: A literary tour around Perthshire

Books, bookshops, authors and festivals: A literary tour around Perthshire

Perthshire is a creative place. We have a huge number of festivals and an enviable line-up of concerts, exhibitions, galleries, museums, not to mention highly creative people! Books and writers play an important part in our creative scene, so we’d like to take you on a tour of Literary Perthshire, and bring you all the events, festivals, bookshops and bookish places in one place. We hope you enjoy it!

1) Author Events

CPK Libraries, which runs Perthshire’s public libraries, regularly hosts an exciting variety of author events. Here’s what’s coming up this season:

Ann Cleeves with Wildfire

Wed 19th September,
AK Bell Library

Author of the hugely popular Shetland books, now a major TV series, reads from her latest in the series.

Find out more

Bill Jones with Black Camp 21

Fri 5th October,
Cultybraggan Camp.

Award-winning author Bill Jones will talk about his latest book, the World War II thriller ‘Black Camp 21’, based on true events, at the atmospheric setting of Cultybraggan Camp.

Find out more

David McPhail with Top Secret Grandad & Me

Tue 20th November,
Loch Leven Community Library

A fun, interactive event with children’s author David MacPhail. He will talk about mind maps and how you can use them to plot stories, then discuss his latest book, about Jay Patel and his ghost grandad! Age 8-plus.

Find out more

Quintin Jardine with A Brush With Death

Tue 20th November,
Loch Leven Community Library

As part of the Kinross-shire Winter Festival and Bookweek Scotland, best-selling Scottish crime author Quintin Jardine will discuss his final book, in which the now “retired” Bob Skinner investigates the mystery behind a millionaire’s unexplained poisoning.

Find out more

Murder Mysteries and Bun Breaks with Robin Stevens

Fri 30th November,
Loch Leven Community Library

Robin Stevens, author of the ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ series and winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in the younger fiction category, talks about detective duo Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong and their latest mystery, “Death in the Spotlight”. Find out why Robin is so fascinated with murder mysteries, what makes a great detective and solve a unique mystery… Ages 9+.

Find out more

Crime Writers Gillian Galbraith and Shirley McKay in conversation

Wed 21st November,
Loch Leven Community Library

Shirley McKay, author of the Hew Cullen Mysteries which are set in St Andrews, will be in conversation with Gillian Galbraith, author of the Alice Rice Mysteries.

Find out more

In conversation with Jim Crumley and Robin A. Crawford

Tue 23rd October,
Waterstones, Perth

Jim’s latest book, “The Nature of Autumn”, charts the colourful progression from September to November, telling the story of how unfolding autumn affects the wildlife and landscapes of his beloved Scottish countryside.

Find out more

Events at Innerpeffray Library

Various dates,
Innerpeffray Library

Enjoy a delightful selection of events in a unique setting, including Alex Nye – “The Art of the Ghost Story”, and “The Course of History: Ten Meals that Changed the World” by Struan Stevenson MEP.

Find out more

Literary Analysis course

Thurs 11th October,
Birnam Arts

This is a course for any literary aficionado interested in delving into the fascinating world of analysis. Examine the form and content of poems, classic novels and plays in a relaxed, easy-going class. Gain a greater appreciation of the methodology authors use to convey their goals – the setting, plot, characters and imagery. Bring pen, paper and a love of literature!

Book this course online

2) Bookshops and Exchanges in Perth

Big Dog Books, Perth

Opened in 2016, Big Dog Books is an independent comic book, games, and pop culture shop. Big Dog Books aims to create a social space for kids, young adults – and those old enough to know better – to get away from screens and computers and into a genuine social network.

The Birnam Reader

This compact but well-stocked bookshop is just around the corner from Birnam Arts. The friendly independent bookshop offers a wide range of second-hand books and CDs, all whilst serving delicious coffee and homemade cakes!

Fun Junction, Crieff and Perth

As well as one of the best toy and game selections in the whole county, Fun Junction, an independent, family-run business with branches in Perth and Crieff, also stocks a lovely selection of kids’ books.

Book Exchanges at Blend and The Library

There are free International Book Exchanges at popular coffee shop Blend and at AK Bell Library. Bring a book along, swap it for another that you fancy, and have a coffee while you’re there!

Waterstones, Perth

It’s the national bookshop that feels like an indie – Waterstones has been a feature of Perth’s city centre for over 20 years and continues to attract a loyal reading public. As well as the great selection of fiction, non-fiction and children’s books and toys, Waterstones also plays host to a Scottish Fiction Reading Group on the first Tuesday of every month.

Mustard Seed Book Shop, Perth

The Mustard Seed Book & Gift Shop offers a wide range of Christian books, Bibles and many gifts and souvenirs from around Perthshire.

Oxfam Books & Music, Perth

This is a treasure trove of great-quality, low-priced second-hand books. The stock is wide-ranging, from modern fiction to collectable antiquarian but their main specialism is Scottish material, including books on Scotland and by Scottish authors, from Ian Rankin to Robert Burns.

Pitlochry Station Bookshop

Tucked away in a railway arch at Pitlochry Station is this lovely bookshop full of second-hand treats, including novels, non-fiction, coffee-table tomes, a kids’ corner and much more.
Most books are about £1 and there is a wide selection. On top of all that, the bookshop raises thousands of pounds for six diverse charities.
Find out more about this bookshop in our Day Out to Pitlochry article!

