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Issue 101 - Angus & Dundee

Scotland Magazine Issue 101
November 2018


Copyright Scotland Magazine © 1999-2018. All rights reserved. To use or reproduce part or all of this article please contact us for details of how you can do so legally.

Angus & Dundee

This oft-overlooked part of the country is home to historic monuments, beautiful glens and now the V&A

I cannot recall a time in Scotland when there has been such a sense of anticipation and pride at the opening of a new attraction.

Certainly, nothing in my mind matches that of the September launch of the new V&A Dundee, Scotland’s first design museum. For months, the nation has keenly observed the construction of acclaimed architect Kengo Kuma’s inspired plan - a building that is certain to become an icon of British architectural heritage. Inspired by the cliffs on Scotland’s northeastern coastline, the building’s horizontal lines weave effortlessly to create patterns of shadow that alter with the weather and light. With its location on the waterline and the presence of water pools around the museum, the core desires to connect the new structure with the River Tay and offer a permanent nod to the city’s long shipbuilding and maritime heritage are ensured. The jewel in the crown of Dundee’s remarkable new waterfront, the museum symbolises years of progress to transform this once down-on-itself city into a veritable culture hub.

From the moment of entry, visitors have their breath taken away as a vast space of some 8,445 square metres reaches up and outwards to envelop them. From the spatial welcome of the immense main hall, visitors take on the upper-level galleries that burst with attention-grabbing items of every type imaginable.

The Scottish Design Galleries within feature 300 exhibitions, which bring together the V&A’s collections of Scottish design and augments them with items from museums and private collections worldwide. Paying tribute to everything from the Jacobites to Dundee’s leading role in videogame design, every tastefully selected item on display has clearly involved an enormous amount of deliberation.

As a Glasgow boy, I am of course particularly drawn to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room. A painstakingly detailed restoration of a structure hidden from public view for 50 years, this sizable room once formed part of Miss Cranston’s famous Ingram Street Tearooms in 1908, before slipping into deep slumber in the vast archives within Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall.

Warm oak panelling and classically vibrant glass decorations create an astonishing ambiance (even in a completely unfurnished space) in what is a 13.5 metre, double-height interior room. That one of Mackintosh’s most impressive achievements should once again be on proud display, and in such a world-class setting, is an entirely appropriate way to honour his legacy.

Also vying for most impactful installation is the V&A’s inaugural exhibition: Ocean Liners: Speed and Style. Intended to take audiences on a nostalgic look at ‘the golden age of ocean travel’, it delves into the cultural impact of ocean liner adventure - not to mention yet another salute to waterbound possibilities.

Models, furniture, artwork, sculptures and visuals combine to take visitors on a trail that can’t help but make you smile. It’s all very Some Like it Hot, as life aboard the ‘giant floating palaces’ portray a journey of fun, romance and excitement as new opportunities presented themselves to more affluent travellers.

I love everything about what the V&A represents and is guaranteed to achieve. I am delighted that Scotland’s well-trodden tourist routes and predictable itineraries may suddenly require a serious re-think because of the arrival of this superlative visitor attraction. I happily sense the pride of the people of Dundee who, deservedly, have the world’s media spotlight beaming on their city like never before. I am warmly reflective on how similar Dundee is to my own home city of Glasgow, with its seafaring past and indebtedness to its trade routes, and how it has followed a parallel path in recent years by redefining itself through repurposing its rich culture and architectural heritage. Both great cities have had to endure the social consequences of long and deep economic hardship, yet both have big personalities and have looked to their past in order to present new and more promising futures.

Speaking of Dundee’s past, I have long been a huge fan of this city’s proud cultural offerings. The city is affectionately known as the home of ‘jute, jam and journalism’ and you don’t have to look too far to spot the nostalgic tributes. DC Thomson, which to this day is a cornerstone of the city’s economy, is Scotland’s best-known publisher and is famous for creating comic book icons including Oor Wullie, The Broons, Minnie the Minx, Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan. The latter’s bronze statue stands proudly on the city’s High Street, looking every bit the self-satisfied rogue, while the beautifully designed McManus Art Gallery and Museum has numerous tributes to comic book characters that have had kids and adults in stitches for decades.

