Perth Racecourse Hotels

Perth Racecourse
Bill Nicholls / geograph.org.uk

Of the 59 racecourses sited on the British mainland, five are to be found north of the border in Scotland. Of that quintet, none lie quite so far to the north as this venue on the banks of the River Tay.

Nestled within the boundaries of Scone Palace Park and adjacent to the Palace itself, this centrally located track sits only a couple of miles outside the town of Perth from which it takes its name and around 47 miles to the north of the capital city of Edinburgh. Independently owned throughout its lifetime, this gem of a track has been laying on quality racing action for 100 years now and continues to draw in the fans from near and far.

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Hotels

As the northernmost track in the UK, a trip to Perth can represent a substantial journey for many racegoers; a factor that undoubtedly increases the appeal of an overnight stay in the area. And, of course, for those seeking to take in one of the track’s multi-day meetings, accommodation is a must. Helpfully, the central location of Perth places the track within easy reach of a number of cities, all of which have plenty to offer.

Closest to the Course

Only a couple of miles from the course, and home to the most convenient train station, the city of Perth is the most obvious place to stay. Relatively small by city standards – with a population of around 47,000 – Perth nevertheless occupies a prominent place in Scottish history, having been recognised as the unofficial “capital” in years gone by.

Bearing that heritage in mind, it will be no surprise to learn that there are numerous points of historical interest in the area, including the Black Watch Castle and Museum, Greyfriars Burial Ground, and of course Scone Palace. And, for those who simply like to kick back with a pint or two following a day of racing action, the city also boasts a thriving pub scene with highlights including Robert Burns Lounge, the Tavern and the Auld Hoose, all of which are located on the bustling South Street.

In terms of accommodation options available, the Holiday Inn Perth is the closest to the course at around one mile away, with the Mercure and Travelodge only a little further afield. The Lovat Hotel and impressive Murrayshall Country Estate meanwhile are well worth a look for those seeking a more luxurious experience.

Doze in Dundee

Only around 26 miles to the east, Dundee is the next closest city to the track and, boasting around three times the population of Perth, Scotland’s fourth-largest city offers a viable and slightly busier alternative. Easily reachable by both road and rail, the city dubbed the “coolest little city in Britain” by GQ magazine in 2015 is home to a contemporary arts centre, Camperdown Country Park, and a whole host of pubs, including the highly-rated Dynamo Dundee, the George Orwell and the Abandon Ship.

Those tempted by a stay in Dundee will find a wealth of accommodation options available. Big brands represented include Best Western, Holiday Inn and Malmaison, whilst the ibis Budget is a solid choice towards the lower end of the pricing ladder. For something a little more opulent, how about the highly regarded Dream Apartments or the spectacular views of the Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa.

Head Down in Edinburgh

If Dundee is still not big enough for you, fear not. Simply head south to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, which – whilst a little further away – is still only around an hour’s journey by train, and ticks the city break box in style. Boasting an imposing castle, a family-friendly zoo, spooky underground vaults and much, much more besides, there should be something to keep all tastes entertained. If a post-race tipple is your main priority, an impressive array of bars are available including the cosy Malt Shovel Inn, the traditional Fiddler’s Arms, and the monster-themed Frankenstein.

Of our three city options, Edinburgh comes out well clear in terms of the quantity of available accommodation, with quite literally hundreds of sites from which to select. Novotel, Jurys Inns and Marriott are just three of a whole host of major chains within “Auld Reekie”, the Guards Hotel offers good value comfort, and at the top end of the scale, the Waldorf Astoria and the Royal Mile Balconies are hard to fault.

About the Racecourse

Nelson Stand at Perth Racecourse
Bill Nicholls / geograph.org.uk

Operating exclusively as a summer jumping track, the 15 fixtures of the Perth season all take place between late April and late September. Whilst the bulk of these are midweek afternoon affairs, the track does also play host to four weekend cards and a pair of popular evening fixtures. Although there are no genuinely top-class events at the track, Perth has one of the higher levels of prize money during the Spring and Summer months – a feature that helps attract runners from the top British and Irish yards.

