My recommended things to do in and around Montrose
As always, I aim to show you places in Scotland that don't always make it to the guide books or other travel blogs. i think it is fair to say that the town of Montrose in Angus falls in to that category. I rarely hear of tourists including it in their travel plans and as with many places in Scotland, that comes mostly down to the fact it is not promoted very well meaning visitors don't know what it has to offer.
Even after some online and guidebook research, I still wasn't sure what there was to do in Montrose and whether it was worth exploring. Fate stepped in as I ended up staying just across the river in the village of Ferryden. This gave me 4 days to check out as many things to do in the Montrose area as possible. It turned out there was more than enough to keep me busy.
It might not be the first place you think of for a short break in Scotland, however after reading about all the diverse Montrose attractions that I managed to pack in, you might just be inspired to add it to yourScotland itinerary.
I've also marked all of the places mentioned in a handy interactive map at the bottom of this post.
The east coast of Scotland is blessed with some fantastic beaches and Montrose Beach is up there with the best of them. The vast expanse of pristine sand stretches for over 3 miles and is popular with families and dog walkers. This was one of our first stops in Montrose, mainly so Willow could get a run about, but the humans enjoyed it too!
Plenty of nearby parking is a bonus and the adjacent promenade is perfect for a leisurely stroll. With a children's play area, cafe, art deco pavilion and William Lamb statue (see below), it is a worthwhile destination even if you don't venture down on to the sand.
The Walkhighlands website features a circular walk of just over 7 miles that starts at Montrose Beach if you are keen to explore more of the area on foot.
I've said it before on other blog posts but museums are usually my first stop when I visit a new destination and Montrose was no exception. I love to learn a bit about a place before I start exploring as I appreciate my location more when I've educated myself on some of the history and culture first.
Montrose Museum was purpose built in 1842 to display the growing collections of the Montrose Natural History and Antiquarian Society. The neo-classical building is impressive from the outside with lonic columns either side of the entrance-way and Greek key design features.
The interior is just as remarkable, with an atrium, mezzanine and galleries. The museum collections cover many eras including early archaeological finds, the Jacobite period, maritime history of the area and much more. There is also an art gallery with changing exhibitions.
I think this is a great museum with enough displays to be interesting but not too much information to be overwhelming. It is also free to visit which means adding it to your Montrose itinerary seems an obvious choice.
Montrose Heritage Trail
If there is a way to learn about places that I love even more than museums, it is by following heritage trails. History isn't behind glass cases on these walks, it is all around, and you usually discover lots of details that are easily missed if you don't know where to look. It is also a way of increasing your daily steps without noticing which is always a bonus for someone like me who hates working out in a stuffy gym!
While I was in the museum I picked up a leaflet for the Montrose Heritage Trail and decided that was would be next on my itinerary. I actually picked up quite a few leaflets for different heritage trails in Angus so I'm looking forward to trying more out in the future.
The Montrose Trail should take about 90 minutes to complete and you can expect to cover a good part of the town. Starting at the Parish Kirk I discovered that the spire is one of the tallest in Scotland. Finishing at St Mary's and St Peter's Episcopal Church I learned that it replaced an earlier chapel dating back to 1722 which burnt down. It is reputed that legendary composer, George Frideric Handel, played the original organ in the original church.
One of many smaller details I probably would have missed without following the trail was the The Holy Royal Arch sign shown in my photo. It is listed as a monument by Historic Environment Scotland and has been a landmark in the town since the 18th Century.
The sign was carved in France and erected by Freemason captains of French sailing ships who met in the building, which used to be a coffee shop. The sign has recently been restored so hopefully it will be around for at least another few hundred years.
With 25 stops on the trail, these are just a few of the facts that I learned during my walk and I don't want to give too many away as I recommend you try it for yourself. You can download a copy of the heritage trail here.
Explore the historic closes
Despite what you might have heard, Edinburgh doesn't have a monopoly on historic closes with hidden courtyards. As I wandered around Montrose town centre I just had to investigate some of the old narrow closes to see where they went. I was pleasantly surprised to find old staircases, pretty gardens, characterful doorways and quirky features lying beyond.
My absolute favourite surprise was down Coutts Court where the bed and breakfast owners have turned the hidden space in to a beautiful green oasis. Staying there is now on my future travel list!
View the work of local sculptor, William Lamb
During my walks along the promenade and on the heritage trail, I came across some fantastic figures of every day people by local artist and sculptor, William Lamb. I'll be honest, I hadn't heard of him before my visit and was unaware of his incredible talent. I'm not sure if this is a failing on my part or the officials of Montrose for not publicising his work widely enough.
Now knowing that he was one of Scotland's top sculptors, who was commissioned to sculpt the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, I don't understand why his work was so under the radar when I was investigating things to do in the town. As someone who really appreciates public art, I loved encountering these detailed designs and feel they are a big asset to the town.
William Lamb died in 1951 and bequeathed his work studio along with artworks to the town in the understanding it would be maintained as a studio. Recently funding issues risked the studio being closed but thankfully a resolution has been found and the small museum gallery is still open to the public. Inside you can view a collection of his sculptures, prints and drawings. You can also visit his workroom and living room with his self-styled furniture.
Learn about the heroic dog, Bamse
I've only ever come across two memorials to dogs in Scotland so you know it must have been a very special dog if it has its own statue. The first canine memorial I ever encountered was Greyfriars Bobby, who spent 14 years guarding his owner's grave in Edinburgh.