That Peter Pan’s creator, J M Barrie, was born in nearby Kirriemuir is further proof that there’s pixie dust in the water here to help create whimsical characters to make us all chuckle. The author’s 19th-century birthplace can still be visited in the town in what is a thoughtfully unembellished look at his early life and the evolution of this great carefree mind that birthed a character whose childlike defiance still touches young readers today.

Perhaps less well-known in the city’s fame stakes, jam equally nourished the economic roots of the city. Dundonians Janet and James Keiller (mother and son) are said to have been the geniuses behind commercial production of marmalade in the late 18th century, going on to become world leaders in sales of this fine preserve. Making use of some past-their-best Seville oranges, their inspired addition of rind to a work-in-progress recipe brought a new vibrancy to tea time.

Turning to the third in the city’s trilogy, jute, this additional and fascinating chapter in the city’s claims to fame has been acknowledged and paid due tribute at Verdant Works. This brilliant museum is dedicated to the unexpected industry that helped put Dundee on the worldwide trading map - it brought decades’ worth of economic benefit in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dundee had long experience in weaving, whaling and shipbuilding, and turned to all three in order to become the world's leading jute producer. Weaving mills, already in place as far back as the 1500s, ensured infrastructure and experienced labour. Readily accessible whale oil was key to softening the jute and the construction of trading fleets was necessary to carry the raw materials from the sub-continent back to Scotland. Jute itself was used in various everyday products including sacking, rope and wagon covers, and, while the process began in India, the manufacturing occurred here until the mid-20th century when Calcutta eventually took over. Set within a refurbished jute mill, Verdant Works’ authenticity is matched only by its presentation as visitors are taken on a very personal journey of what would once have been a frenetic and dangerous workplace.

Brace yourself for a full appreciation of the challenging working and living conditions in 19th-century Dundee, as jute barons pulled in big money while the floor workers struggled to make ends meet. An industry that employed 50,000 people in its heyday (mostly women and children), the original Verdant Works itself employed 500 and were neighboured by 60 other steampowered textile mills. In many ways, it’s the image of that mill-strewn cityscape that perhaps most epitomises Dundee at its industrial peak - and delivered its nickname of ‘Juteopolis’.

That the new V&A has plopped itself Tay-side, right next door to the iconic Royal Research Ship Discovery is no coincidence. The two side by side, framed by the river, make for an image that is surely on course to become one of Scotland’s most recognisable. Discovery Point Visitor Centre, where this classic pioneering vessel is berthed, tells the tale of exciting expeditions to the unchartered waters of the Antarctic by the exploration titan, Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his bold crew. With the emphasis very much placed more on scientific exploration than any sort of frivolous race to the South Pole, the research team returned with ground-breaking discoveries, including the identification of over 500 new marine animals, the first sighting of an emperor penguin rookery, and the mapping of hundreds of miles of previously unknown coast and glaciers.

The Discovery Point Visitor Centre is an excellent attraction in its own right - noting not just the trips to the ends of the earth for RRS Discovery but the full lifespan of the ship more generally. Built in 1900, the berthed ship itself can be explored and the tour gives all that you need to know about the conditions on board. How appalling it must have been to be trapped in the ice for a period of two winters, with repetitive rations and shipmates you surely would have been thoroughly sick of the sight WHERE TO EAT of. Later in the 20th century, Discovery was to return to the waves and headed on various other worldwide adventurers before eventually coming home to Dundee in 1986 to be enjoyed by new generations.

Beyond the city limits, Angus is a region rich in diverse and fascinating historical remnants. The seaside resort of Arbroath boasts the ruins that hold Scotland’s stated desire to pursue greater independence, arguably our most famous piece of paper: the Declaration of Arbroath.

Arbroath Abbey is a beautiful sandstone structure that can trace its foundations back to 1178 and it was here in 1320 that the abbot dispatched this priceless document to the Pope - pledging the support of Scotland’s noble houses to pursue their choice of a new king. A replica of the declaration can be inspected to this day within the ruin and its stirring lines still deliver all the power of its intended impact: ‘It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.’

