Not a member?
Register and login now.

Issue 74 - Angus & Dundee

Scotland Magazine Issue 74
April 2014


This article is 4 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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

An exploration of this vibrant region

Six months ago I had the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with Kengo Kuma, the Japanese architect behind the iconic Victoria & Albert Museum in Dundee. With 1,700 square metres of flexible gallery space dedicated to design, this exciting building, the exterior of which resembles a cross between a cliff face and an ocean liner, forms the centrepiece of the City's five waterfront regeneration projects, an investment of £1 billion stretching along eight kilometres of the River Tay.

Kuma's vision, he insists, was inspired by previous visits to this coastline, and being in tune with nature, as are all his buildings, he sees his V&A encapsulating the land, the water, and the light in one massive celebration of creativity. Although he has offices in Tokyo and Paris, Kuma professed an engaging affection for the east coast of Scotland.

Construction work on the V&A, Dundee, is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015, and when it opens it is set to focus the eyes of the world on this remarkable, and often ignored Scottish City, once famed for the manufacture of “Jute, Jam and Journalism.” The reasons were this. Two centuries ago, Dundee boasted around 60 jute mills spinning fabric for the nation; it was the home of Keiller's Marmalade, and it remains the headquarters of the magazine and comic publishers D. C. Thomson. But times move on and Dundee, now Scotland's fourth largest city, has come a long way since the 13th century when its status was no more than a small seaport trading with the Baltic and Low Countries. In the centuries that followed, it was transformed into a ship building and whaling port. Since then its economy has certainly had its ups and downs, but the 21st century has not only spawned a digital entertainment industry but brought recognition to its two thriving universities: The University of Dundee and The University of Abertay.

Before the allocation of the V&A's Design Museum, Dundee city was already gaining a reputation for its vibrant cultural life.

It is the home of Scotland's only full-time repertory theatre company, established in the 1930s, and the Scottish Dance Theatre.

The city's principal concert auditorium is the Caird Key Hall, named after a locaj jute baron, and in close proximity, is Dundee Contemporary Arts which incorporates an art-house cinema and gallery. The Duncan of Jordanston College of Art on the Perth Road is ranked as one of the best art schools in the UK.

Prior to waterfront regeneration projects, the City of Dundee's slogan “One City, Many Discoveries”, paid tribute to the RRS
Discovery, the Dundee built exploration vessel which is anchored at Discovery Quay. Launched in 1901, the ship's first mission was to the Antarctic carrying Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackelton. As the centrepiece of Discovery Point, it today hosts a feast of day-out entertainment: films, audio-visual displays and interactive games for all the family.

Reflecting an older heritage, however, there is much to see in and around Dundee's city centre. The gothic revival Episcopal cathedral of St Paul's was erected by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1853 on the former site of the medieval Dundee Castle.

Among the more interesting visitor attractions are St Mary's Tower, which dates from the 15th century; St Clements Church, dating from the 18th century, and Old St Paul's and St David's Church, built in 1842 by William Burn, and St Mary's Church, rebuilt after a fire in 1844, also by Burn.

Mains Castle in Caird Park was built in 1562 on the site of a former hunting lodge. Dudhope Castle, originally the seat of the Scrymgeour family, who became earls of Dundee, dates from the late 16th century.

Claypotts Castle is a striking Z-plan castle in West Ferry, built by John Strachan 1560–1588, and the ruins of Powrie Castle, largely destroyed during the Rough Wooing period of the 16th century, are still visible.

The 400-acre Camperdown estate was once owned by the Haldane-Duncan family among whose numbers was Admiral Adam Duncan, who commanded the British Royal Navy and dispersed the Dutch fleet at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797.

Camperdown House is the largest “Greek Revival” house still standing in Scotland, and is surrounded by Camperdown Park with its wildlife centre and recreational facilities.

After the earldom became extinct in 1946, the estate was sold to the Corporation of Dundee, and it is
currently managed by Dundee City Council. The ground floor houses an extensive exhibition on Dundee's maritime history.

Approaching from the south, be it by rail or road, one is reminded of the words of Dundee's most celebrated 19th century poet William Topaz McGonagal:
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay! With your numerous arches and pillars in so grand array And your central girders, which seem to the eye To be almost towering to the sky. The greatest wonder of the day, And a great beautification to the River Tay, Most beautiful to be seen, Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

The world's worst poet was triumphantly commemorating the opening of the Tay Rail Bridge in 1878, swept away the following year by a freak wave on a stormy night. Happily the replacement rail bridge stands firm, with the fine Tay Road Bridge having opened in 1966.

