Top-Rated Tourist Attractions In Dundee & Easy Day Trips
Dundee, the fourth largest city in Scotland, spreads along the north bank of the Firth of Tay at the foot of Balgary Hill. Once a major port, the city's waterfront has since become a commercial and cultural hub that includes an excellent maritime museum complete with preserved vessels and a science center, and is a place of entertainment with numerous café's and restaurants. It's also a great place to explore on foot, a highlight being a walk up to Dundee Law, an extinct volcano with a peak of 572 ft offering tremendous views of the city and its surrounds.
See also: Where to Stay in Dundee
The Tay Rail Bridge
If you enter Dundee by train, you'll cross the famous iron bridge over the River Tay. The original 2 mi span was built between 1872 and 1878 and carried the railroad from here to Edinburgh along the longest bridge in the world. But it collapsed in 1879 after a storm, causing a train to plunge into the water drowning 75 passengers (stumps from this bridge are still visible). Completed in 1966, the present bridge took nine years to build and remains one of the worlds' most spectacular railway journeys. Two viewing platforms are located on the bridge affording fine views over Dundee and the Firth of Tay.
Discovery Point and the RRS Discovery
With the aid of special effects and audio-visual presentations, Discovery Point documents the history of the royal research ship RRS Discovery and also vividly illustrates the natural wilderness and awe-inspiring beauty of the Polar Regions. Visitors can climb over the vessel, built in Dundee to take Robert F Scott on his expedition to the Antarctic between 1901 and 1904. Another lovingly restored ship is the Unicorn, a Royal Navy frigate equipped with 46 cannons and launched in 1824 (it's the oldest seaworthy warship in the British Isles). Of particular note is the splendid white unicorn with the royal coat-of-arms carved from Canadian pine.
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 11am-6pm
Admission: Adults, £8.75; Children, £5.25
Address: Discovery Quay, Dundee
Scotland's Jute Museum @ Verdant Works
Much of Dundee's growth down the centuries was due to its jute industry, a natural fiber used in the manufacture of ropes and products such as sacks. The excellent Jute Museum @ Verdant Works explores the impact of the industry on the area, including its effect upon the local populace. The museum contains fully restored machinery, hands-on exhibits and multimedia attractions of interest to all ages. One of the last remaining relics of the city's jute industry, Cox's Stack, is also worth a visit. This 282 ft high chimney was constructed in 1866 as part of the once massive Camperdown Works.
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 11am-6pm
Admission: Adults, £8.75; Children, £5.25; Families (2 adults, 2 children), £25 (Online discounts available)
Address: West Henderson's Wynd, Dundee
The McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery and Museum
Located in a grand old Victorian building in the center of Dundee, the McManus keeps a collection of works by 19th and 20th century European masters and local artists, as well as local history exhibits from prehistoric times to the present day. The archaeological department contains some particularly interesting artifacts from ancient Egypt. Dundee's natural history collection is also included here and concentrates on the wildlife of the Lowlands and Highlands with exhibitions exploring environmental and nature themes. Afterwards, pay a visit to nearby Howff, Dundee's 300-year-old graveyard and the former garden of the Grayfriars monastery.
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, 12:30-4:30 pm
Address: Albert Square, Meadowside, Dundee
Dundee's Old Town Highlights
One of the highlights of Dundee's Old Town is St Paul's Cathedral with its 213 ft tall tower. This Neo-Gothic cathedral was completed in 1853 and is notable for the Venetian Salviati that adorns the altar. The pedestrianized City Square is the busy heart of the city and is overlooked by Caird Hall, which doubles as both the town hall and a concert and conference venue (it's also home to the city's tourist information office). This is a good place to start a tour of the old town, including the many shops located on the High Street.
The Mills Observatory
The Mills Observatory, built in 1935 and located on the heavily wooded summit of Balgary Hill just two miles west of Dundee's city center, is Britain's only full-time public observatory. It's a unique opportunity to do some stargazing using a computerized telescope capable of spotting upwards of 30,000 objects in the sky. Exhibits focus on space exploration and astronomy, and the planetarium shows our place in the universe. It's also a great place to simply admire superb views across the River Tay.
Hours: Tue-Fri, 11am-5pm; Sat-Sun, 12:30-4pm
Address: Glamis Rd, Balgay Park, Dundee
Where to Stay in Dundee for Sightseeing
We recommend these unique hotels in Dundee, near the restaurants, shops, and attractions in town:
- Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa: 4-star waterfront hotel, floor-to-ceiling windows, family rooms, indoor pool, steam room.
- Malmaison Dundee: mid-range pricing, dramatic decor and lighting, claw-foot tubs.
- Hampton by Hilton Dundee City Center: 3-star hotel, bright and airy, complimentary breakfast, fitness center.
- Premier Inn Dundee West Hotel: budget hotel, modern room decor, comfortable bed, free parking.
