Dundee is famous for jute, jam and journalism, but recently it’s earned a reputation as a must visit destination. Industrial wasteland and derelict mills have made way for swanky hotels, bars and restaurants – attracted to the city by the opening of the long awaited V&A Museum (a real coup for Dundee). I’ve always had a soft spot for the city, so was delighted when Staybridge Suites Dundee (one of the aforementioned swanky hotels) invited us to stay.
The day of our Dundee trip arrived, along with some much needed sunshine. Keen to bask in the sun’s rays, I’d planned an itinerary that would allow us to explore the city (and beyond), while spending lots of time outdoors.
Exploring in and around Dundee
Tealing Dovecot Tealing Earth House
Five miles north of Dundee, we made our first stop of the day at Tealing Dovecot and Earth House.
Tealing Dovecot (Doocot in Scots) is a well-preserved 16th century doocot. A doocot is a small, stone building (usually circular) with pigeon holes for birds.
Unusually, Tealing Doocot is rectangular with a pitched roof and crow-stepped gables. It’s a rather posh house for birds, but as they were destined for the table they deserved a little luxury.
The boy didn’t like the doocot and refused to go inside. He showed his contempt for the historic birdhouse by kicking grass at it.
A short distance from the doocot is a much older structure. Tealing Earth House dates to the 1st or 2nd century AD.
Earth houses are found in Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany. Despite the name they’re not houses. They were probably used for storing food and would have been located next to roundhouse dwellings.
Inside Tealing Earth House is a cup and ring marked stone. It looks like it’s been recycled from elsewhere. No one knows the meaning of these ancient carvings, but at Tealing you almost feel like the answer might be within reach.
Monikie Country Park
Leaving Tealing we drove west, to Monikie Country Park (a 20 minute drive from Dundee). The park is popular with watersports enthusiasts, anglers, twitchers (there are Hitchcock like numbers of seabirds and waterfowl in the park), families and dog walkers. It’s a nice place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life for a while.
Keen to bank some steps, we followed a two mile circuit round Monikie Reservoirs. It was a pleasant walk and we only met a handful of other dog walkers on our waterside loop.
The boy was delighted to be on his travels again. He trotted along happily, incorporating frequent sniff stops into our walk. I incorporated an “OH MY GOD – BABY DUCKS!” Stop into the walk too. I LOVE ducklings and can never pass them without making a fuss.
Carlungie Earth House
A few miles south of Monikie Country Park another well-preserved earth house is located in an idyllic, rural settling. Never ones to pass a historic pile of rubble, we decided to visit before heading to Dundee for lunch.
Carlungie Earth House it accessed via a path through a field of barley. It reminded me of the closing scene from the movie Gladiator. The Wee White Dug wasn’t feeling gladiatorial and stubbornly refused to set foot on the path. I suppose when you’re knee high to a grasshopper, barley feels more Children of the Corn than Gladiator. In the end Mr G carried him, and we walked to the earth house humming the Gladiator soundtrack.
Carlungie Earth House dates to around 50 AD. It’s one of the largest and most impressive in Scotland. Several interesting finds have been unearthed at the site, including a Roman amphora which may once have held wine from the Continent. I love the idea of Italian wine being consumed a stone’s throw from Dundee, nearly 2,000 years ago.
A pit stop in Broughty Ferry for lunch
We stopped for lunch in the Dundee suburb Broughty Ferry. Broughty Ferry was once a separate burgh, but was absorbed into Dundee in the early 20th century.
It has a 15th century castle and a nice sandy beach. The castle isn’t dog friendly and dogs aren’t allowed on the beach in high season – worth bearing in mind if you visit with a four-legged friend.
Despite the beach and castle being off limits, our visit to Broughty Ferry was worthwhile as lunch was fantastic. We had takeaway from Mitchell’s Broughty Ferry (St Andrews has a branch too). One soup, goats cheese quiche and slice of cake later and we were fuelled for the afternoon ahead.
It was hot and thunderstorms were due later in the day, so we were keen to get the boy onto a beach for a cooling paddle.
Fortunately, there was a dog friendly one not too far away.
Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve
Facing Dundee across the Firth of Tay in Fife, is Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve. The reserve consists of a forest, small lochs and long stretches of sand. It’s a good place for wildlife spotting – if you’re lucky you’ll spots seals, red squirrels and a whole variety of birds there.
Parking the car, we followed a path towards the beach. We passed dozens of large concrete blocks along the way. The blocks are anti tank defences from WWII, strategically placed to hamper amphibious landings.
Across the Firth of Tay we could see Broughty Castle and beach. We felt smug, as there was hardly another soul on the beach with us, while over the firth it was positively hooching by Scottish standards.
The boy cooled himself down with a paddle in the sea. High humidity made walking an effort, so after a while we headed back to Dundee.
HMS Unicorn, Dundee
We had time for one final stop before check-in at Staybridge Suites Dundee.
HMS Unicorn is a two-hundred-year-old warship that was built for the Royal Navy after the Napoleonic Wars. The dog friendly visitor attraction is berthed in Dundee’s Victoria Dock. It’s worth visiting if you like attractions that are a wee bit different.
The ship has four decks to explore. They bring to life what life would have been like for sailors living and working on battleships in the early 19th century. The two upper decks are spacious and leave you wondering if you’ve stepped onto a tardis. That’s until you set foot below deck. A stooped shuffle is required to explore the Unicorn’s lower decks where the sailors ate and slept.
