The Lade from inside the Mercure Hotel Perth

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Perth Lade Walk Sign - The Lade from inside the Mercure hotelOver the weekend we ended up viewing the lade from inside the Mercure Hotel, Perth formally known as Ramada Jarvis at the Upper City Mills. In a previous article about the Lade I mentioned this hotel. And if you remember … this hotel has something unique as you will soon discover. In fact we met a lovely receptionist called Gillian inside at the reception desk. She was so helpful. Moreover she allowed me to take some photos from the hotel garden, inside the main reception area and lounge.

Mercure Hotel Garden

We first went out into the garden. You could see where they had still kept some of the implements for the mills hanging from the wall. Furthermore there were some stone mill wheels and some metal cogs (like wheels but with teeth) also in the garden.


All you could hear in the garden was the sound of the Lade flowing at such a great speed. Moreover you can see from the photo below that the Lade splits in two in the hotel garden.

Perth Town Lade - The Lade from inside the Mercure hotel



But where were those 2 channels flowing to?  There is only one place they could be flowing  and that’s straight into the hotel!  And you can view the lade from inside the Mercure Hotel.


Gillian also gave me a leaflet that the Mercure Hotel have produced for their guests. I have taken some of that information and placed it here…

The History of The City Mills


The history of the City Mills dates back to the 10th Century with the city lade, the source of the water that you can see today flowing through the hotel. There is evidence that suggests that it pre-dates the reign of Malcom Canmore, who famously deposed Macbeth and married Saint Margaret of Scotland.


The lade supplied the motive power to the mills. A man-made waterway, it flows from the River Almond at Almondbank, north of the city, a distance of around four and a half miles before emptying into the River Tay just below the “Old Bridge”.


Legend has it that the lade was dug in one night by the military and was therefore named the “Kings Lade”.  What is know is that it was part of the defences of the medieval city of Perth.


Below the Lower City Mills currently occupied by the Tourist Information Bureau, the lade originally split into two with one branch following the line of the modern South Methven Street, Canal Crescent and Canal Street. This branch silted up regularly and fell out of use in the 19th Century. The other branch currently flows underneath Mill Street. It can be seen at the end of Skinnergate, one of Perth’s oldest streets. Nearby, in Alberts Close, stands the last remnant of the Old City Wall.

The First Mill On This Site

The first mill on this site appeared around the beginning of the 12th Century. They were apparently gifted to the crown in the following century but in 1375, by Fen charter, the mills were given to the people of the city by King Robert the Third, and they were renamed ‘The City Mills’.


The area to the west of the lade housed flour, meal and barley mills, kilns and a granary and an oil mill. Together, with ownership of the waterfall at Tulloch, all provided an important part of burgh revenues.


Throughout the centuries the mills suffered quite a few fires but each time the town rebuilt them. The last, indeed the only record of repairs to the Mills was in 1879 – the cost being 11  pounds. In the twentieth century they fell into disuse, finally closing in the 1930’s.


In the 1970’s the derelict building was developed as a hotel with help from the Civic Trust Scheme.  The award winning conversion has retained many of the features of the old mill.  Guests can follow the flow of water through the hotel as it splits to power the wheel opposite Reception and joins and splits again in the Lounge Bar where the oldest parts of the structure can be viewed through one of the viewing ports.


The Lade from inside the Mercure Hotel

Mill Wheel - The Lade from inside the Mercure hotel


Here are some photos I took today from inside the Mercure Hotel reception area of those viewing ports on floor as well as to the left side and inside the Lounge Bar.

View of lade from inside the Mercure Hotel Reception
The Lade from inside the Mercure Hotel – Large Mill Wheel
Mill Wheel from Mercure Hotel Bar lounge - The Lade from inside the Mercure hotel
The Lade from inside the Mercure Hotel – below the mill wheel you can view the fast flowing water

The Old Granary

The Old Granary at Perth Lade

The Lade then flows out of the hotel again at the Granary flowing towards Lower City Mills. While you can see many old mill wheels against the walls of the old buildings.

Perth Town Lade


Mill Wheel Lower CIty Mills Perth


The Town Lade and the City Mills

Town lade and the city mills

Then there is this wall plaque full of more information which I have copied here for anyone who has difficulty reading text on photographs.


The Lade from inside the Mercure hotel

upper and lower city mills Perth drawing
The Lade from inside the Mercure hotel

Map showing users of Perth town lade



As you look over the wall

…the water that you see has just been through the lower city mill where it powered the large undershot wheel. The water is taken out of the river Almond, four miles west of Perth. It is now being channeled to join the Tay below the old bridge.


This is the lower part of Perth’s lade, the Scots term for mill stream. And it has been in existence since at least the 12th century.