The Watermill & Homer, Aberfeldy

The Watermill & Homer is a hugely popular bookshop, gallery, café and design-led homeware store, on three floors of a converted oatmeal mill. Opened in 2005 by Michael Palin, it was awarded UK Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2009. There are regular events – Edinburgh author Alexander McCall Smith is a regular visitor – and a lovely mix of books, gifts, music and a kids’ section.

3) Book Festivals

Bookmark Festival

5th – 7th October 2018

Bookmark returns to Blairgowrie, Rattray and The Glens for its sixth year, with more authors and events to delight the audiences. The founding principle of this festival is to foster and encourage a love of literature in all its forms by sharing a passion for reading and writing in a friendly, inclusive environment. This year, authors featured include Denise Mina, Allan Johnson, Isla Dewar and a special event celebrating 100 years of Muriel Spark.

Kinross-shire’s Winter Festival

Oct/Nov/Dec 2018

Kinross-shire’s Winter Festival is a celebration of exciting community events from the end of October to December. There are always great author events – this year’s selection includes Ann Cleeves, writer of Shetland and ITV’s Vera and “Murder mysteries and bun breaks” with Robin Stevens (see Author Events, above).

Winter Words Festival

14th – 17th February 2019

Winter Words is the perfect way to enjoy the last days of winter (and celebrate the first signs of spring) amidst the spectacular landscape of Highland Perthshire. Taking place each February at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the festival brings in well-known and distinguished artists from around the world for over two weeks of stories, songs, and workshops.

Those bookish good folks at Birnam Arts and The Birnam Reader have put their heads together and come up with a festival of sheer brilliance! Join us in Birnam, along with a stellar lineup of writers, speakers and musicians, to celebrate a wealth of words, certain to warm your heart and brighten up your November.
Follow Perth City Centre and The Birnam Book Festival on Facebook to be the first to hear about the line-up!

3) Bookish Places to Visit

AK Bell Library, Perth

This fantastic library is a lively creative hub for Perth and Perthshire, offering all the lending services you’d expect but also a rich archive, a packed calendar of events (see Book and Poetry Events, above) and a café and gift shop. It’s one of the venues you can visit as part of Perth Doors Open Day, taking in a Behind the Scenes and Treasures tour and visiting some areas not normally open to the public, including a rare chance to see behind the scenes in the Council Archive. There are two guided tours; booking is essential.

Beatrix Potter Exhibition

Beatrix Potter had a long and fruitful relationship with Birnam and Dunkeld. While in Scotland, Beatrix wrote a “picture letter” which provided the basis for her first book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. This charming Beatrix Potter exhibition invites you to step back in time and immerse yourself in the world of a Victorian classroom, put on your own puppet show featuring Peter Rabbit and friends or experience a wash day in the style of Miss Tiggywinkle!

Innerpeffray Library

Innerpeffray Library is Scotland’s oldest free, public lending library: a museum where you can literally touch the past. At a site steeped in history from Roman times to living memory, the Library offers visitors a hands-on, unforgettable experience of Scottish heritage.

In its tranquil rural setting by the River Earn, you can travel back in time and explore the books, the people and the story of Innerpeffray. See Author Events for what’s on in this beautiful place.

John Buchan’s house, Perth

Did you know that Perth is the birthplace of John Buchan, legendary author of The 39 Steps and many other thrilling adventure novels? A plaque at 18/20 York Place (currently the home of Mindspace), commemorates his service as Governor General of Canada, but on Sunday 30th September you can visit as part of Perthshire’s Doors Open Days.

Quarto Press, Coupar Angus

The Quarto Press is a “private press”, run for fun, not profit. Housed in a converted 19th-century cottage and wagon-shed, there is a working traditional letterpress facility that uses hand-set metal and wood type in the way that printing was done from the 1450s to 1900. Also contains a collection of small presses and specialist items used by printers. You can visit on most days (phone ahead) or as part of Doors Open Day 2018.

Royal Scottish Geographical Society Visitor Centre

Visit the Fair Maid’s House, home to the Royal Geographical Society’s Visitor Centre, where you can “navigate” to the stylish explorers’ library, or the Cuthbert Map Room if you’re an atlas fan. There’s also a very exciting opportunity to bring a fantastic new book to life, by pledging to order a copy of The Great Horizon, a collection of 50 fascinating adventure stories from the last 150 years, retrieved from the RSGS archive.

Soutar House

Born in 1898 in Perth, William Soutar is known as one of the greatest poets Scotland has produced. On Perthshire’s Doors Open Days, Soutar House in Perth’s Craigie area is open for viewing – this year it’s on the 29th September.

There are also two William Soutar Perth Walks that start at the Fergusson Gallery and take you through Perth City Centre or through and around Craigie where Soutar lived. Walking guides are available from the A K Bell Library, the Tourist Information Centre and the Fergusson Gallery. Find out more about this fascinating poet and his work on the William Soutar website.

Don’t be a stranger

We hope you’ve enjoyed our literary tour of Perthshire! For all the latest news, events and information about Perth and Perthshire, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up to our email newsletter.

Perthshire for thrill-seekers

Perthshire for thrill-seekers

Perthshire has much to offer visitors – from culture geeks to country walkers – who are seeking peace and quiet, but there’s also a whole world of thrills to be found if you want to try something wilder. Our county has a reputation as the go-to region in Scotland for thrill-seekers, outdoor adventurers and everyone eager to take a walk on the wild side, with some of the most highly rated and qualified instructors in the field at your disposal. And the Perthshire countryside is the perfect backdrop for your adventuring – you can soak up the scenic sights right before you bungee-jump off a bridge or whitewater-raft down the river!

