Visit Dundee recently invited us to spend 24 hours exploring in and around the city famous for jute, jam and journalism. We love Dundee, so gladly accepted their invitation. Our last stay in the city was in 2019, so we were long overdue a visit.
In 24 hours, our itinerary would combine coastal calm with hip hotels, bustling bars and great eateries. It sounded like a perfect mix.
Exploring the coast – Auchmithie, Angus
Our first itinerary stoop was Auchmithie, a pretty, coastal village located 20 miles north of Dundee, and 3 miles north of Arbroath. Arbroath is best known for its famous abbey and the Arbroath Smokie, yet Auchmithie is where the fishy delicacy originated.
There was a slight dusting of snow on the ground when we arrived in the Auchmithie, but it was calm and the sun was shining. We parked in the village centre, then headed towards Auchmithie’s rocky beach, which is fringed by towering, sandstone cliffs.
Seabirds, smugglers and ghostly goings on
The cliffs are home to a variety of seabirds, during the spring and summer months – including puffins. As we walked along the beach we spotted kittiwakes and gannets nesting on the cliffs and circling overhead, but no puffins. It was still a little too early in the season for them.
If you love tales of smugglers and pirates, then a visit to Auchmithie is a must. The shoreline is dotted with caves, once used by 18th century smugglers to hide their contraband goods. The caves are linked to a ghostly tale. Piper, Tam Tyrie had been playing at a local wedding. He was travelling home with his wife and dog, when a fierce storm broke out. The trio took shelter in a cave. The storm raged outside, so Tam played his pipes to drown out the noise. Tam, his wife and dog were never seen again. A local farmer who lived a mile inland from the cave the tragic family took shelter in, reported hearing the sound of bagpipes playing deep underground below his hearthstone. A true story, or a tale invented by smugglers to keep curious locals away from the caves? You decide.
Flatboy Slim and basking in spring sunshine
Further along the beach, I was exploring rock pools and Mr G climbing on a sea stack, when I spotted a fish lying upside down on pebbles. On closer inspection I could see it was gasping for breath. I picked it up and popped it into a small rock pool, where it flipped itself the right way up. It was a flounder, so I named it Flatboy Slim. Keen to get Flatboy Slim into a larger pool by the shore, so the tide could take him out to sea, but also keen to avoid walking over slippery rocks, I enlisted the help of Mr G. Reluctantly he assisted and moved my fishy friend into a large pool by the shore – and and we watched as he swam off – alive and free thanks to a chance encounter with the Grants from Edinburgh.
After our rescue mission, Mr G went off to climb over even slippier, wet rocks, while I found a sunny spot to sit and bask in the lovely, spring sunshine. The boy stayed with me to soak up some rays.
Auchmithie Cliff Walk
Once Mr G had finished exploring, we headed back to the village to explore the cliffs from above. A coastal path links Auchmithie with Arbroath, taking in dramatic cliffs at both ends. We only had time to walk a short section of the path, but it was gorgeous. There were wildflowers everywhere. Combined with green fields, red cliffs, blue sky and sea, it was a lovely colourful scene.
Lunch – BearPig, Arbroath
After leaving Auchmithie we drove to Arbroath for lunch. Bearpig is a small cafe, located a stone’s throw from the town’s famous abbey. It’s welcoming, quirky, arty, environmentally aware and dog friendly too.
As soon as we sat down the boy was offered a biscuit and bowl of water. After studying the menu we ordered coffees, banana milkshakes, a meze platter for me and a cheese and ham toastie for Mr G.
The food was freshly prepared and tasted fantastic. My meze platter came with flatbread, halloumi, hummus, olives, couscous, falafel and a tasty salad.
I shared half with Mr G in return for half of his toastie. It was a good swap as the toastie was delicious too. Our drinks were great too, the milkshake tasted like real bananas, instead of sugary syrup and the coffee was rich and strong.
Bearpig is a wee gem, which I’d highly recommend visiting if you ever find yourself in Arbroath.
Taking in the view on Dundee Law
Lunch eaten, it was time to head to Dundee. Our first stop in the city was Dundee law, which offers the finest view in town. It takes in the city, the Firth of Tay, its bridges and across the Firth of Tay, Fife. The stadium’s of Dundee’s rival football teams (Dundee and Dundee United) can also be seen from the top of Dundee Law. Dundee were playing Aberdeen at home and we could see tiny Subbuteo men running round the pitch at Dens Park as the watching fans roared encouragement.
Exploring Dundee waterfront
Before checking into our accommodation, we visited Dundee’s stylish waterfront for a wander.
The waterfront is home to the V&A Museum, a cool artificial beach area complete with sand, wooden steamer loungers and an ice cream kiosk and Discovery Point, where you’ll find Scott of the Antarctic’s ship RSS Discovery. Dundee waterfront has undergone a huge regeneration programme in recent years and it looks amazing.
