The fourth largest city in Scotland, Dundee sits upon two hills, the Balgay and the Law. In addition to its spectacular setting overlooking the River Tay, Dundee is a vibrant city with a large population of students. Easily accessible by both rail and road, Dundee is joined to Fife by two bridges over the River Tay, the Tay Road Bridge and the Tay Rail Bridge.
One of the richest towns in Scotland in the 12th century, Dundee suffered for its strategic location. It saw action in the Scottish Wars of Independence in the 13th and 14th centuries, was bombarded by the English in 1547, besieged by Montrose's forces and almost completely destroyed in 1651 during the Civil War. The devastation was complete and it would take Dundee over a century to recover.
Dundee's rebirth began in the mid-18th century when it earned a reputation for itself as a manufacturing town famous for the "three J's" of jam, jute and journalism. Dundee is still home to DC Thomson & Co Ltd., publishers of the Beano and the Dandy and Dundee's streets are decorated with statues of its characters. James Keiller & Son marmalades and jams are also still widely available. Although Dundee's linen production has long ceased, visitors to Dundee can visit Verdant Works one of the best industrial museums in Europe. Housed in a former jute mill, the museum details the jute industry which once employed as many as 40,000 people in Dundee alone.
The main attraction in Dundee is the RSS Discovery. Built in Dundee, the Discovery was the first ship to be built in the UK for scientific purposes. Launched in 1901, the ship was an engineering feat of its time built to withstand the harsh conditions of Antarctica. It was upon the Discovery that Robert Falcon Scott set the record in his time for reaching the furthest southern latitude. The Discovery returned to Dundee in 1986 and now resides next to a specially built state-of-the-art visitor centre with audio-visual and interactive displays. Maritime enthusiasts visiting Dundee can also head to Victoria Dock where they'll see the oldest British-built wooden frigate still on the water, the Frigate Unicorn. Built in 1824 at Chatham for the Royal Navy, she was an impressive warship carrying 46 guns and now gives visitors will get an insight into life aboard such wooden sailing ships in the time of Nelson.
Despite a history which dates back as far as the Romans, the oldest building to be found in Dundee is the Old Steeple of St Mary's Church which dates to the 15th century. Situated at the heart of Dundee, the Old Steeple is probably the finest structure of its kind in Scotland. Wishart Arc in Cowgate is another relic of Dundee's past. Once a protected gateway into Dundee it was converted into a pedestal from which religious reformer George Wishart preached to plague victims in 1544. Other survivors of fortifications in Dundee include three castles but only one of these only one is open to the public. 16th century Dudhope Castle in Dudhope Park is now part of the University of Abertay and may only be viewed from the outside. Unfortunately the striking, asymmetrical structure of Claypotts Castle, built by John Strachan, may also only be admired from the exterior. However, to the east of Dundee lies Broughty Castle. Built to defend Dundee from marauding English ships, it now houses a museum which details the history of Dundee and that of its whaling fleet, once the largest in Scotland. Broughty Castle overlooks a golden sandy beach in an area known as Broughty Ferry. It was once called the "the richest square mile in Europe" after the proliferation of mansions built here by Dundee's jute barons. Nowadays, it is the beach here which is famed for an annual charity event known as the N'everday Dook. The event sees some 100 to 150 swimmers brave these freezing waters to take a New Year's Day Dip in aid of good cause.
Other attractions in Dundee include Sensation, Dundee's science centre with its Roborealm where you'll get the unusual chance to interact with robots. At Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre in Nethergate, you'll see contemporary art and film while the McManus Galleries in Albert Street houses 18th and 19th century Scottish paintings as well as artefacts from Ancient Egypt. To the north of Dundee is a former reservoir, Clatto Country Park which has facilities for fishing and watersports.
The best time to visit Dundee is either at the beginning of July when Dundee comes to life with a Guitar Festival or in September with its celebration of aromas in the annual Dundee, Food & Flower Festival, the biggest event of its kind in Scotland.
Curious Facts or Total Fiction?
1.William Wallace went to school in Dundee.
2.Dundee was home to the world's worst poet, William Topaz McGonagall. In 1877, McGonagall felt "a strange kind of feeling" which he quelled by writing lines of excruciating verse, a practise he continued till his death in 1902. He is now commemorated in Dundee's McManus Galleries.