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most thrilling activities to try. Everything’s within driving distance of Perth city too, making it an ideal base for your break.

1) Bungee Jumping

The Pass of Killiecrankie is a beautiful wooded gorge with the River Garry flowing by its base. It’s one of the most striking views in the whole country, so why not take it in from a different angle – by plunging down 40 metres below with a bungee cord attached to your feet! The Highland Fling Bungee jump is the UK’s first static bungee jump, giving intrepid thrillseekers a once in a lifetime experience of a 50mph free fall that bounces you back.

The Highland Fling is a favourite with adrenaline junkies but is also popular for the more intrepid group weekend activity, including stag and hen parties, and many a charity fundraiser. So whether it’s your birthday, anniversary, family gathering or you’re just looking for a challenge, Highland Fling are there for you. You can bring along your supporters to cheer you on as well.

You can also make sure the moment is recorded for history – and bragging purposes – through photos or video.

Find out more at Highland Fling’s website for more details.

2) Highland Fling Bridge Swing

While you’re at the Pass of Killiecrankie, why not make it a double thrill by trying Scotland’s most exciting swing? The latest development from Highland Fling Bungee is the Bridge Swing, the first purpose-built, permanent swing platform from a bridge in Britain.

From a specially designed swing platform 40 metres above the River Garry, in a full body harness, you’ll be quick-released from above, dropping into a free fall of around 15 metres before the rope takes the slack and you accelerate through a thrilling arc under the bungee platform where the main anchors are attached. Once the swing is over you’ll be winched back to where you started. This is a safe and unforgettable adrenaline-packed experience using the latest technology and safety equipment, led by experienced, qualified Bridge Swing Masters.

Find out more at Highland Fling’s website for more details.

3) White Water Rafting

 

There are ten rivers in Perthshire, perfect for a gentle paddle, but for those looking for something with more force, the River Tay can’t be beaten, and has been a favourite destination for white water rafters for many years. Highland Fling offers a six mile run from Aberfeldy to Grandtully that’s ideal for families (children over 8) and groups, no experience necessary.

Splash White Water Rafting is one of the UK’s most experienced expert outdoor adventure activity providers, offering exhilarating rafting trips starting from its base in Aberfeldy. The river trips showcase the beautiful Highland landscapes as you learn your new skills, before the river drops into the challenging rapids to Grandtully, including one called “The Washing Machine”!

White Water Rafting Scotland also offers routes on the Rivers Tay and Tummel. Choose your level, from a less hectic mild river run to the fast and furious white-knuckle rapids and drops. Their highly qualified instructors will ensure you have the safest experience possible. Book online and combine with a variety of other outdoor activities for a top weekend away or jam-packed holiday, or to pick up gift vouchers, valid for up to a year.

Nae Limits, the 4-star activity experience as featured on television adverts for Visit Scotland, also offers exceptional white water rafting expeditions on the Tay and Tummel, with the River Orchy offering one of the most extreme rating experiences in the country – class 5 rapids guaranteed!

Find out about whitewater rafting at Highland Fling Bungee, Splash White Water Rafting, White Water Rafting Scotland, The Rafting Company and Nae Limits.

4) Cliff Jumping

Cliff-jumping is a great activity for those with a little more bravado who want to try something more unusual. Jumping from a cliff into a plunge pool is an exhilarating, challenging and fun-packed experience. With heights starting from 3 feet and ascending to 45 feet, it’s an activity you can build up as you feel more confident. How far you go is up to you! Set near Pitlochry in Highland Perthshire, Pitlochry Outdoor Activities offers cliff-jumping in a beautiful setting, and it’s a great family and corporate group activity.

5) Canyoning & Gorge Walking

Whether you choose the horizontal or vertical path, there’s an exhilarating route waiting for you. Gorge walking is the more straightforward route; a walk up or down a river, including all the leaps and slides necessary. Canyoning is the more challenging task, where the only way is down. Splash is an experienced operator that started offering this exciting adventure sport – a mix of jumping, walking, swimming and abseiling – in Scotland back in 2003.

There are plenty of paths on offer across Perthshire, with Nae Limits and Vertical Descents, and both organisations provide appropriate training. Nae Limits offers half- and full-day packages to push you to your very limits. Check out both websites to find the best experience for you.

6) Quad Biking, Segways and 4x4 off-roading

Perthshire’s rugged landscape and rolling hills offer the ideal terrain for a thrilling off-road experience. There is a variety of places across the region where you can try these exciting activities, each with its own attractions and recommendations. Nae Limits’ quad biking estate covers an incredible 1000 acres of farmland, complete with tricky ditches and hills to navigate, while Perthshire Offroad’s miles-long trails near Glenfarg combine the beauty of the landscape with the challenge of the route by quad bike or Land Rover Defender. Meanwhile Crieff Hydro offers Quad Biking, Segway Tours and 4x4 driving, meaning you have a choice of fun-filled transport!

Each place offers an experience suited to your abilities, desires and group size, making it ideal for everyone from families to hen- and stag dos and corporate parties. These activities are available all year round, regardless of the weather. So even if it pours down on your visit, you won’t go away disappointed.

7) Paintball

Ever wanted to see if your Call Of Duty skills transfer to the real world? Nothing brings a group together quite like a fierce contest, and paintballing allows for all the thrill of combat with none of the mortal wounds (although we can’t promise you won’t be a tad bruised by the end of it all). Test out your strategy skills and see if you can make the winning shot. Nae Limits and Paintball Perth both provide the activity in the region and will equip you with full body protection, a gun and enough paintballs to ensure your enemies truly fear you. Splash has a Paintball site and offers packages that combine this activity with one of their other fun-packed activities such as whitewater rafting or canyoning.

