4th-6thJune. Our plan was to spend a few days exploring Dundee, seeing friends and in particular visiting the new V&A. In the end we were unable to find anywhere to tie up in Dundee itself: the commercial port doesn’t cater for yachts, and ambitions to build a new marina have – as in Edinburgh – not yet been fulfilled. So we went to Arbroath, a small town at the mouth of the estuary, which has successfully developed facilities for yachts alongside local boats. It has an inner harbour behind lock gates, so once inside it’s very peaceful. There are good facilities in the town, including several large supermarkets for stocking up.
Arbroath is famous for its ‘Smokies’: haddock smoked whole in wood smoke. The town is full of small fish shops; some appear to be the front room of a house, and each has a smokery behind it, at the bottom of the garden. In the morning smoke rises, and the shops advertise freshly smoked Smokies ready by 12.30. They’re not the only show in town, however. We wandered past the impressive ruin which is Arbroath Abbey, where the declaration of Scottish independence was signed in the 14thcentury. We visited the Signal House museum which tells the story of the Bell Rock lighthouse, 11 miles off shore: it’s the oldest remaining sea-washed lighthouse in the world. Before the lighthouse the dangerous reef was marked by a bell, put there by Abbot of Arbroath in the 14thcentury to warn mariners. The signal house communicated with the lighthouse by raising or lowering a large red ball on the roof.
Dundee is less than 20 minutes away by train which runs along the shore. Stepping outside the station, you immediately see the new V&A, created to look like the prow of a boat and sitting alongside the Discovery, in which Scott explored the Antarctic. Inside, wooden slats lining the walls in the huge open entrance hall create the sense of being inside a boat. The main public gallery contains artefacts celebrating Scottish design, including the oak-lined interior of a tearoom designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Later in the day we visited a real example of Dundee innovation and creativity: Verdant Works, a former jute mill, which contains a fascinating exhibition showing how the jute industry developed and its impact on the city. At its height, 50,000 people were employed in hundreds of jute factories across the city and many more in supporting industries in the surrounding area. Along the harbourside, the high towers of old oil rigs, in Dundee for dismantling, dominate the area: recycling on a massive scale and a sign of change, as Dundee develops……