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Visiting Perth, Scotland, with its striking skyline at the Tay River: Victorian Gothic at the spired St Matthew's church

Updated on July 31, 2015
Flag of Scotland
Flag of Scotland | Source
River Tay looking south from the Old Bridge
River Tay looking south from the Old Bridge | Source
St Matthew's church, Tay Street, Perth
St Matthew's church, Tay Street, Perth | Source
Map location of Perth, Scotland
Map location of Perth, Scotland | Source

Memorable riverside view of the former West Church's spire

Visitors to the royal burgh of Perth may note that the Tay is Scotland's longest river and its natural and scenic heritage may be said to be among the treasures of Scotland. The river is also the largest in the United Kingdom by volume of discharge. Over the years, the Tay at the town of Perth has proved susceptible to flooding, with particularly high waters having been experienced here in the years 1210, 1648, 1814 and 1993.

The memorable skyline at Perth is in no small measure owing to the presence of the tall spire of St Matthew's church, Tay Street. This skyline may be viewed to particularly impressive effect from the Tay River running through Perth.

The main part of the edifice known as St Matthew's Church was built from 1869 to 1871. Its architect was John Honeyman, who worked in Victorian Gothic style. This style as evidenced at St Matthews is otherwise sometimes known as Early English Gothic. Further parts were added later in the 19th century. An organ by J. West Walker was installed in 1896.

The tall spire at St Matthews and its location overlooking the Tay has had the effect of making it a major landmark of Perth. Indeed, generations of visitors have photographed it.

The congregational history of St Matthews may be noted as being very complex. It was formerly known as the West Church. Its congregation is Presbyterian (1).

Also worth seeing

In the town of Perth itself, other noted ecclesiastical architecture includes: St John's Kirk, dating from the 13th century, which is the oldest standing building in Perth; St.-Leonards-in-the Fields, with a crown tower feature, dates from 1885.

The Salutation Hotel, with a striking white frontage, dates from 1699. The Perth Museum and Art Gallery, with its imposing dome and pillared frontage, is among the oldest museums in Great Britain. The Smeaton's Bridge over the Tay River, dating from 1766, possesses a solidity which has enable it to survive occasional flooding (see also above). The building known as the Fair Maid's House dates from the 15th century, a reputed occupant featuring in Sir Walter Scott's 1828 A Fair Maid of Perth.

Scone (distance: approx. 4.8 kilometres) is a village associated in the Middle Ages with the kings of Scotland and is their ancient coronation site. The now disappeared Scone Abbey formerly housed the coronation stone known as the Stone of Destiny. Scone Palace, in Georgian Gothic style, dating from 1808, attracts many visitors.


(1) Beyond this statement, I will forbear to attempt to be more specific: it is difficult for an outsider to grasp adequately the subtle nuances of the history of Presbyterianism in Scotland, and how they have applied in particular localities.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to both Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports, where car rental is available. Rail services connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with Perth. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, travellers are advised to check with the airline or their travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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