While the crew were likely humphy-backed from stooping below deck, they were probably too drunk to care, as daily rations included a gallon of beer.
Sleeping on a hammock at sea, after guzzling a gallon of beer must have been interesting. I tried one out (minus the beer). It was surprisingly comfy and like being enveloped in a gently, rocking cocoon. Probably not quite as pleasant during a storm.
When I finally extracted myself (with difficulty) from my nautical cocoon, we said goodbye to life on the high sea (well Dundee’s Victoria Dock) and hello to a life of land loving luxury at Staybridge Suites Dundee.
Staybridge Suites Dundee
Dundee’s jute mills fell silent in the 1970s. In the years that followed the buildings crumbled, leaving a melancholy reminder of the end of an era. Fast forward to 2018 and IHG unveil a plush new hotel and restaurant complex in the city. A new lease of life was breathed into a building that once housed the Baxter Brothers jute mill (it had lain empty for nearly 45 years). IHG completed their multi-million pound transformation of the mill earlier this year, when Staybridge Suites Dundee joined Hotel Indigo and Daisy Tasker restaurant on site.
The hotels and restaurant are entered via a quiet courtyard. Once inside, you feel completely shut off from the city.
Entering Staybridge Suites Dundee, we were greeted warmly and the boy was fussed over as per usual. The interior was gorgeous and even nicer than I’d expected.
Accommodation – king studio suite
Our room was a ground floor studio suite. It was rocking some seriously cool New York loft apartment vibes, but with a distinct Dundonian twist. Some original features had been retained – a high ceiling of exposed red brickwork (I LOVED the ceiling) and large windows gave the room a spacious, airy feel.
Being a studio, our room was equipped with lots of home from home gadgets (like cooking utensils, tableware, a dishwasher, coffee machine and iron).
The en suite had a large walk in shower, big fluffy towels and quality toiletries from Scottish Fine Soaps (one of my favourite Scottish brands).
Unwinding at Staybridge Suites Dundee
Aparthotels can sometimes lack atmosphere, but Staybridge Suites Dundee was different. It felt like a traditional hotel, but with fabulous, American style studio rooms. There was plenty of comfy public space to encourage guests to sit and read a good book (The Beano and Dandy obviously), play board games (provided), or enjoy a good blether over a chilled glass of wine (on sale from a wee shop next to reception).
We chose the blether (Scots for chat) and wine option, settling in the Lower Den to indulge in some down time. Low lighting and chill out tunes had us feeling super, mellow in no time.
Dinner – Daisy Tasker
Spending time outdoors always makes us hungry, so when 6pm arrived we blazed a trail over to Daisy Tasker for dinner.
The restaurant is named after a weaver who worked in the mill and loved to arrange social activities for her fellow mill workers.
The interior design of the restaurant was trendy warehouse themed like Staybridge Suites, but with some velvety opulence thrown in for good measure.
Seated in our velvet clad booth, we ordered drinks and checked out the menus (a la carte and bistro). I chose a Porn Star martini (what the heck, it was the weekend) while Mr G played it conservative with beer.
Having studied the menus we both chose from the bistro menu.
Mr G started with an Arbroath Smokie fish cake – he loved it. I had sweetcorn and red onion bhaji – it was light and delicious.
Mr G’s fish & chips with tartare sauce and pickled onion main was a hit too. The fish was white and bone free, the batter crisp and the chips fluffy.
My penne Provençal was also excellent. I could really taste the ingredients as it wasn’t drowning in pasta sauce. It was perfectly al dente too.
Mr G LOVES Eton Mess and tucks in like a ten-year-old schoolboy whenever he comes into contact with it. He was excited to find it on the menu and it’s safe to say his bowl emptied very quickly.
I had Dundee marmalade pudding with vanilla ice cream – a nod to the city of jute, jam and journalism. It was warm, sticky and delightful.
After dinner we retired to our room to loaf.
Breakfast at Staybridge Suites Dundee
We slept well and woke the next morning looking forward to breakfast. Breakfast is included in the room rate at Staybridge Suites Dundee.
There was a choice of Continental and cooked breakfast items, so we tried some of each. The boy devoured a sausage like it was manna from heaven (four-legged friends are welcome to join humans in the Lower Den for breakfast).
Set up for the day ahead, we said a reluctant goodbye to the fabulous Staybridge Suites Dundee.
Dundee Law – the best viewpoint in town
After checking out we headed down to Dundee’s waterfront where the city’s new V&A museum is located.
The boy posed for a photo beside the incredible new building, despite a sea breeze conspiring against him.
We ended our Dundee trip on a high (quite literally). Dundee Law (law is a Scots word for hill) is the city’s highest point. It offers a fabulous 360 degree panoramic view of the city and surrounding countryside. You can park near the top, which means only a few flights of steps need to be navigated to enjoy the vista.
We arrived at the summit slightly out of puff, but it was worth it for the breathtaking view of the silvery Tay that stretched out in front of us.
The boy met his auld pal Oor Wullie there. He was in town for the Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail. The wee Scottish laddies enjoyed their catch up and a right good laugh.
Twenty four fabulous hours had flown by in Dundee. The trip reminded us that Scotland’s cities are just as visit worthy as the rugged Highland glens.
Although our dinner and accommodation were provided on a complimentary basis, all opinions are my own.
Until next time………