Boasting all the evocative romance and melancholy of the Scottish Borders’ abbeys in particular (the glowing red sandstone building was predictably decimated during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation) it retains much of its aura, despite the rather scattered state of its remains today. Afterwards, enjoy a walk around the coastal town and be sure to find yourself an inimitable Arbroath smokie (a locally smoked haddock).

The region’s two leading castles also delightfully display the extremes of what Scottish mansions have to offer. Glamis is the picture of royal opulence and grand living, while Edzell is another crumbling sandstone relic of intrinsic, intimate beauty. The latter retains a uniqueness thanks to its Renaissance walled garden, the perfect place for creative contemplation.

Seat of the Lindsays, who were often referred to as carefree in their approach to life, they held the earldom of Crawford and Edzell Castle was the family home for generations. After gazing down over the gardens from the 16th-century tower, few would question the family’s sense of exquisite taste and very obvious desire for serenity. Intricate carved panels decorate the garden’s enclosing walls, immaculate bedding plants display effortless vibrancy and wildlife, including red squirrels and barn owls, can often be spotted.

Intimate and dainty as Edzell is, Glamis Castle does its utmost to push some very different buttons for the castle interiors fanatic. Booming Scottish Baronial grandeur, its dramatic architecture appeals to many for its sense of power and royal significance. It has been claimed to have been the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth - in truth this is little more than a playful myth because it was built quite some time after his death. However, factor in the current monarch’s connection to the castle, that it was the birthplace of HRH The Princess Margaret and a favourite of the late HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and you’ve got yourself one of Scotland’s most royal mansions.

Only 12 miles north of Dundee, the long driveway and vast grounds surrounding the castle make it feel worlds away from urban distractions. Guided tours give the visitor a wealth of information on the castle’s backstory as you explore extensive suites and rooms with vaulted ceilings, decorative armouries, and rich décor teasing at the history within these old walls.

Outstanding architecture and castles oozing noble and royal life are all well and good but Angus is also home to some of Scotland’s most ancient remains; the kind which present more questions than answers and that only ever-so-slightly illuminate pre-historic chapters of a simpler life.

The pick of the bunch for history hunters are the Aberlemno Stones. Three giant monoliths dating from the 7th-9th century stand proudly by the roadside north east of Forfar, while a fourth occupies the village’s churchyard. Pictish symbol stones are to be found throughout these parts and further north into Aberdeenshire and Moray - lonely reminders of thousands of years of history. Were they weather-forecasting aids, alliance indicators, works of art, or shrines? We will never know for sure.

The vast tracts of wilderness to be found in the Angus Glens are rare remaining examples of total Highland isolation to the northeast of central Scotland. Even in the height of summer, the five remote glens of Clova, Esk, Isla, Lethnot and Prosen generally involve an arduous enough approach to dissuade all but the most determined travellers. They boast endless opportunities to find total serenity in diverse landscapes that are seemingly so removed from Scotland’s central belt that they have an almost island-like feel. Babbling brooks, waterfalls, golden eagles and the occasional herd of deer should be enough to entice most, however.

Leaving all signs of habitation behind at Kirriemuir, the drive north up Glen Clova is a particular beauty. A 20-mile meander will end at Glen Doll and the popular walk to Corrie Fee. The gentle landscapes encountered up to this point begin to appear much more intimidating as one enters the southern limits of the mighty Cairngorms National Park.

Emerging from forest into an astonishingly vertical, horseshoe-shaped amphitheatre, this glacial masterpiece is one of the best vistas in the Southern Highlands and the starting point for an ascent that can take in two Munros in Driesh and Mayar. Both of my trips to these majestic peaks have been met with near-zero visibility weather so, unfortunately, I cannot personally testify to the quality of the summit views. Both, however, are generally regarded as excellent starting points for the Munro-bagging novice.