Broughty Ferry is the fashionable suburb of Dundee, recently parodied in a recent BBC4 television comic series Bob Servant. To the north, is the small seaside town of Carnoustie, synonimous with the golf that has been played on the Barry Links since the 16th century. A 10-hole course was laid out in 1850, and seventeen years later improved by the legendary Tom Morris. Since 1931, Carnoustie Golf Links has been one of the UK venues of the rotating Open Championship and, more recently, become one of the three host courses of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championships.

Arbroath Abbey was founded by William the Lion in 1178, and dedicated to Saint Thomas Becket. King William is buried here, but the abbey is best known for the Declaration of Arbroath, a proclomation sent by the Scottish Parliament to Pope John XXII, avowing allegiance to King Robert the Bruce.

Montrose, with its two square mile tidal lagoon was repeatedly attacked by Vikings in the 9th century and eventually became an important trading port serving the European mainland. Castlehead was the birthplace of the heroic James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose, who initially joined the Covenanters in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, but changed sides to support King Charles I as the English Civil War developed. In 1715, James Francis Stewart, known as The Old Pretender, landed in Montrose to add his support to the second Jacobite Rising, but rapidly retreated back to exile in France. The town was later held by his son Bonnie Prince Charlie. Further north, on the outskirts of Brechin, is the Pictavia Visitor Centre which celebrates Pictish culture with a series of carved stones. There is also the award winning Caledonian Railway Station at Brechin Station. Brechin Castle, the ancestral home of the earls of Dalhousie, chiefs of the Ramsay Clan, has a popular castle garden centre.

Another popular visitor attraction is to be found five miles to the north at Edzell Castle, a ruined 16th century castle where there is an early-17th century walled garden which once belonged to the Lindsay Clan.

Returning to the south west again, and travelling along the A90 from Perth to Dundee and the coastal route travelling north towards Brechin and Montrose, there are glimpses of the River Tay to the south and, to the north, the glens of Angus as they crawl up into the eastern Cairngorms. At the Raith junction, the road leads to Fingask Castle, ancestral home of the Jacobite Threipland family which over three weekends in May under its current owners Andrew and Helen Murray Threipland, hosts the Fingask Follies, a lively cabaret theatre. A popular venue for weddings and social events, the gardens, with their statuary and topiaries, are open to the public. Nearby, from the Inchture Interchange on the A90, is Abernyte, a busy antiques village. The county of Angus, formerly known as Forfarshire, still retains a distinctive character which differentiates it from its western neighbour Perthshire. From the city of Perth, the A94 travels into the northern hinterland to Couper Angus, splitting off to Meigle, Forfar, and Kirriemuir through rich farmland and seasonal berry picking country.

Penetrating into the picturesque glens of Angus – Glen Isla, Glen Prosen, Glen Clova, Glen Lethnot and Glen Esk – is to explore the arteries of the landscape. Twisty, hilly tracks give way to open vistas of the rising ground on all sides. The most westerly glen is Glen Isla, the only one where the road exits north into the Grampian hills and onwards to Braemar and Deeside.

The market town of Forfar dates from the Roman occupation of nearby Battledykes, three miles to the north. During the Wars of Independence in the 14th century the castle here was held by the English, but afterwards dismantled by King Robert I.

Originally Forfar's library, the Meffan Museum and Art Gallery has two galleries of exhibition space and displays a series of sculpted Pictish stones discovered nearby. Sir Hugh Munro, who inititated
Munro's Tables of Scottish Mountains over 3,000 ft (known as The Munros) was born nearby. In the town centre there is a metal plaque in honour of Polish troops stationed in the area during the Second World War.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother as she became after her husband's death in 1952, was born Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, youngest daughter of the 14th Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorn, a family descended from Robert II of Scotland. Her ancestral home is Glamis Castle, a turreted, red-sandstone building which dates from the 17th century. Surrounded by tales of ghosts and a legendary monster, the interiors are suprisingly welcoming and enchanting.

Close by is the small town of Kirriemuir which in addition to being associated with witchcraft in the 16th century is celebrated as the birthplace of Sir James Barrie, the 20th century author of plays such as
Peter Pan and Mary Rose. A statue of the boy who never grew old stands in the town square and the humble cottage in which Barrie was born is now a museum managed by the National Trust for Scotland. 

