Rejuvenation of Perth city center goes up another gear after new e-bike tour store opens

Despite the easing of COVID rules Perth city center is still reeling from months of closures and restrictions.

In a series of special reports, we look at how the Fair City’s retail and hospitality sector is recovering from the impact of the pandemic and what the future holds for our high street…

The rejuvenation of Perth city center has gone up another gear after a new e-bike tour store opened to the public over the weekend.

Owner Terry Arnott has been hard at work to finally launch his Highland Bike Tours shop on St John Street having been on the lookout for the perfect unit over the past two years.

Taking inspiration from his time taking locals and tourists out and about in the Netherlands, Terry is offering e-bike routes which go as far and wide as Pitlochry, Loch Leven and Crieff – all of which he will lead himself.

Terry moved to Perth at the end of 2019 to open a store before the first COVID lockdown struck.

But now that he is up and running, he hopes that his venture can help locals and visitors experience “the real” Perth and Kinross.

”The original idea came about when I was still living in Holland,” he said.

”I have done guided tours over in Holland which are very easy because everyone over there cycles anyway.

”I was based in Eindhoven and cycled over to the Belgian border for example.

”My family are also from Eindhoven and I have lived and worked all over the country and spent half my life there.

”My mum is Dutch and my father is Scottish so I am dual national.

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“I have grown up in both countries and I am bilingual, so I can do the tours in Dutch and in English!”

He added: “My father is also originally from Perth, which actually pure coincidence because he was in the Royal Navy and we traveled all over the world.

“But in 2019 I was getting a train up as far as Inverness and every time the halfway stop was Perth.

“I thought Perth was a perfect location.

“I then tried to find a location here to set up over the past two years and this is my fourth location I have landed with.

”I was almost in the Creative Exchange, I was almost in the Ice Factory, I was almost in the Salutation Hotel.

“I only got this one from trying to buy a building on Scott Street in between the Twa Tams and the taxi company.

“The guy who got that one said to me that a section of The Venue, which he owned, no longer had any use and asked if it would suit?

“And that is where I am now.

Tullibardine Distillery in Blackford will be part of one of the tour routes. Pictures by staff photographer Richard Wilkins

“I should have been open over the Easter weekend but there was a collapse and a fire in the building in recent years when it was The Venue and everything that was attached to it.

“So that had to be dealt with. But I am up and running now.”

Terry offers full and half day tours using e-bikes, which he says encourage a casual and relaxed experience with the electric motor ensuring riders do not “break a sweat”.

He explained: “From speaking to people living in Perth who have been to places like Pitlochry, they only know the main road like the A9.

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“We are on e-bikes that assists you for up to 100km travel and can go on smaller and safer routes.

“You can go to Dundee and back, Pitlochry and back, Loch Leven and back through these side roads and can do them all on one charge.

“So the start and end point is here whether you have a half day tour or a full day tour.

“We leave here at 10am and you get a full day out and even if you live here you will get to see parts of this country, which is absolutely amazing, that you probably never see in your life.

”You will be on routes and roads that most cars will not want to be on because they will go on the motorway.

“The routes will go all over and there is a maximum of five people per tour.

“In Holland I could take 20-25 because the infrastructure is designed to take that many.

”When I originally set this up for the Belgian, Dutch, German tourists in Holland they were all used to cycling and would have no problem doing a 50-75k cycle because they do it back home anyway as the infrastructure is in place.

“But the infrastructure is not here and so I want to keep it nice and easy for people.”

Terry will also have whiskey distillery tour routes on offer to celebrate the local spirit manufacturers’ vital role in the region’s history.

“In the 1970s and 80s Perth was the whiskey capital of the world and you don’t hear that anymore,” he said.

“It is high time that Perthshire distilleries are put back on the map.

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“It is something that should be highlighted and celebrated by visitors and the people of Perthshire.

“We will have tours going to Tullibardine, Glenturret, Dewars and many others because they are vitally important to Perth and Kinross.”

He added: “I really want to make the tours as flexible, relaxed and interesting as possible.

“People can wear casual clothing like jeans and t-shirts.

“Anyone who comes to Perth to see Perthshire – this is the place to do it.

“You don’t break sweat once because the e-bike assists you up the hills.

“To start I will do every single tour myself.

“Then if there is a bigger demand then I will get extra bikes and more staff.”

Terry believes improved infrastructure for cycling is needed if bike tours like his are to be a hit across the UK.

He added: “Any government in the UK where they talk about the importance of cycling, they don’t really do anything about it.

“UK councils in general are a bit poor when it comes to road maintenance or infrastructure.

“When is the last time anyone in the UK saw traffic lights just for bicycles?

“Everywhere you go in Holland people cycle and they have their own traffic light system.

“They started doing that back in the 1960s.

“I think that it is possible now since, we hope, the worst part of COVID is behind us.

“People can now start planning for the future.

“You need interaction with other companies and other people and society in general needs to move on in a positive way.

“Not just Perth but worldwide.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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