Our accommodation: Staybridge Suites Dundee
Our home for the night was a short hop away from the waterfront. Housed in a converted jute mill, Staybridge Suites Dundee are housed in the listed mill building with sister hotel, Hotel Indigo.
We stayed at Staybridge suites in 2019 and had a fantastic time,so we were delighted to find out we’d be staying there again during this trip. As with our last stay, the check-in staff were fantastic. They welcomed the boy like a rock star and he lapped up the attention.
Our room was a stylish one bedroom suite with a kitchen/dining/lounge and a spacious en suite bedroom.
The original red brickwork, large windows and high ceilings of the mill had been retained. They gave the room a contemporary loft look – which was modern, whilst giving a nod to the past.
Once we’d settled in, Mr G popped out to buy us a wine and beer from the small shop in reception. After spending the day on our feet, it was nice to relax and enjoy our gorgeous suite.
Feeling refreshed after our rest, we got ourselves ready to hit the town for dinner and drinks.
Drinks: Brewdog Dundee
A ten minute walk from our accommodation, BrewDog Dundee was our first port of call. The popular, city centre bar is dog friendly. It was busy with dogs and humans when we arrived. We managed to find a free table in the corner and sat down to study the drinks menu. I chose a stout called Layer Cake and Mr G a pint of Lost Lager.
Brewdog describes Layer Cake as “a rich and decadent stout that has to be tried to be believed”. It was sweet and tasted of marshmallows, chocolate and vanilla. I liked it. Mr G looked sceptical when I described it to him. He didn’t want to try it when I offered him a taste, but he eventually relented and was pleasantly surprised.
Mr G’s tipple was described as “a dry-hopped Pilsner, made with classic German Saphir hops, giving vibrant citrus and stone fruit notes.” Not having a super taster’s palate like me, he described it as a nice, refreshing pint of lager.
After we finished our drinks, it was time to move on. Our next venue was a fifteen minute walk away. We passed some of Dundee’s most iconic buildings and characters en route, including the Caird Hall, the McManus Art Gallery & Museum, Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and Oor Wullie to name but a few.
Tonic is a trendy, independently owned cocktail bar and burger joint located in the Nethergate. The interior is stylish and the lighting subdued, so it has a bit of a speakeasy vibe going on. We were seated in a large corner booth, which was both private and great for people watching.
After ordering drinks, we turned our attention to food. Tonic has a reputation for serving the best burgers in Dundee and that was enough to convince Mr G to try one. He ordered a Cajun chicken burger with Cajun fries (a double whammy of spice). I was tempted by the Cajun burger too but decided to have loaded chilli fries instead.
We were both happy with our choices, although Mr G’s turned his mouth into a fiery inferno. My loaded fries were nicely spicy and the chill topping was delicious. It was the perfect comfort food to line your stomach before enjoying and alcoholic tipple or three.
After finishing our meal, we were keen to try another of Tonic’s specialities – the cocktail. I picked an Oor French Martini, which was made using Arbikie vodka to give the cocktail a local twist. I make a fine French Martini (even if I do say so myself), so the bar was set high. Mr G chose a Rhubarb & Apple Fizz. It was made using Crag & Tail gin – a small batch Scottish gin produced in Angus.
Both cocktails were really tasty, and my Oor French Martini comfortably cleared the high bar I set for that particular cocktail.
We loved Tonic and the boy did too. He slept quietly under our table for much of our visit, which made for a peaceful dining experience.
Back at Staybridge Staybridge Suites, Dundee
Back at Staybridge Suites, we had one for the road, before a combination of fresh air, good food and alcohol sent us off to the land of nod.
Our bed at Staybridge Suites was ridiculously comfortable, so I struggled to stir myself out of it the next morning. Not so for Mr G, who was out yomping round Dundee at 6:30am.
Once I was up and ready, we left our gorgeous suite, said goodbye to the wonderful staff at Staybridge Suites, then drove to Broughty Ferry – a pretty, seaside suburb four miles east of Dundee.
Breakfast: Gracie’s of Broughty Ferry
Broughty Ferry has a nice, small town feel to it. It’s home to a magnificent castle, a beautiful beach and lots of great independent shops and eateries.
We’d be having breakfast at Gracie’s of Broughty Ferry. The decor inside Gracie’s is quirky, with a heavy emphasis on jungle. I love quirky, so I loved Gracie’s before I’d even tried the food.
We ordered coffee, fresh orange juice, a full-Scottish breakfast for me (minus beans, as they’re the work of the devil) and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs for Mr G.
The food was fab. Our visit to Gracie’s was a perfect way to start the day and bring to a close, another brilliant stay in Dundee.
Our time in the city of jute, jam and journalism flew by. The itinerary offered us a well-balanced mix of quiet coastline and vibrant city.
If Dundee isn’t on your Scotland ‘must see’ itinerary it should be. I can guarantee, if you visit Dundee you won’t be disappointed.
Our accommodation, food and drinks were provided on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are entirely my own.
Until next time …