Those heading to the track by car will find the course easily accessible from all directions, with the A93 approaching from the north, the M90 from the south, the A90 from the east and the A85 from the west. Whatever the point of origin, all motorists should ultimately navigate to the A93, with the course then being well signposted from there. For satnav users, the postcode to use is PH2 6BB. Upon arrival at the track, racegoers will find ample free parking available, with stewards on hand to guide

The closest train station to the track lies within Perth town centre. Enjoying strong links with the major connection points of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the station should be relatively straightforward to reach from most areas of the UK. From the station, punters then have the option of completing the remaining three miles of the journey by taxi, or via the bus service which operates from the Horsecross Perth Concert Hall on Mill Street on all race-days. Setting off an hour before the first race and returning 10 minutes after the last, a return ticket will set you back around £5.

The Course

Somewhere between a square and an oval in shape, Perth’s track is almost completely flat and features two tight bends, two gently sweeping turns and a home straight which is significantly longer than the backstretch. At around 1m2f in circumference, the circuit is also one of the shortest in Britain, making it well suited to nippy, well-balanced runners. In contrast, imposing, long-striding gallopers regularly struggle to maintain a rhythm around here.

Those tackling the chase course are faced with eight fences per circuit; five plain obstacles, two open ditches and a water jump in the home straight, which is omitted on the final circuit, creating a long run-in of 283 yards. Overall, the fences aren’t unduly challenging, with the first in the home straight often proving the trickiest due to coming up relatively quickly following a sharp bend. Featuring five flights per lap, the hurdle track lies on the inside of the chase course moving away from the stands, along the backstretch and back towards the stands, before then switching to the outside in the home straight. The last two obstacles lie in this home straight, with a run-in of over a furlong after the last.

Despite avoiding the colder months of the year, the ground can still get pretty testing, with the Scottish springtime in particular regularly featuring more than its fair share of rain. At the other end of the spectrum, an excellent watering system ensures that the going is very rarely too quick, even during the warm summer months. Whilst certainly not the toughest track in the land from a stamina perspective, Perth can be a little more testing than its appearance may suggest. This is largely due to the fact that the field often kicks for the winning line quite a long way from home, making that final 283 yards all the more gruelling. Overall, front runners tend to enjoy a slight edge over hold-up performers, whilst solid previous form at the track always merits respect.

Dress Code

Relaxed and comfortable is the order of the day in the main enclosures at Perth, with no official dress code in place in either the Grandstand or the picnic areas. As such, racegoers are largely free to dress as they please, whilst of course avoiding anything offensive or indecent in nature. In common with other tracks though, many racegoers do opt to arrive in smart attire on the busier race days and particularly at the popular Ladies Day fixture.

Things are a little stricter in the hospitality and restaurant areas, where smart casual is a requirement. Suits with open-neck shirts are the norm for the gents, with the ladies often opting for a dress or smart country-style clothing.

The Stands

There are two main enclosures in operation at Perth: the Grandstand Enclosure, and the Picnic Enclosure. Priced at between £20 and £30 depending on the fixture, the Grandstand enclosure grants access to the parade ring and winners enclosure, in addition to a selection of bars and eateries, including Café 1613, craft beer and ale outlet The Barn, and the Last Ditch Bar.

Only available for the busier weekend fixtures, the Picnic Enclosure is located in the centre of the track and, as the name suggests, allows racegoers to bring their own food and drink. Depending upon the meeting, tickets for this area are priced at between £15 and £25 whilst, for an additional charge, it is also possible to drive your car into the enclosure.

Students and OAP’s receive a £5 discount at all meetings, whilst under 18s go free with a paying adult. A special deal is also in place for the major spring meeting, with a ticket covering all three days costing just £50 – representing a significant saving. In addition to the standard options, a range of hospitality deals are available. Meal packages on the Tay Bistro, the Last Fence and the Galileo Restaurant generally begin at £70, £110 and £132 respectively, with the Amberleigh Suite and the Kauto Star Suite coming in at £100 and £250 per head.