Day Trips and Excursions Around Dundee
Characteristically baronian in style, Glamis Castle is one of the finest tourist attractions in Scotland. Located 12 mi north of Dundee, this 17th century fairytale castle is surrounded by parkland and lies at the end of a long avenue of oaks. A castle is said to have stood here 1,000 years ago and, according to Shakespeare, was where Macbeth murdered King Duncan. The castle contains a wealth of fine objets d'art including furniture, tapestries, Chinese porcelain, old weapons and paintings, as well as portraits of Elizabeth I. Probably the most striking feature in the Victorian Dining Room is the magnificent fireplace with its heraldic centerpiece in oak bearing the coat-of-arms of the 12th Earl of Strathmore, and the plasterwork ceiling decorated with Scottish thistles, English roses and lions. Entry is via a 50-minute guided tour, but you can linger longer in the grounds and the castle's café and restaurant.
Hours: Apr-Nov, 10am-6pm
Admission: Adults, £10.90; Children, £8; Families, £32
Address: Forfar, Tayside, Dundee
House Of Dun and Montrose Basin Nature Reserve
Built for Lord David Erskine between 1730 and 1742, the House of Dun is a gorgeous two-story Palladian building in the style of the Château d'Issy near Paris. In the fabulous Great Drawing Room, the Scottish lion and Mars (a reference to the earls of Mar, the king's sword-bearers) guard the Scottish regalia, flanked by national emblems serving as symbols of the "Auld Alliance" with France and the "Grand Alliance" or "Union of Crowns" with England. Demonstrations of traditional cloth weaving on old handlooms take place in the courtyard buildings. Admission is via guided tours only, but the superb walled garden and woodland walks can be explored at leisure.
Hours: Garden and Estate - Daily, 9am-dusk; House - Apr-Sept, 11am-5pm
Admission: Adults, £10.50; Families, £24.50
Address: Montrose, Angus
Pretty Perth is the perfect place to spend a day shopping and exploring. Perth's Museum and Art Gallery focuses on local history and also serves as a venue for temporary art exhibitions, while the Fergusson Gallery - located in an old water tower - focuses on he work of watercolorist John Duncan Fergusson. Other Perth attractions are the lovely 15th century parish Church of St John, and Branklyn Garden, one of the most beautiful in Scotland with its many trees, alpine and ericaceous plants, herbaceous borders and dwarf rhododendrons.
Scone Palace is situated mi north of Perth, close to where the Abbey of Scone once stood - famous as the place where Scottish monarchs were once crowned. In the 9th century, Kenneth MacAlpin chose Scone as the royal residence and brought the Scottish coronation stone (the Stone of Scone) here, but in 1297 Edward I took it to Westminster Abbey in London where it remained until 1996.
The major part of the palace was built at the beginning of the 19th century and is now the seat of the Earls of Mansfield, whose ancestors are shown in portraits lining the Long Gallery. Art treasures on display include Porcelain from Meissen, Sèvres and Derby, fine Chippendale furniture, 17th and 18th century ivory carvings.
Hours: Apr-Oct, daily, 9:30am-5pm
Admission: Adults, £10.50; Children, £7.60; Families, £33
Address: Scone Palace, Perth
Blair Castle and Gardens
Blair Castle dominates the northern end of the village of Blair Atholl and occupies an important strategic spot on the road between Perth and Inverness. The castle has been the seat of the Duke of Atholl (Murray clan) since the 17th century, and in 1845 Queen Victoria granted the owner the unique privilege of maintaining a private army, the "Atholl Highlanders" who, on the last Sunday in May, stage a colorful parade.
A magnificent avenue of linden trees leads up to the gleaming white east front of the castle, whose famous guests include Mary Stuart and Bonnie Prince Charlie, who stayed at the castle with his Highland army in 1745. The wood-paneled entrance hall is decorated with hunting trophies and a remarkable collection of arms. After a tour of the interior, the castle grounds are ideal for a stroll before you head to the lovely village of Pitlochry, a popular stopover for visitors travelling the area due to its outstanding natural beauty and numerous outdoors activities.
Hours: Daily, April-Oct, 9:30am-5:30pm
Admission: Adults, £9.90; Children (5-16), £5.95
Address: Blair Atholl, Pitlochry, Perthshire
Loch Tay and Killin
The long, narrow Loch Tay, a haven for anglers and watersports enthusiasts, is considered one of Scotland's most beautiful lochs. Flanked on both sides by partly wooded hillsides, the full glory of Loch Tay can best be appreciated from the summit of Ben Lawers (3,981 ft) on the north bank, the highest peak in Perthshire.
Also of interest is the tiny village of Killin near the west end of Loch Tay. Here you'll find the 19th century Moirlanich Longhouse, an outstanding example of a traditional cruck frame cottage and byre that houses an exhibit of the building's history and restoration. Loch Tay is also where you'll find the Scottish Crannog Centre, an authentic Iron Age loch dwelling with an interesting display of ancient crafts.