Similarly matched, especially as we move into winter, one of my top hikes last year involved wading in deep snow for the easy ascent of Mount Blair at the head of Glen Isla. Hinting at the Highland magnificence further north, the views in all directions are a fine reward for such a short ascent. As a true fanatic for Scotland’s hills, I promise a whetting of the appetite for first-time visitors to these glens and a guarantee that deeper exploration will soon follow.

These are hugely exciting times for Dundee. While the V&A opening is the clear culmination of years of planning, pride, expense and passion, it will serve to alert us all to the wider promise of oft-overlooked Angus as a region rich in tourism appeal. Dundee is now one of the most culturally strong cities in Europe and is back on the worldwide map in a way that will hopefully surpass even the golden ‘Juteopolis’ age. But, unlike those blearyeyed years of near-total economic reliance on mill production, the future looks much more eclectic. Casting the net wider and adding in Angus’s castles, abbeys, hikes and landscapes suggest we’ll all be watching on in admiration as the appreciation of this ancient region grows and grows.



A restored textile mill, now a museum that tells the tale of Dundee’s 19th century golden age as a Jute capital. +44 (0) 1382 309 060


Discover the story of Scott, Shackleton and their brave crew, before climbing aboard the 3-masted RRS Discovery. +44 (0) 01382 309 060

V&A DUNDEE Dundee, DD1 4EZ

The first Victoria & Albert museum outside of London and also Scotland’s first design museum. The collections are housed in a striking cliff-like building by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. +44 (0) 1382 411 611


Visit the birthplace of J M Barrie, the worldfamous creator of Peter Pan. This traditional weaver’s cottage has been sympathetically transformed into a museum. +44 (0) 1575 572 646


With the majestic Camperdown House, which was designed by the famous architect William Burn in 1828, at its heart, this 400-acre public park is the largest in Dundee and is host to numerous familyfriendly events all year round. +44 (0) 1382 433 104


Nestled within Camperdown Country Park, the Wildlife Centre is open all year round and home to a wide variety of native and non-native animals. +44 (0) 1382 431 811


Housed in a Gothic Revival-style building, Dundee’s art gallery and museum celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017. +44 (0) 1382 307 200


Open since 2014, the museum tells the stories of local transport pioneers and innovators in addition to displaying vehicles from local and national collections. +44 (0) 1382 455 196


One of the oldest warships left in the world, this restored 46-gun Royal Navy relic dates from 1824. It is now preserved as a museum that tells the story of naval life. +44 (0) 1382 200 900


Built by the 2nd Lord Gray as a response to English naval activity in the area, this imposing 15th-century coastal fort is now open to the public for tours. +44 (0) 1382 434 000


Opened in 1913, it was Great Britain’s first operational military air station. Today, it is a fully accredited museum that shares the human history of the airfield’s past. +44 (0) 01674 678 222


Managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Montrose Basin is an enclosed estuary of the River South Esk that covers 750 hectares and is home to 80,000 migratory birds. +44 (0) 1674 676 336

HOUSE OF DUN Montrose, DD10 9LQ

Home to the Erskine family from 1375-1980, this elegant Georgian mansion is situated amidst delightful gardens and woodland. Taking 13 years to complete construction, the interiors feature masterful plasterwork by Joseph Enzer. It is open to the public for tours. +44 (0) 1674 810 264


Home to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne since the 14th century, this resplendent pink-sandstone castle was constructed largely in the 17th century but retains older elements. It was the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and birthplace of HRH The Princess Margaret. The castle's impressive interiors are open for tours. +44 (0) 1307 840 393


A ruined 16th-century castle with early 17th-century walled garden. The castle was once the tranquil home of the Lindsays, who were known for their laidback approach to life, but it is now open to the public. +44 (0) 1356 648 631


Founded in 1178 by King William the Lion for Tironensian monks, it was one of Scotland’s most impressive monasteries for nearly 400 years. Today, visitors may learn about its history and that of the 1320 ‘Declaration of Arbroath’, which was sent from the abbey to the Pope and signed by a number Scottish noblemen. +44 (0) 1241 878 756