Scottish charters of 1153 make reference to several mills, built to grind oats and bere, a primitive form of barley by means of water power. Previously these tasks would have been done using a hand turned stone of quern.


Mills owned by the important medieval Mercer family were gifted to King Malcom III and renamed the King’s mills. In 1375 Robert II gave them back to the city fathers and inhabitants of Perth.

Perth lade leaflet 3


Water in the lade was also used for defence.

In 1306 Edward 1, occupying Perth, ordered a new ditch to be dug, which may have been an extension of the lade to the west and south. With this defence and the fact that Perth could be provisioned, via the River Tay, meant that it was not until 1313 that Robert the Bruce could recapture the city.


The junction where the lade forked to provide water for the Balhousie mill was known as the Boot of Balhousie. The Laird of Balhousie asked the king for permission to take a bootful of water from the lade, and this was granted.


The Laird is reputed to have used a boot with no sole, thus ensuring a constant supply of water for his mill. Perhaps the more likely explanation is that the Scots word ‘bowt’ or ‘boult’ means a gap.

leaflet on Perth lade


Small boats used to off load coal

After passing through the City mills, a southern spur of the lade flowed south along the line of South Methven Street. Around Canal Cresent. And turned east along Canal Street where small boats were used to off load coal from larger boats on the Tay. While flour from the mills was also transported.


A smaller branch of the lade continued south along the line of King Stree, across the South Inch to link up with the Craigie burn. This extension was covered over in 1802.


The success of the mill was assured. Farmers were required to bring their grain to be ground. And had to pay a duty of between 1/24th and 1/13th of the total to the miller. And also to pay a small cash levy to the miller’s servant. They might also be called upon to help with repairs, and maintaining the lades.

Perth lade information leaflet 2



The building of the upper mill, now the City Mills Hotel, dates from 1774 and 1792. And still retains many of the original features. The lower mill with its large undershot wheel dates from 1808 and specialised in grinding oats. Recently restored they are worth further inspection. In 1807 a survey reported that the mills of the King’s lade were worked by four falls. These totalled about 13 feet from the upper mill to the lower mill. The volume of water in the King’s lade in October was 3180 cubic feet. And the calculations suggested that if properly harnessed this would produce the equivalent of a 60 horse power steam engine.


The City Mills finally closed in 1966. The Upper City Mills were converted into the City Mills Hotel. While the Lower City Mills, which were just as the last miller had left them were renovated. With financial assistance from various agencies. And are now open to the public.

Perth lade information leaflet


I hope you enjoyed reading a little more about the lade from inside the Mercure Hotel.

Rosie Nixon
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Rosie is based in Perth, Perthshire as a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the Scottish outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at the only photographic gallery in Scotland - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh.

10 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Edith Hope

    Dear Rosie, What a very enjoyable day you appear to have had. It is so good to see old buildings, which may otherwise fall into disrepair, take on a new lease of life. I was fascinated by the history of this one.

  2. Avatar
    Heidi (GippslandGardener)

    I was fascinated by your earlier account of the lade and found this one just as interesting! Would love to visit the Hotel and have a look 🙂 Sadly my computer doesn't seem to want to display all the photos today, so I'll have to pop back for another look later.

  3. Avatar

    Hi everyone and thanks for the comments so far – been doing things behind the scenes this latter part of the week so not been able to get to all of your own blogs to comment.

    April the sluice gates I think you are referring to are at Weir's Low at my previous post. They are metal gates that control the amount of water that flows into the lade from the River Almond. The gates are manually operated. Hope that helps.

    🙂 Rosie

  4. Avatar

    Hello Rosie, Thank you for giving us this historical tour of the lade and mill. I do love Scotland! and all it's history, the beauty of the stone work and cobblestone streets.. and you made us feel so welcome on the tour. 😉

  5. Avatar

    By the way Rosie, thank you for the heads up on the Cloud Appreciation Society; I am now a member! 😉

  6. Avatar

    Great post, and very informative! I love the pictures you posted of the mill…there's one in a nearby town that is old to us, 16th century. But yours is definitely much neater 😀

  7. Avatar
  8. Avatar

    What a Wonderful Post…Thank you for sharing this and educating me of your part of the world. You live amongst so much history and the lessons you shared are appreciated. I will visit again soon. From my home to yours…
    Blessings Be Yours

  9. Avatar

    What an interesting hotel reception area, it's lovely to see them making a feature of the Lade rather than hiding it away under the floor.

  10. Avatar

    Hi Rosie,
    I had a most excellent time reading about the history of the Lade and the Mill / Hotel. Just might need to take a trip north next time I visit the British Isles.

Comments are closed.