8) River Bugging 

If you can’t decide this weekend between sitting in your armchair or hurtling down a fast-flowing river, now you can do both! River Bugging is a great way to play on the river if you want that little bit more excitement. A Bug looks like a hi-tech blow up armchair; you sit in it and use a fin and webbed gloves to propel you safely down the river. It’s ideal for summer river levels and promises to be a thrill-packed adventure! Splash, based near Aberfeldy, brought River Bugging to Scotland from New Zealand in 2003 and is the most experienced provider in Scotland, offering this great sport on the Tummel and Tay rivers.

9) Rock Climbing

Climbing is one of the fastest growing sport in the UK at the moment, with Scotland being home to some of the best locations in the UK. No matter what your experience level, there is something for everyone to climb Perthshire. For beginner climbers and families, there are plenty of experienced guides that will take you to some great locations, including Gulabin Lodge Outdoor Centre and Beyond Adventure.

If you are looking for something a bit more serious, UK Climbing has an online map that outlines all the crags in your local area. Remember to always stay safe and climb within your ability!

 

10) Mountain Biking

Whether you’re bringing your own bike up or looking to give it a go for the first time, there are many great places across Perthshire for mountain biking. Comrie Croft is fast becoming one of the go to destinations for bikers, with over 87km of routes to take (all of which can also be hiked if you’d prefer something a little less strenuous). At Comrie Croft you can try out your talents on the mountain bike skills park and pump track, which is completely free to try. Bike hire is available nearby as are amenities for washing your bike and yourselves, plus tea, coffee and delicious cakes are available in the nearby tearoom, making for the perfect end of the day treat. Check out their website for more information.

 

There are no fewer than 16 mountain biking routes across Highland Perthshire, and riders can take comfort in knowing that their subsequent landowners have approved the routes. You can pick the route to your level of difficulty, with easier treks for the novices and real challenges for the experts. If you’re interested in the full map of routes, Develop Mountain Biking in Scotland have helpfully provided a series of downloadable cards on their website.

 

Get the Kids out there!

Kids love adventure, and it’s healthy for them to learn about risks while having the time of their lives. These companies specialise in thrill-seeking for kids, so they can have as much fun as you do in the wilds of Perthshire:

Willowgate Activity CentreWillowgate is the go-to place in Perth for mini (and grown-up) fun-seekers, with aqua-zorbing, paddle-boarding and kayaking all on offer. Find out about activities at Willowgate Activity Centre

Follow us on social media / get our news email

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or prefer a more relaxing activity, for all the latest news, events and information about what’s happening in Perth and Perthshire you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up to our email newsletter.

And if you’re staying overnight in Perth or Perthshire before you do your adventures, check out our accommodation section for some great hotels, guest houses and B&Bs!

Get another bite of Perth and Kinross as Cake Fest returns

Get another bite of Perth and Kinross as Cake Fest returns

After a deliciously spectacular inaugural event in 2017, Cake Fest Perth and Kinross is back for a second ‘slice of the action’ in 2018 as part of the annual Winter Festival celebrations.

Bakers of all abilities, from beginner to expert, are again being invited to take up their wooden spoons and contribute to this year’s event, by reproducing their favourite building or place in Perth and Kinross in cake form. Each sculpture will then be placed on an edible map of the area, created throughout the day by Cake Fest head baker Simon Preston.

The grand unveiling of Cake Fest 2018 will take place on Sunday 18 November 2018 as part of the Perthshire Feast event in Mill Street and Horsecross Plaza. Once complete, and after an opportunity for the public to view the eyecatching cake map, it will then be sliced up and shared with festivalgoers.

New for this year, Cake Fest will feature a redesigned, larger map and will celebrate a range of local events and anniversaries, such as the 150th anniversary of Perthshire Rugby Club. Looking back even further into local history, the Cake Fest map will also be
inspired by an ancient tradition which was banned in 1577, when Perth bakers last paraded to celebrate St. Obert, the patron saint of their trade.

Bakers taking part can choose a landmark they love to be temporarily immortalised in cake or select from a list which includes:

Available Plots 

Perth City Hall
Perth Racecourse
Perth College
Perth Museum and Art Gallery
Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery
Ossian’s Hall
Taymouth Castle
Smeatons Bridge
Blair Castle and Hercules Garden
Dunkeld Cathedral
The Gleneagles Hotel
Pitlochry Theatre
Queen’s Bridge
General Wades Bridge and the Black Watch Monument
Atholl Palace Hotel
Enchanted Forest
Perth Leisure Pool
Perth Cenotaph
Perth Grammar School
Black Watch Castle & Museum
St John’s Kirk

Taken Plots

Crannog Centre
Huntingtower Castle
Mcdairmid Football Stadium
Kinnoull Hill Tower
A K Bell Library
Perth Concert Hall
Methven Castle
Playhouse Cinema
Bridge of Earn Institute
Beatrix Potter Garden
Pitlochry Dam and Visitor Centre
Fergusson Gallery
North Inch
Cultybraggan POW Camp
Bell’s Sports Centre
Scone Palace
Balado Golf Ball
Crieff Hydro
St. Matthew’s
Innerpeffary Library
Loch Leven Castle
Birnam Oak
South Inch
St Paul’s
Blackcraig Bridgehouse

Kinross House
Drummond Castle
Elcho Castle
Glenturret (Famous Grouse) Distillery
Glenshee

 

 

If you don’t have a Gmail account, please just email your Name, Phone numebr and the building you would like to bake to simon@cakefest.org.uk

A Day at the Black Watch Museum

A Day at the Black Watch Museum

The Black Watch Museum in Balhousie Castle in Perth is a must for anyone interested in military history. The museum has been situated in the castle since the early 1960’s, and it is packed with historical artifacts from this proud old regiment.