Set in 220 acres of rolling paddocks and woodland, this charitable sanctuary provides a home for 90 horses, ponies and donkeys - alongside much local wildlife. There are regular kids’ activities and a café, making it a popular attraction with visitors and locals alike. +44 (0) 1508 481 000


Built in 1824 to designs by the famous architect James Gillespie Graham, in the Gothic Revival style, Dunninald Castle remains a family home with lovely gardens but is open to the public. +44 (0) 1674 672 031



Offering 86 luxury en suite bedrooms, 10 suites and amazing views over the Championship course, great leisure facilities and dining ensure all have an enjoyable stay. It was named as the North East regional winner in the Brand, Business, Golf and Spa Hotel categories at the 2018 Scottish Hotel Awards +44 (0) 1241 411 999


Set in a former textile mill with bell tower, this hotel reflects its industrial heritage but possesses all the modern comforts. +44 (0) 3303 311 750


Situated just a 10-minute walk from Dundee city centre, the V&A and RRS Discovery, this modern hotel and spa is one of the city’s top-rated places to stay. +44 (0) 1382 843 145


Located opposite Dundee’s train station and the V&A, this chic hotel is the perfect spot for a romantic escape or relaxing city break. Well known for its Chez Mal brasserie, which features a Josper Grill indoor charcoal oven, amazing wines and a great cocktail menu. +44 (0) 1382 339 715


Situated in a mansion house that was built in 1870 and set amidst charming gardens, this DoubleTree hotel boasts all the necessary amenities to be the perfect location for a wedding or leisure stay. +44 (0) 1382 641 122


A charming boutique hotel set in the historic surroundings of a 19th-century baronial mansion. A great café and restaurant makes it popular with guests and locals alike. +44 (0) 1382 643 777


This pet-friendly four-star bed and breakfast is located amidst beautiful woodland and housed in an attractive Victorian mansion. Expect four-poster beds, roaring fires, quality Scottish cuisine, and a warm welcome. +44 (0) 1382 819 655


Located in the village of Edzell, at the foot of the Angus Glens, this former Victorian coaching inn offers old world charm, fourposter beds and over 1,200 malt whiskies behind the bar. +44 1356 647 333


THE NEWPORT Newport-on-Tay, DD6 8AB

Though located across the Tay Road Bridge in Fife, The Newport is undoubtedly one of the best places to eat in the area and boasts superb views across the River Tay. Be sure to book in for the exceptional tasting menu. +44 (0) 1382 541 449


An immensely popular fine-dining establishment, this destination restaurant is located near the beautiful Lunan Bay. This family business was founded by a former Masterchef of Great Britain, has 3 AA Rosettes and has previously been named Scottish Restaurant of the Year. +44 (0) 1241 830 364

BUT’N’BEN Auchmithie, DD11 5SQ

A traditional Scottish restaurant offering lunch, dinner, and high teas. Famous for its use of great Scottish seafood, venison and game from local estates. A good place to try Arbroath smokies! +44 (0) 1241 877 223

WEE BEAR CAFÉ Lintrathen, DD8 5JH

Named for the family owners’ wee dog ‘Bear’, this hidden gem offers quirky historic surroundings and a cosy atmosphere. Great for coffee, home baking, light lunch or weekend brunch. +44 (0) 1575 560 427


Arguably the best place to go for breakfast, brunch, or coffee in Dundee. Surroundings are undeniably trendy, with Scottish touches, and the menu more than a bit indulgent! +44 (0) 1382 527 666

THE TAYBERRY Broughty Ferry, DD5 2EA

A well respected fine-dining restaurant run by award-winning chef Adam Newth. Expect fresh Scottish ingredients, beautiful presentation and a delightful coastal setting. +44 (0) 1382 698 280


Nestled at the heart of a popular country resort, this cosy restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and cake. Non-residents welcome. +44 (0) 1382 350 777

GALLERY 48 Dundee, DD1 5ER

Great Spanish wines, superlative tapas and great service are delivered alongside groundbreaking exhibitions by local and international creatives. A truly unique offering in the heart of Dundee’s cultural quarter. +44 (0) 1382 225 666



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