Upcoming Fixtures at Perth

Date Time Type Surface
Wednesday 24th April 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Thursday 25th April 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Friday 26th April 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Wednesday 15th May 2024 Evening Jump Turf
Thursday 16th May 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Sunday 9th June 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Thursday 4th July 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Sunday 14th July 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Saturday 17th August 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Monday 9th September 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Wednesday 25th September 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Thursday 26th September 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Tuesday 22nd October 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf

Major Meetings

Perth Racecourse meeting
gordon.milligan / Flickr.com

Although 15 meetings a year may be a relatively small number, Perth certainly crams a lot into those fixtures, with days dedicated to the Ladies, Family Fun and the Armed Forces, in addition to its very own Gold Cup in June. Popular as each of those meetings are, they do come in just a little behind the track’s three biggest fixtures.

April Festival

The meeting for which Perth is best known is that which kicks off the season each year in April. Running from Wednesday through to Friday, this fixture regularly attracts the top English and Irish trainers – with Gordon Elliott in particular being a frequent visitor. Combining the excitement of a new season with excellent action on the track – the headline act being the Highland National on the closing day – the midweek nature of the meeting does little to deter the crowds at what is a hugely popular fixture.

Summer Carnival

Just about the hottest single-day tickets are for this mid-August Saturday afternoon meeting. Benefitting from its punter-friendly scheduling, regularly being bathed in sunshine, and providing a whole host of additional entertainment – including live music by a big name act – it is no surprise that this meeting regularly sells out well in advance. It’s not all about the entertainment in the stands though – the action on the track is also well up to scratch, with the competitive Class 2 Stone of Destiny Handicap Hurdle being the star attraction.

Glorious Finale

Like all good things, the racing season at Perth must come to an end, but it does at least go out in style at this two-day late September meeting. Held continuously at the track since 1908 – and reportedly from as early as 1613 at the former South Inch Venue – this is comfortably the oldest fixture at the course and remains one of its most popular. Taking place on a Wednesday and Thursday, a total of 13 contests are on offer over the course of the two days, with live music in The Barn then keeping the party going after racing. There is always something of a celebratory feel to this fixture, with the Perth natives turning out in their droves to see the track off into its winter holiday.

History

Perth Racecourse finishing post
Bill Nicholls / geograph.org.uk

Originally taking place in South Inch Park, there are reports of racing in this corner of Perthshire from as early as 1613. Subsequently moving the short distance to North Inch Park, Perth initially offered a mixture of flat and National Hunt action, with the jumps slowly but surely coming to dominate over the years.

The track’s initial run was brought to a temporary halt thanks to the ante-racing crusade of Oliver Cromwell in the mid-1600s, but thankfully, the racing-mad monarch King Charles II overruled that vendetta upon his ascension to the throne. Boosted further by the support of the Royal Caledonian Hunt Club who introduced the Caledonian Gold Cup in 1681, the track began to experience steadily rising attendances.

Alcohol Ban

All remained well until the early 20th Century, with the introduction of an alcohol ban in the North Inch Park locale somewhat predictably seeing those impressive attendances take a swift and dramatic nosedive.

To the relief of those locals who like to enjoy the pleasures of drinking and betting in tandem, Lord Mansfield swept to the rescue, offering up his land to be used for the construction of an entirely new course. Opening at the fresh site in 1908, the track has remained in the shadows of Scone Palace ever since, with the foundations of the grandstand used at that very first meeting still in place to this day.

Jonjo O’Neill Record

Moving ahead to more modern times and 1978 saw Jonjo O’Neill hit the headlines at the track when breaking the record for the most wins in a single season by a national hunt rider. Impressive at the time, his tally of 125 has since been repeatedly demolished by Sir Anthony McCoy.

Bindaree Chase Debut

Perhaps the most notable equine performer at the course came in the year 2000, with 2002 Grand National hero, Bindaree making his chase debut at the course – showing a sign of things to come when romping home by 19 lengths.

Owned by the Mansfield Family

A proudly independent track, ownership remains in the hands of the Mansfield family, but these days it is a specially appointed committee who are the decision-makers. And they seem to be making a pretty good job of it too, with the fixture list more than doubling from a regular tally of seven during the 1980s, and the track being handed the title of Best Racecourse in the North on seven occasions between 2003 and 2012. Showing no signs of slowing down, it would be no surprise should the track add to that awards tally in the years to come.