The museum is currently running an exhibition entitled “There But Not There”. This is a fascinating presentation on some of the men lost to us during the First World War, in which nearly 9,000 Black Watch soldiers perished, and thousands more would have suffered both terrible physical and psychological wounds. The “There But Not There” exhibition has positioned around the museum life-size perspex images of a handful of these casualties with information about who they were and tales on their life and how they met their
death. There is an exhibition of artifacts that belonged soldiers fighting in the war that have been donated by their families. A very moving booklet accompanies the presentation, but perhaps the most poignant display is the outline of a life-size soldier, this can be seen as you enter the museum grounds from the car park. I have to admit I am biased as my great grandad fought in the Battle of the Somme while serving in the Black Watch. The There but Not There display can be seen at the museum until the 11th of November – Armistice Day.

There is much more to see at the Black Watch Museum. As you enter the first section takes the visitor back to the origins of the regiment which was formed when the government were struggling to control the Highlands. It was a time of civil war as the Jacobites sought to restore the exiled Stuart King’s to their lost throne. To help police the highlands and keep an eye on the Jacobite clans the government raised six companies in 1725. In 1739 another four companies were recruited, and they became the 43rd Regiment of Foot. It was first mustered at Aberfeldy in 1740, and by the river, in Aberfeldy, a distinct monument stands to commemorate this event.

The museum tells of the part played by the Black Watch at the Battle of Fontenoy in May 1745, despite the battle being a defeat for the British. The Black Watch fought so gallantly that a French officer described them as “Highland Furies”.  The regiment was sent to fight in the American War of Independence by this time it had been renumbered to the 42nd and titled the 42nd Highland Regiment of Foot, and in America, they fought with distinction.  The museum has an excellent section on the wars against Napoleons French with many weapons and uniforms on display.

As you can imagine World War One plays a significant part in the exhibition.  With many notable attractions on display.  A kilt belonging to Captain William Debnam McLaren Stewart from the Comrie area in Perthshire who was killed at the Battle of the Somme on the 25th of September 1916 is on display.  On this kilt traces of mud from the battlefield can still be seen. Captain Stewart features in the “There But Not There” commemoration.

The exhibition then goes onto the Second World War, I was fascinated by a “Tommy Helmet”.   It had been discarded by a Scottish soldier serving in the 51st Highland Division in France in 1940.  The 51st were ordered to surrender after acting as a rear guard thus allowing thousands of British and French soldiers to escape the advancing Germans and depart from the beaches of Dunkirk back to Britain to fight again.  This helmet was found in the sea at St Valery-en-Caux in 1990. For me it made an impressive display piece, I could not help wondering just who ditched this helmet and what happened to this man?

There are opportunities for the kids to dress up in uniforms and a chance to colour in with tables pens and paper provided.  So the Black Watch Museum is a thoughtful and humbling day out for all the family, I would recommend you try to take in the “There But Not There” exhibition before it ends on the 11th of November 2018.

Article by Gary Knight

Artistic Opportunities in Perth

Artistic Opportunities in Perth

Perth and Kinross Council is offering an exciting new commissioning opportunity to create a major new artwork for the city centre supporting their City Lighting Strategy. The commission will see the creation of a large mural with integrated lighting features sited on a prominent building in a main city centre thoroughfare. Bold and imaginative submissions from professional artists are sought by 21 September 2018 and the full brief can be accessed here.

Public Art Commissions – Key Commissioning Principles

Culture Perth and Kinross, in partnership with Perth and Kinross Council and through a steering group including artist, business and education representation have developed a set of key principles which underpin commissioning activity and artists seeing to respond to open calls or develop their own proposals for creating new work are asked to demonstrate how their work addresses each principle.

Who are these for:
These principles help to guide anyone involved in both the commissioning and the making of work that animates the public spaces within Perth and the surrounding area. These can also be used to support any wider creative commissioning activity such as for public programmes, visual art works or residencies within organisations.

What are they for:
They reflect the values and qualities that have emerged from discussions about Perth’s identity and how the city and wider region hopes to understand itself and be understood by others.
These principles have been developed by the team responsible for developing the Plan to animate Perth’s Public Spaces, and tested with a steering group consisting of a wide range of Perth & Kinross’ stakeholders.

How you should use them:
These principles broadly define the tone and attitudes that should run through all work commissioned and created for Perth & Kinross’ public spaces. They underpin the Vision and Plan, providing an easy-to-use set of references that you can refer back to as you develop your approach.

Create Living Memories

Temporary interventions, fleeting moments in time and time-limited performances are as welcome in Perth & Kinross as large scale sculptures and permanent murals.

In the past, much of the public art that has been commissioned for Perth & Kinross has been monolithic and eternal in nature. Over time, a number of them have inevitably lost relevance and meaning.

Ideas that embrace a shorter period of time are just as valuable as those that stand proud for years. They have the ability to live on in memory for just as long if not longer than an anonymous bronze statue.

