As William and Kate open the V&A Dundee, 6 more reasons to visit the Scottish city
It’s a good time to be a Dundonian. Caught between the metropolises of the south, and the Aberdeenshire highlands to the north, the east coast city of Dundee has long been overlooked by tourists.
Not anymore: Following an urban redevelopment, Dundee has become chic, modern, and effortlessly trendy. It was named Unesco City of Design in 2014, Wall Street Journal’s “coolest city” in 2017, and picked as one of Lonely Planet’s ‘best in Europe’ last year – the only UK city to make the cut.
Today, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge oversaw the official launch of the new V&A Dundee, which has already welcomed 380,000 visitors since opening its doors in September.
Designed by Kengo Kuma and inspired by the dramatic cliffs along the north-east coast of Scotland, the museum is a new landmark and important cultural development for the country.
So what else is there to do in this jewel of the Tay estuary? Here’s just a few of the reasons that Dundee will charm even the most obdurate.
1. Dundee Law
A 4 million-year-old extinct volcano (that’s right, a Scottish volcano), the Law dominates the Dundee skyline. At 572 feet tall, those that ascend the peak are greeted with panoramic views across the city and out over Perthshire and Fife.
Formerly the site of an iron age hill-fort, prehistoric burial ground, and probably Roman outpost, the Law is now topped with a war memorial, and a pilgrimage to the summit is a rite of passage for locals and visitors alike.
2. Museums and galleries
Dundee is not a particularly populous city – roughly level with Doncaster and Basildon – but punches well above its weight with a king’s ransom of museums and galleries. There’s the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre, the Jute Museum, which delves into Dundee’s historic reliance on textiles, the Dundee Science Centre, and the intriguingly niche Dundee Museum of Transport.
But the McManus Galleries are the headline act: A mishmash of cultural displays incorporating fine art, decorative art and natural history, housed in a turreted, Gothic Revival building that looks somewhere between an abbey and a town hall. Dundee is actually Scotland’s sunniest city, but there’s more than enough to fill rainy days.
3. The food scene
Dundee marches on its stomach, and the canny traveller can unearth a vast array of eateries. Front and centre is the famous Flame Tree Cafe, whose multi-coloured coffees and ‘rainbow’ bagels inject a bit of life into even the greyest Monday lunchtime.
Alternatively, head to Taypark House to dine amid the tasteful opulence of a modern country manor, or to Turkish restaurant Agacan to plough through some kebabs surrounded by multi-coloured mosaics and art installations. For a true regional institution, visit Fisher & Donaldson – a fifth generation family bakery established exactly a century ago this year.
4. RRS Discovery
One of only two surviving ships from the period known as the heroic age of Antarctic exploration, it’s a little surprising that this massive, three-masted steamer is not more nationally known. Launched in 1901, the Discovery bore Captain Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their first Antarctic foray (promptly nicknamed the Discovery Expedition), served in World War One, and performed the first ever scientific study on whales.
Now moored in the city of its birth, visitors can inspect the bridge, the galley, and the cabins used by Scott and his crew. Discovery played a pivotal part in the conquering of the Antarctic – so should it in your trip to Dundee.
5. A burgeoning art scene
Dundee’s very own West End has steadily grown into one of the premier creative quarters in the whole of the UK. The Dundee Repertory Theatre has played host to David Tennant and Joanna Lumley, and stages everything from comedy nights and Shakespeare to opera. Five minutes down the road, a line of monolithic neoclassical columns marks the entrance to Caird Hall, a showpiece concert venue that regularly welcomes the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
6. St. Andrews
Half an hour’s drive across the Tay lies the tiny town of St. Andrews – formerly an Archbishopric, and legislative centre for world golf. Steeped in history, St. Andrews’ cobbled streets yield a cornucopia of architectural delights. Explore the remains of its coastal castle and crumbling cathedral, or, if you prefer your buildings still standing, take a turn round the 600-year-old university that launched the love affair between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
V&A Dundee is open 10am to 5pm every day. It’s 2019 exhibition programme will explore videogames, robots and the future of design.
The Press Association
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