Scotland's fourth largest city sits on two prominent hills, Balgay and the Law, overlooking the River Tay. Few cities in Britain can match Dundee's impressive setting, seen at its breathtaking best from Fife, across the Tay.
Local Sights & Activities for Dundee
One of Dundee's big attractions is Captain Scott's ship, the Discovery, and such is the civic pride engendered by its return home that Dundee has become widely known through its slogan - City of Discovery. There are other, less publicized, attractions, such as the Law Hill, which commands fantastic views over the city and the Tay estuary, and the attractive seaside suburb of Broughty Ferry.
Dundee also has a thriving arts scene and plenty of good shops, bars and restaurants. But the city's best kept secret is its people. The accent may at first be somewhat impenetrable, but Dundonians have an endearing earthy humour and are the friendliest bunch of people you'll find anywhere on the east coast of Scotland.
The obvious place to begin your tour of the city is Discovery Point, the impressive riverside location of Dundee's main attraction, the Royal Research Ship Discovery. This excellent facility, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year, is across the road from the train station, next to the Leisure Centre and Hilton Hotel. When Dundee was an important shipbuilding centre its speciality was wooden ships, and it was the Royal Geographical Society who commissioned the Discovery, which was launched on the Tay on 21 March 1901.
She was the first specially designed scientific research ship and spent two winters in the Antarctic, where her wooden hull was able to withstand the enormous pressures of the pack ice. Famous as Captain Scott's ship, the Discovery and Scott parted company after his expedition in 1904. Another Dundee-built vessel, the Terra Nova, carried Scott to the South Pole in 1911 - the fateful expedition from which he never returned.
After being purchased by the Maritime Trust, the Discovery was returned to Dundee in 1986 and moored at its present specially built quay with an excellent visitor centre at her side. The state-of-the-art centre presents an entertaining introduction, with audio-visual displays and an exhibition. On board the vessel you can see the cabins used by Scott and his crew, and hear some interesting anecdotes from the enthusiastic guides.
Daily Apr-Oct 1000-1700 (Sun 1100-1700), Nov-Mar till 1600. Tel. 201245.
A short distance west of Discovery, in Victoria Dock on the other side of the road bridge, is Dundee's other major floating attraction, the HM Frigate Unicorn. Built in 1824, this is the oldest British warship still afloat, probably because it never fired a shot in anger. It was used variously as a gunpowder store and a training vessel, until it was rescued from the scrapyard in 1968 by a preservation society. A tour of the ship gives some idea of the cramped conditions in which the 300 men had to live and work, and the unused cannons are still on display.
Mar-Oct daily 1000-1700; Nov-Feb Mon-Fri 1000-1600. Tel. 200900.
Around The Centre
The focal point of the city centre is City Square, which is surrounded by shops and cafés, the imposing Caird Hall, the city's main concert hall, and the City Chambers, scene of much shady dealing in the 1960s and 70s, which led to the demolition of the city's medieval core. The resulting shopping mall, the infamous Overgate, has itself been replaced by a brand new retail complex. In front is the Old Steeple, the highest surviving medieval tower in the country.
Apr-Sep Mon-Sat 1000-1700, Sun 1200-1600; Oct-Mar 1100-1600.
The pedestrianized Reform Street leads north from City Square to Albert Square, site of the McManus Galleries, housed in Gilbert Scott's impressive Victorian Gothic edifice. Inside are some very fine exhibits detailing the city's history from the Iron Age to the Tay Bridge Disaster. The latter event was chronicled by the inimitable William McGonagall, the 'World's Worst Poet', and here you can read his excruciatingly awful verse, along with an equally painful account of the famous 'Tay Whale', the skeleton of which is also on display. Upstairs is the superb Albert Hall, which contains various antique collections, and the Victoria Gallery, whose 19th- and 20th-century collections include some notable Scottish painters such as McTaggart.
Mon 1100-1700, Tue-Sat 1000-1700. Tel. 432020. Free.
Also in Albert Square are the huge red sandstone offices of local publishing giant, DC Thomson, who have entertained generations of British kids with their Beano and Dandy comics. A five-minute walk west, along Meadowside and Ward Road, across the dual carriageway and up Guthrie Street, is the excellent Verdant Works heritage centre, in West Henderson's Wynd. This former jute mill gives a rare insight into what life was like for mill workers, and details the history of the jute industry.
Behind the DCA, on Greenmarket, is Sensation, one of those hands-on, interactive kind of places, so loved by kids.
Open from 1000. Tel. 228800.
Law Hill and Balgay Hill
The most prominent feature of the city is the Law Hill, a 571ft-high ancient volcanic plug. The views from the summit, over the entire city and south to Fife across the River Tay and its two bridges, are fantastic. It's a steep climb to the foot of the Law from the city centre, up the Hilltown, so it's best to take a bus (Nos 3 or 4) from Albert Square. The 1 1/2-mile-long Tay Road Bridge was opened in 1966, while the Tay Rail Bridge is over two miles long and the longest railway bridge in Europe. It was built in 1878 but the following year the final section collapsed during a terrible storm. No one could alert the driver of the approaching train and it plunged into the cold, dark waters of the Tay, killing the crew and 75 passengers. A replacement section was built in 1887 and still stands today.
About a mile west of the Law, is Balgay Hill, site of the Mills Observatory, a free public facility which houses a planetarium as well as displays on astronomy and space exploration.
Apr-Sep Mon-Fri 1100-1700, Sat 1400-1700; Oct-Mar Mon-Fri 1600-2200, Sat 1400-1700. Free. Take bus Nos 2, 36 or 37 to Balgay Road, at the entrance to Balgay Park. Tel. 435846.
Four miles east of Dundee, is the attractive seaside resort of Broughty Ferry. 'The Ferry' was once a separate settlement, with fishermen's cottages lining the shore and the large villas of wealthy jute barons climbing the hills behind, but it has since been swallowed up by the city's eastern suburbs. There's a long sandy beach and several good pubs and places to eat. The 15th-century Broughty Castle stands on the seafront, guarding the mouth of the Tay, and now houses an interesting museum of local history which includes a detailed description of the whaling industry.
Apr-Sep Mon-Sat 1000-1600, Sun 1230-1600; Oct-Mar closed Mon. Free. Tel. 436916.
Dundee Hotels & Accommodation
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