Work in any Art Form

We want to see performances, audio installations, neons and much much more in the public spaces of Perth and Kinross. While the term public art can bring to mind sculptures and perhaps murals, there are many different ways of conveying ideas within the public domain.

Any form of creativity and any form of cultural expression is valid and valuable.

Engage People

The work that animates the public spaces of Perth and Kinross must engage local communities.

This is where people live and work: it’s critical that any projects that appear are made with insight from the communities who inhabit any spaces used.

The work created can and should engage with the multiple communities that exist within Perth & Kinross. Talk to younger adults, talk to people who are older. Listen to people whose families have lived here for generations, listen to newcomers. Work with the blue-collar worker, as well as the unemployed. Engage in both rural and urban settings.

Generate Opportunities

Creating work for public spaces provides very real opportunities for people. These might range from job opportunities to the space to think differently about issues. Projects developed for Perth & Kinross should attempt to change the landscape in some way, no matter how small. They should provide people with the chance to try something, to extend their skillset, to expand their opinions.

Be Surprising

Show people just how extraordinary a place Perth and the surrounding area is. If they’re visitors, make them want to come back. If they live here, reveal new facets of the city or region to them. Make the work accessible. Think about different times of day and night: when and how do people want to engage with Perth and Kinross? Perth could have a reputation as one of Europe’s most vibrant small cities. Work developed for Perth & Kinross’ public spaces should challenge any perceptions that people may have of the area as old-fashioned or set in its ways.

Think Sustainably

Anything commissioned for Perth and Kinross must be sustainable. We want to make sure we contribute wherever possible to the health and resilience of our communities and places. Core to this is deep thinking about the materials we use and what happens to them next. What is our legacy, and how can we ensure it’s positive rather than wasteful? Thematically, we want to see projects that engage with conversations about what sustainable living means for Perth and Kinross. While this needn’t be the focus of your idea, we’d like everyone we work with to demonstrate what sustainability means to them, and what they’re doing to contribute.

Gretchen Peters at the Southern Fried Festival

Gretchen Peters at the Southern Fried Festival

The closing act of Perth’s 2018 Southern Fried Festival was the outstanding Gretchen Peters, accompanied by her husband, Barry Walsh, on piano and accordion, and singing backing vocals. In the second half of her memorable performance she was joined by the Southern Fried String Quartet of two violins, one viola and one cello. Six people on the stage making enough beautiful noise to seem like a whole philharmonic was playing for us.

The first half of the set had songs chosen entirely by the audience through a Facebook ballot, and their choices were loved by fans old and new. Gretchen herself was impressed by the range of songs chosen, and commented that even thought she had written them, some needed dusting off, thanks to the expertise of her loyal fan base.

What followed was a flawless performance leading us through 20-plus years of songwriting from one of the leading singer-songwriters in the world today. Her songs take you on an emotional rollercoaster, although with the most glorious soundtrack, leaving you feeling like you just explored the deepest recesses of your own life and memories. In a good way of course. The songs are at the same time uplifting, thought-provoking, political, brave, bold, fierce, sensual and soothing to the musical soul. Listening to her lyrics is like being read a dozen of the most interesting works of fiction from the last 500 years, set to music, sung by the most melodic and stunning voice, but with added
chapters on human emotions. Each song is like a life story crammed into a few minutes, and her lyrics have to be up there with the great lyricists and musical poets of the 20 th century.

So what did she perform? Starting her set with the haunting song about religion, Dark Angel, originally a duet with Rodney Crowell on her 2011/12 album “Hello Cruel World”. Rodney, a minister, incidentally officiated at the wedding of Peters and Walsh, and the song was written following a time of great personal turmoil in Gretchen’s life.

Following swiftly on from Dark Angel was The Matador, taken from the same album, a glorious exploration of duende, which certainly did heighten feelings of emotion. Next came a song written by the multi-talented Tom Russell, Guadalupe. Gretchen recorded Tom’s song in 2008. Tom, as well as being a noted songwriter in the Americana genre (he also does rock, folk and cowboy), is an accomplished artist and writer, having written a crime novel and other books. His own life has been eclectic, moving around the world, and playing, amongst other places, in strip joints, working as a New York cab driver and guesting on the Letterman show. Like Gretchen, his own life provides more than enough material for a lifetime of songs. Gretchen was accompanied by Barry switching to an ornate and exquisite accordion, to perform in this segment.

Gretchen then delighted with her tale of visiting the ghostly air base near Peterborough where her father was stationed as a pilot in WW2, and how her father’s plane crashing into the North Sea inspired The Aviator’s Song. She followed that with a newer song, Dancing with the Beast from her latest 2018 album of the same name.Later in the set she wowed the crowd with Disappearing Act, Arguing with Ghosts and Love that Makes a Cup of Tea, also from Dancing with the Beast.

Moving to the piano herself, Gretchen gave a flawless rendition of the song she says changed her life, Independence Day, taken from the 1992/3 album The Secret of Life, and going by her songs and emotionally intelligent lyrics, I think she might just know it. Her last two songs of the first set were Arguing with Ghosts, and an extraordinary song about the ordinary trials and tribulations of everyday life, 5 Minutes.

Joined on stage after the break by the Southern Fried String Quartet, who Gretchen wanted to keep forever, she delighted with Love that Makes a Cup of Tea and The Secret of Life (taken from the album of the same name and recorded by Faith Hill in 1999).