Where to stay 
Forbes of Kingennie
Broughty Ferry
A selection of luxury self catering lodges just five miles from Dundee. We like Leannan Boat House, a gorgeous 19th century construction right on the water.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 350 777

Glenesk Hotel
Highly recommended country house hotel, which is currently undergoing refurbishment to make itself even lovelier!
Tel: +44 (0)1356 647 333

Premier Inn
This budget hotel chain have a few hotels in and around Dundee. All offer the same high-standard-no-frills accommodation, at a very reasonable price.
Tel: +44 (0)871 527 8320

Glen Clova Hotel
Milton of Clova
Historic country hotel with luxury self-catering Scottish lodges, fine food and beautiful surroundings. Spa treatments and outdoor activities available too!
Tel: +44 (0)1575 550 350

Tiny wee village B&B offering clean, comfy rooms from £30pp. What more could you ask for?
Tel: + 44 (0)1356 648 051

Destination restaurant with five quality bedrooms and a plethora of awards, tucked away in a tiny village near beautiful Lunan Bay.
Tel: +44 (0)1241 83 0364

Balgowan House
A turn of the century merchant’s townhouse, now offering three elegant en suite rooms, a warm welcome and a hearty breakfast.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 200 262

The Carlton Hotel
Historic town centre hotel, with eight en suite bedrooms, two restaurants and a lounge bar. Clean, comfortable and good value for money.
Tel: +44 (0)1674 677 237

Brucefield Boutique B&B
Offers four ensuite rooms, each furnished to a very high standard with flatscreens, free wifi and the like. Complimentary mini bar in the hip guest lounge. Tel: +44 (0)1241 875 393

The Old Manor House
Bed and breakfast in a gorgeous old manor. Your hosts Margaret and Milroy really go that extra mile to make you feel welcome. Rooms and large and exceedingly comfortable, and breakfast is a real treat, too.
Tel: +44 (0)1241 854 804

Glamis Castle
A stunning historical and architectural treasure, home to the Earls of Strathmore for more than 600 years.
Tel: +44 (0)1307 840 393

Arbroath Abbey
Abbey Street, Arbroath
Founded by William the Lion in 1178, these holy ruins hold a very special place in Scottish history. Once one of the greatest monastic communities in Scotland.
Tel: +44 (0)1241 878 756

The McManus
The city’s splendid art gallery and museum offers a bountiful collection of fascinating, easily accessible exhibits on the history of Dundee and Dundonians.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 307 200

Blair Castle
There are more than 30 rooms to explore in this dramatic, white painted mansion, with exhibits representing life at the Castle from the 1500s to the present day.
Tel: +44 (0)1796 481 207

Mills Observatory
Balgay Park, Dundee
Discover the wonders of the universe at Britain’s only full-time public observatory – built with the sole aim of encouraging public understanding of science and gifted to the people of Dundee in 1935.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 435 967

Barry Mill
A 19th-century working mill looked after by the National Trust for Scotland. There is an exhibition on the historical role of the mill, and demonstrations on Sundays.
Tel: +44 (0) 844 493 2140

Montrose Basin
Wildlife Centre
Rossie Braes
A haven for vast numbers of migrating birds. In the viewing gallery there are binoculars, telescopes and interactive displays to give you the very best view.
Tel: +44 (0)1674 676 336

Gateway to the Glens Museum
Small but excellent museum, where recordings of local people, a touch screen computer and a variety of other displays give visitors a vivid introduction to the history, culture and natural environment of ‘Kirrie’ and the Angus Glens.
Tel: +44 (0)1575 575 479

Scone Palace
A beautiful ivy-clad castle, and crowning place of ancient Scottish kings. Magnificent rooms are filled with art and furniture.
Tel: +44 (0)1738 552 300

JM Barrie’s Birthplace
A lovely little cottage that gives a glimpse into this author’s early life. Unmissable for fans of Peter Pan and Scottish social history in general.
Tel: +44 (0) 844 493 2142

The Famous
Grouse Experience
Explore the production of whisky at this award-winning visitor centre, with guided tours, free tastings, restaurant and retail outlet.
Tel: +44 (0)1764 656 565

Verdant Works
West Henderson’s Wynd, Dundee
Discover how the people of Dundee lived, worked and played more than 100 years ago.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 225 282

Where to eat
Castlehill Restaurant
One of the best fine-dining restaurant in Dundee. A sophisticated, contemporary menu with extra tidbits between courses.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 220 008

Rosie’s Bakehouse
Delightful wee coffee shop offering tasty homemade soups, various specials and cakes to die for.
Tel: +44 (0)1356 625 254

T Ann Cake
Vintage style café offering all kinds of yummy homemade treats. Small, but wonderfully quirky and friendly.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 203 950

The Playwright
Fine dining cuisine, wines and cocktails in a relaxed and contemporary setting. Offers three different menus (lunch, pre theatre and a la carte) as well as specially created themed evenings.
Tel: +44 (0)1382 223 113

Osnaburg Bar
This little bar may not look like much to start with, but when the delicious steak pies, pastas, pile-em-high burgers and handcut chips
start coming out of the kitchen, all will be forgiven.
Tel: +44 (0)1307 462 256