If you are planning a Scottish city break, you are no doubt weighing up the history of Edinburgh against the culture of Glasgow. I'm sure that most of you haven't even figured Scotland's fourth largest city into the equation...yet!
'One City, Many Discoveries' is the current marketing slogan for Dundee and there are certainly many great discoveries to be found, they are just less in your face than other places. Thanks to huge investment in redevelopment and tourism, Dundee is very soon going to be discovered by the masses and that is just one of many reasons why you should visit now, in case you need any persuasion here are a few more!
1. Visit before the tourists arrive
There is nothing that makes me feel more satisfied than visiting a destination before it becomes the next big thing. Before the shiny buildings, boutique hotels and tourist prices, when there is still some decay and the layers of heritage can be viewed on the streets without the need to visit a museum. If you want to get away from the tourists and be among the first to 'discover' Dundee then now is the time to visit.
The UK's first UNESCO City of Design and the home of jute, jam, journalism and Grand Theft Auto is currently in a state of transformation, the rubble of demolished buildings along the waterfront is the first sign that big changes are on the way. The £1 Billion redevelopment will include the V&A Museum Of Design as it's jewel in the crown and will put the city firmly on the Scottish tourist map.
2. Enjoy uninterrupted views of the city
Head up 572 ft to the peak of The Law, an extinct volcano formed around 400 million years ago and take in the uninterrupted 360 degree vista of the city and beyond. You can walk, run or cycle to the top if you're feeling active or just cheat and drive up to the viewpoint car park!
Whatever way you get there the effort (or non effort) is worth it for the views. I found it a great starting point to get my bearings across the surrounding landscape.
3. Visit the real Bash Street and see Desperate Dan
D. C. Thomson is a Dundee based publishing company famous for producing The Beano and The Dandy comics among their many well known titles. In 2001 an 8ft tall bronze statue of Desperate Dan was unveiled in the High Street in honour of the famous character from The Dandy. Behind him you will also find a statue of Minnie the Minx from The Beano comic and between them they trigger alot of smiles from passersby of all ages.
In 2014 a real Bash Street was unveiled in honour of the naughty Beano school pupils, The Bash Street Kids. The new street (which is really more of a lane) can be found just off West Marketgait with it's appropriately doodled sign.
4. Imagine you are on a polar expedition
Visit Discovery Point and climb aboard the RRS Discovery. This Dundee built ship was the ﬁrst vessel to be constructed speciﬁcally for scientiﬁc research. Most famously it was used in Captain Scott's polar expedition to the Antarctic and now forms the main attraction at Discovery Point on the waterfront.
A multimedia exhibition tells the story of the acclaimed voyage before you have the opportunity to explore the ship for yourself. Ideal for imaginative adventurers young and old, this is a popular Dundee attraction.
I really enjoyed taking the helm and wondering about all the sights that had been visible from that very wheel on it's various travels.
If you are also planning to visit the Verdant Works you can buy a joint ticket and save some money. Your admission ticket also allows you to apply for a free annual pass meaning you can visit as many times as you like within the year.
5. See 400 million years of history under one roof
The McManus Art Gallery and Museum is free to visit and the Gothic Revival-style building is a real architectural landmark in the city centre. The museum is large enough to house a good range of exhibits, yet small enough to not feel overwhelming.
I particularly liked the displays telling the story of recent social history in the city which comprises an eclectic mix of artifacts. Art, natural history and world cultures make up some of the eight interesting galleries in this excellent visitor attraction. Before going to Dundee this museum was repeatedly recommended to me and I have to agree it is a must if you are in the city. If you visit now before the future tourists arrive you can have the place almost to yourself!
6. Find out why Dundee is the city of jute
The Verdant Works, a heritage museum telling the story of Jute and the impact it had in the development of Dundee, is alot more interesting than you may first think. The short film at the beginning really helps you appreciate the scale of the industry and how much it affected the lives of everyone living in the city. I loved the opportunity to see and hear the roar of some of the machines being operated by a former mill worker who shared her memories and provided a personal insight into the hard labour involved.
The museum has been granted further funding and will be extending their exhibits in the near future.
If you are also planning to visit Discovery Point you can buy a joint ticket and save some money. Your admission ticket also allows you to apply for a free annual pass meaning you can visit as many times as you like within the year.
7. View one of the best collections of 16th & 17th Century memorials
The Howff cemetery was originally the gardens of the Grey Friars Monastery before the land was granted to the burgh as a burial ground in 1564 by Mary, Queen of Scots. It became known as The Howff as it was used for meetings by the Dundee Incorporated Trades until 1776 (Howff is an old Scots word meaning meeting place).
The last burial took place in 1857 and a walk through the cemetery will take you around one of the best collections of 16th & 17th Century memorials in Scotland, also look out for the wall along the west side which dates from 1601.
8. Go star and planet gazing
For an alternative evening out head to Britain’s first purpose-built public observatory which sits on the summit of Balgay Hill. Visit Mills Observatory on weekdays during the evening and you can admire the city lights from the viewing platform or watch the stars and planets through their powerful telescopes. I'm a bit of a space geek so I loved getting a close up of Venus, the moon and Orions Nebula where new stars are born.
I was there on a clear night which also meant a cold night so make sure you wrap up warm! Another tip is to either visit between 9pm and 10pm when the sky is most visible and there are no school parties or if you plan to get there earlier check there are no planned visits as I had to wait approx 90mins until the dome was free and some people did leave as they were cold and fed up waiting.
It is free to visit but a donation is appreciated if you enjoy the experience.
9. Escape to the beach
Head the four miles east from Dundee to Broughty Ferry and you will be met with sandy beaches and picturesque big skies! This former fishing village on the edge of the city is also home to a 15th century castle, quaint pubs, quality restaurants and fantastic views of the Tay. There is a great little viewing platform you can climb up at the harbour and if you're lucky you might even spot some dolphins in the estuary.
10. Enjoy the food
There is plenty of choice when to comes to quality restaurants, coffee shops and independent food producers in Dundee. As you would expect with a city that is under transformation the standards are being raised and I hope that local businesses are supported to grow rather than be overshadowed by bigger chains which can sometimes be the case.
Thanks to tips from the locals I had superb food everywhere I went, I'm sure there are plenty other great places to eat, however I can only recommend those I tried. I had lunch at Avery & Co, dinner at The D'Arcy Thompson, tea at T Ann Cake and a yummy fudge doughnut from Fisher & Donaldson.
A couple of other suggestions I didn't manage to try but come highly recommended are the award winning Castlehill Restaurant for dinner and Clark's 24 hour Bakery which is apparently an institution! Also if you want to try a local delicacy then grab yourself some Dundee cake.
These are just 10 of the many reasons why now is a great time to discover Dundee and I haven't even touched on design! I found Dundonians to be extremely friendly and the genuine welcome and customer service I received was way above average, even for Scotland (with one exception, sorry Fisher & Donaldson but you let the team down on this occasion).
I stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dundee during my visit, watch out for my review of this accommodation coming very soon.
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