The remainder of the set included some amazing instrumental pieces with Gretchen on guitar (including a switch to a Gibson), Barry on piano and the strings, filling the auditorium with music for six very talented musicians. Belting out Revival (recorded by the late great Jimmy la Fave), Blackbirds (co-written with Ben Glover) and taking on the controversial topics of incest and murder with some fearless songwriting.The set closed with When you Love Someone, written with her long-time friend and musical partner Bryan Adams, and featured in the film Hope Floats.

At the end of a fabulous night the audience enthralled by her (and her fellow musicians), it just wasn’t time to leave yet. After a standing ovation Gretchen, Barry and the String Quartet returned to reward us with one final song, taken from her 1996 album The Secret of Life, the gorgeous When You are Old.

And with that they were gone…goodnight and adieu to Southern Fried Festival 2018, roll on 2019!

Stories and Legends of Kinclaven Castle

Stories and Legends of Kinclaven Castle

Grahame Church Blair Castle

Kinclaven Castle sits where the Rivers Isla and Tay converge about 12 miles north of Perth between the Fair City and Blairgowrie.  Now a ruin, forgotten, tired and silent its stories lost in the midst of time.   But if the crumbling stonework could speak then what a story it would tell for the castle’s tales and legends give us an indication of its lost importance.

Malcolm Canmore is thought to have built the castle in the 11th century and his queen, Margaret later Saint Margaret received the homage of the Celtic magnates at Kinclaven Castle. The citadel was a favourite of Alexander III  and while he was staying there in 1264 a carriage of wine was taken to supply the royal guest and his escort.

In 1297 Scotland was at war with the might of England, things did not start well with the Scots army being defeated at the Battle of Dunbar and the capture and forced exile of John I King of Scots in 1296.  William Wallace and Andrew de Moray were fighting back and would shatter an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge on 11th September 1297.

Before Wallace’s success at Stirling, he was hiding in Methven woods a vast wooded area to the west of Perth.  Wallace had heard that 90 mounted troops were to be sent from Perth to reinforce Kinclaven Castle, which was being held by the English. Wallace decided to ambush the English cavalry detachment.  Wallace and his men lay in wait as the horsemen travelled north from Perth as they passed the Scots pounced, in a running battle around 60 of the riders were slain.  The other 30 managed to get to the castle with the Scottish attackers hot in pursuit.   Wallace’s men gained entry into Kinclaven Castle, and in the fighting, all the English were massacred including the women.  Whether this act of slaughter happened is open to question, it might be English propaganda, or perhaps it was done as a response to Edward I of England ordering the inhabitants of Scotland’s busiest port Berwick upon Tweed killed after he captured the town in 1296. In the fighting, Wallace slew the castle commander Sir James Butler and then destroyed the castle.  The English rebuilt the Kinclaven, and it changed hands several times during the war, Edward II of England visited the castle and stayed for a few nights while on campaigning in the area.

A legend from before Wallace ’s attack states that the man who killed the rebel leader Simon de Montford at the Battle of Evesham in 1265 was a member of the castle garrison.  This Knight was playing around with some of the young maidens in the castle retinue.  He then went down to the river to wash mud from his hands, one of the young women crept up behind him and playfully pushed him into the river, he took this in good humour and laughingly splashed his prankster with water.   Perhaps he was struck by cramp in the cold river or was caught in an undercurrent he soon got into difficulties.  His young son standing on the riverbank dived into the river to save his struggling father.  Tragically both father and son were swept to their deaths.

A legend from before Wallace ’s attack states that the man who killed the rebel leader Simon de Montford at the Battle of Evesham in 1265 was a member of the castle garrison.  This Knight was playing around with some of the young maidens in the castle retinue.  He then went down to the river to wash mud from his hands, one of the young women crept up behind him and playfully pushed him into the river, he took this in good humour and laughingly splashed his prankster with water.   Perhaps he was struck by cramp in the cold river or was caught in an undercurrent he soon got into difficulties.  His young son standing on the riverbank dived into the river to save his struggling father.  Tragically both father and son were swept to their deaths.

The Scotsman newspaper on the 2nd of August 1933 tells of a local song sung by the woman gathering the cattle that remembers this sad drowning.

I’ll be drooned in Isla water,

I’ll be found in Isla stream,

Bonnie Babbie me forsaken,

Oh hoo will I win hame?

 

The weary dree came in ma mou,

I’ll drink it a’ or I gang hame,

Bonnie Babbie me forsaken,

Oh hoo will I win hame?

Another legend that took place downstream at Cargill and it involves a local lass, called Jeanie Low.

David Drummond was a butler and page nearby at Stobhall Castle, he and Jeanie who lived across the river were courting, and talk of marriage was in the air.  Then to Jeanie’s dismay, David ended the relationship, for he had met another fair young maiden.   He would row his boat across the river in the evening to meet his new paramour, and return at dawn.  Jeanie understandably was heartbroken, and unable to move on with her life.  Seeing her former lover with someone new must have ripped at Jeanie’s heart and slowly corrupted her thoughts.  She knew what time David left to cross the Tay and when he returned.  She waited until David was visiting his new sweetheart, Jeanie made her way to where the boat was moored, and she jumped into the small vessel.  She had brought a brace and bit (an old hand drill for our younger readers), and she drilled seven holes into the bottom of the boat.  Jeanie then hid in some nearby bushes.