The second statue was this one in Montrose, dedicated to a Norwegian St Bernard named Bamse. He was owned by a Captain in the Norwegian Navy during WW2 and went to sea with him on his minesweeper during the war. The ship was stationed in Dundee and Montrose and Bamse became a local favourite.
During action Bamse would wear a personalised steel helmet and guard the gun tower. Among his other heroic acts, he would break up fights between crewman, dragged a sailor who had fallen overboard back to shore and saved a young lieutenant who was being attacked with a knife by pushing his assailant overboard.
He subsequently became the mascot of the Royal Norwegian Navy and Free Norwegian Forces. He died on the dockside of Montrose in 1944 and was buried with full military honours. His funeral was attended by hundreds of people and he has received two posthumous awards.
The Royal Norwegian Navy holds a commemorative ceremony for him every 10 years and it is fair to say that even after all this time, the exceptional Bamse hasn't been forgotten in Montrose.
Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre
Aviation fans and military history enthusiasts will particularity love this place but it is also a really great attraction for anyone with an interest in local history or how things work. Children will also love it as it is very hands on and interactive.
The heritage centre is located on the site of the former Montrose Air Station. Founded in 1913 it was Britain's first military air station. It is also allegedly one of the most haunted places in Scotland with sightings of phantom aircraft and figures dressed in flying uniforms - but don't let that put you off!
Exhibits range from photographs, military memorabilia, a ‘Green Goddess’ fire engine and full size aircraft, plus lots, lots more. There is also an aircraft model shop where you can watch the volunteers build scale replicas in the workshop. If you have the time, you could easily spend a few hours exploring all the displays.
The best thing about our visit was interacting with the volunteers. They were all super friendly and very happy to take time out to answer any questions. They are also welcoming of anyone who wants to watch them restoring or building exhibits, including the aircraft.
Montrose Basin Nature Reserve
If you're in need of a nature fix while visiting the town, head to Montrose Basin which is an enclosed estuary of the river South Esk covering 750 hectares. You can walk around part of it from the town, however I recommend visiting theScottish Wildlife Trust visitor centre where there are telescopes, binoculars and wildlife events.
I also walked from one of the trails at Mains of Dun to one of the bird hides on the opposite side of Montrose Basin from the visitor centre. It was a cosy place to look for some of the 80,000 plus migratory birds that roost or feed in the surrounding landscape. The hide is also equipped with binoculars just in case you forget your own!
House of Dun
The House of Dun is a historic Georgian country house cared for by the National Trust for Scotland. Built in the 1730s, it was designed by renowned architect, William Adam. Visitors can join a guided tour to see the lavish interior and learn about the 250 year history of the house.
I also recommend exploring the gardens and grounds of the house which have some lovely walks. I opted to follow the Lady Augusta walk which takes you through some pretty woodland before visiting the family mausoleum. The building was originally a 14th century Medieval Place of Worship before being converted to the Erskine Family Mausoleum in the 18th century.
On a nice day you could spend a half day touring the house, eating at the cafe and walking the grounds. This is another attraction that I don't think you should miss when you're in the area.
Things to do around Montrose
Ferryden is a former historic fishing village located just over the river from Montrose. It has a very different feel to the town and this is where I stayed during my trip to the area.
If you like visiting quaint coastal villages then you will enjoy a stroll around the old streets. If you're interested in finding out more, you can read this blog post that I wrote about my visit to Ferryden.
Scurdie Ness Lighthouse
From Ferryden it is only a mile along the coast to Scurdie Ness Lighthouse. It makes for a nice easy coastal walk and along the way you can spot WW2 fortifications and historic navigation aids.
Also look out for rock known as Ferryden Lavas, which is one of the oldest volcanic rocks in Scotland. You can find more details of the walk in my Ferryden blog post which I've linked to above.
Lunan Bay lies around 5 miles south of Montrose and is another stunning east coast beach. Some say it is the best beach in the Angus area and I must admit I have to agree. Not only is it a beautiful stretch of sand backed by some impressive dunes and cliffs, the beach is also overlooked by the ruins of Red Castle (see below) which just adds to the scenic drama.
There is a popular wee diner at the car park which also has an outdoor decked area. On a sunny day it is a lovely location to sit out and enjoy a pot of tea after a walk along the beach.
The ruins of Red Castle overlook Lunan Bay and can easily be visited on a short uphill walk from a small parking bay on the road. The views from the top of the hill over Lunan Bay are stunning.
The castle is free to visit but it is not in the best state of repair so you do need to take care. I actually wonder how much longer it will be before the remaining walls collapse as they are already looking a bit precarious.
It was originally built in the 12th century as a Royal hunting lodge before being rebuilt in the 13th century. It passed hands several times and in the 16th century is was subject to a series of attacks after the owner, Lady Elizabeth Beaton, found out her husband had been having an affair with her niece. She commenced divorce proceedings but he returned and mounted attacks on the castle over the next 2 years out of revenge.
The castle was never restored, although a local church minister lived in it until the 1760s. Over the following centuries it has fallen in to ruin.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN OR AROUND MONTROSE
As usual I didn't manage to see everything I wanted to during by trip but here are a few more suggestions of things I missed but would like to do time -
Montrose also makes a great starting point for heading north to Aberdeenshire and taking a road trip along the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail.
HANDY MAP OF THE LOCATIONS MENTIONED
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