John Graham Memorial

Before long David returned to the boat, he jumped into it and without a care in the world used one of the oars to push himself out into the river.   It was dark, and he was out in the middle of the river before he realised that the boat was taking in water.  Frantically he tried to bail out the continues flow of water assailing the bottom of the vessel.  But Jeanie had drilled all the holes as far apart as possible making David’s task futile.  Jeanie watched the desperate struggle on the river and saw her former fiancé sink to his doom into the fast flowing and merciless River Tay.

Jeanie was never to recover from this act of murderous desperation, as it never brought any release to her heartache, quite the opposite, as the dark shadow of madness replaced David as her lifelong companion.

A note of caution, if you visit Kinclaven Castle.  There is nowhere to park on the narrow road, I had to park about half a mile up the road and walk the perilous verge down to the castle site

If you like this story and others that I publish here, you might want to read my stories on my blog at historyandhorrorofscotland or take one of our ghost tours running every Wednesday night at Cultybraggan Camp in Comrie. Info on our Facebook page at Haunted POW Camp Tour Cultybraggan.

Penguin Selfie Competition: Win a £100 Perth Gift Card

Penguin Selfie Competition: Win a £100 Perth Gift Card

The Penguins

For three months in summer 2018 the streets of Dundee and surrounding region (including Perth!) will be home to a trail of individually designed and beautifully decorated giant penguin sculptures. Each will showcase the wealth of artistic talent in the area, creating economic and cultural benefits. This project is brought to you by Maggie’s Centre Dundee, in partnership with Wild in Art, and will raise significant funds to support Maggie’s vital work caring for local people affected by cancer.

If you haven’t managed to have a look at the beautifully designed Penguins in Perth, make sure to have a look – they are amazing! There are 4 stylish birds to find around our city, The South Pole Position, Peacock Penguin, Don and Fair Isla!

The Competition

We love our penguins and have seen plenty of people admiring these unusual installations. So to celebrate the Penguins making it to Perth, we want to launch our very own Penguin Picture competition!

To be in with the chance of winning a £100 Perth Gift Card all you have to do is take a selfie with one of our Penguins and share it with us! Simply send your photo to perth@mi-cnx.com, get in touch via Facebook or use the hashtag #PerthPenguinParade for your chance of winning.

The competition will close on the 22nd of September and the winner will be contacted within 48 hours.

Good luck! 🤞

A Musings Special: Mini Tour de Perthshire

A Musings Special: Mini Tour de Perthshire

Early in June we were scheduled to be taking part in our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed.

But my dynamic crew did manage to meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for a couple of days for a mini Tour de Perthshire.

John and Jane – dubbed Team JayJay for the trip – kindly re-organised their holiday schedule in light of the postponement of the HebWay trip. Plan B saw them book a few nights at a local caravan park in Perth to allow us to meet up again for a couple of rides.

Spartan Race 2018

Spartan Race 2018

Do you fancy taking on a physical challenge with a bit of a difference this year? How does an endurance event requiring you to wade through muddy bogs, scale slippery 8-foot ramps, clamber up 25-foot-high cargo nets, leap over fire and more, sound to you?

Well if that has peaked your interest then you’ll be delighted to hear that one of Britain’s biggest sporting series, Spartan Race, is coming to Perth in 2018. Combining running with fun and challenging obstacles, this physical and mental test was completed by over a million people across 30 countries last year, making it the world’s leading obstacle course racing series.

The Perth event will be the only one in Scotland this year, and will take place on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th September. Designed to cater for all fitness levels, there are three main types of Spartan Race; Sprint (5km+), a Super (12km+), and a Beast (22km+). There is also a race for the little ones, and the Spartans Kids Race is for children aged between 4 and 13 over a 1.5km course.

For beginners, the Sprint race is recommended and with over 20 obstacles to overcome on the course it’s a firm favourite with both new and experienced Spartan racers. It takes an average runner around an hour and a half to complete a Spartan Sprint and each one has its own unique challenges and character. For those who have more experience in endurance events, the Super or Beast races may be more appealing.

The Perth race will kick off in the city centre with runners making their way through crowd-lined streets before they head out onto the hilly trails of Kinnoull Hill and Deuchny Woods. It’s a picturesque route with stunning views over the city and the River Tay, although you may be more focused on the obstacles ahead of you than the views behind you! Spartan Sprint is an accessible challenge; even if you’re overweight, or if you have never run before, it’s something that anyone can do.

General Manager of Spartan Race UK, Sam Lansdale, is looking forward to bringing the series to Perth and hopes as many of the local community get involved as possible.

“It’s always a pleasure to host events in Scotland,” Sam said, “in areas both of such natural and man-made beauty. Racers will find themselves drawn in by the atmosphere of the landscape. We have an event that will test mental strength, endurance, grit and perseverance. The scenery will boost enjoyment and inspire everyone to get to that finish line even faster.

“A big part of our race is about community and pushing yourself to achieve something more than you think you can. It’s about resetting your frame of reference, from wanting to sit on the couch all day long, eating junk food to going outdoors for a ten minute jog. That’s your initial step on the ladder to completing your first Spartan Sprint.

“We have mums, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and many others taking part who are maybe just looking for a new kind of fitness challenge. The Spartan Sprint is an accessible challenge; even if you’re overweight, or if you have never run before, it’s something that anyone can do.”

The sport of obstacle racing is booming as a worldwide craze and attracts millions of runners and keep-fit enthusiasts who are perhaps tired of the more traditional endurance events. Contrary to the misconception that the sport is dominated by men, 40 percent of the Spartan Race participants are women. Obstacles are kept top secret until race day in order to surprise the runners, so you can do as much research as you like but you won’t know what to expect until you see an obstacle mid-race!