Dundee Things to Do

  • Law Hill
    Law Hill
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    Tay Estuary
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    View to rail bridge and Fife
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Most Recent Things to Do in Dundee

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    Verdant Works

    by Drever Written Feb 6, 2014

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    The Verdant Works is a former jute mill
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    In an earlier age man had been the hunter-gathered while women tended to home and family. In Dundee (when nicknamed Juteopolis) a few men still employed their ancient skills of hunting. They manned ships to hunt for whales in the far frozen corners of the earth. Others built the sturdy vessels that could withstand the crunching of ice against the bow - they also built and manned a few cargo ships for carrying jute. Generally though there was little need for men except to boil the pot.
    Dundee was known as Juteopolis for good reason. It was a city of jute mills though a whaling industry supplied the oil needed to soften jute fibres. It was a women’s and children’s world. Machines created the tune they danced to in carding, drawing, roving, spinning, cop and spool winding, beaming, weaving and finishing. Nimble fingers of women were needed to tend the machines. The small bodies of children were needed to clean under machines. Beyond the age of 18 boys became men and cost too much to continue working in the factories.

    Society had been turned on its head. Women went out to work while men stayed at home to look after the home and family. Over the period 1860 to 1960 women brought home the wages – only just above subsistence.

    The Jute Barons grew rich while 50,000 toiled away in their satanic mills -- so noisy that sign language had to be used to communicate. The Jute Barons were able to give Juteopolis grand buildings such as the Cairn Hall and build themselves mansions. They seemed unable to pay their workers a decent wage.

    Jute was made into products that kept the world running. Over 30 essential products incorporated jute. Among the most important were carpets, sacks, twine, ropes, parachutes, sailcloth, tarpaulins and yarns. Even the covered wagons rolling across America often had canopies made from jute.

    Strangely Juteopolis didn’t try to protect its essential industry. Instead the Jute Barons themselves shipped out jute processing machinery to Bengal in the search for even higher profits. This set up competition that was difficult for Juteopolis to compete against even though wages in the town were among the lowest in the UK -- a good example of cutting ones own throat!

    Jute was an environmentally renewal product. Now fibres such as polypropylene made from non-renewable oil became a substitute for jute and killed the industry. Some of the jute manufacturers successfully made the transition to this new fibre though most went out of business.

    The Verdant Mill is being restored to show the machinery and working conditions in the days that Jute practically powered the world. It is ironic that the very mills that failed to supply the workers with a decent wage have now been converted into high quality housing for present day Dundonians.

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    Frigate HMS Unicorn

    by Drever Written Feb 6, 2014

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    Frigate HMS Unicorn
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    Frigate HMS Unicorn moored at Victoria Dock, Dundee at first glance didn’t look like the breed of fast rakish vessel that had been one of the most successful warships of the age. Masts and spars power a sailing ship and this frigate lacked both. A roof even covered her deck. In the brochure though, the graceful frigate under full sail looked fast, dangerous and stirred my imagination.
    I could see in my mind’s eye the huge white sails filling with each breath of wind, the frigate heeling as it beat to windward. Holding steady to the wind the waves roll under the keel without changing the heeling angle of the masts. Turning to run before the wind the ship takes on an unpleasant sea sawing rolling motion that keeps the helmsman on his toes.

    Its foresails offered the same aerodynamics as the wing of an aeroplane. It used renewable energy in a way that modern-day electricity generating windmills try to match. On the debit side the construction of one ship could swallow up a fair sized forest. Before steam ships, which lived and breathed in a smoky fashion, sailing ships commanded the oceans and circumnavigated the globe.

    The first Unicorn in the Royal Navy was captured from the Scots Navy in 1544. Since then a long line of ships have had a unicorn gazing steadfastly ahead from its precarious perch on the prow. The Unicorns of the Royal Navy have more battle honours than even Nelson’s famous Flagship, HMS Victory.

    This Unicorn though was launched in 1824. Built in time of peace, it was immediately roofed over. If needed as a fighting ship she would have been fully rigged in 12 days. Overtaken by the age of steam she had a peaceful life and retired in 1968 as the world’s last unreconstructed wooden sailing ship. Eventually she will be fully rigged and take on the appearance of the rakish warship that she was meant to be.

    Life on board an active frigate was cramped for the 300 men. The gun-deck of Unicorn just about cracked my scull on the beams. Part of the normal complement of 28 long guns was in position. The other 18 needed to make up her rating of 46 guns were normally mounted in small batteries on the Forecastle and Quarterdeck.

    The captain’s cabin in the stern seemed roomy but having to share it with two large guns reduces his space. Its opulence depended on his wealth and the price money won.

    The lower deck was used for accommodation. The officers had small cabins and the crew simply slung their hammocks from the overhead beams -- even lower on this deck than the gun-deck. Apparently hammocks by reducing the rolling motion of the ship were more comfortable than bunks.

    I look forward to the time when masts and spars give HM Unicorn the grace and beauty she was born to have.

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    RRS (Royal Research Ship) Discovery

    by Drever Written Feb 6, 2014

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    Captain Scott ship for Antartic exploration
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    Rounded the corner of a quayside building, the masts and spars of a three-masted sailing vessel were sharply etched against the grey sky in front of us. "The last Dundee whaler," my brother-in-law commented. After a pause he added, "well as good as - she was built to the same design!"
    I was viewing RRS (Royal Research Ship) Discovery, built to take Captain Scott to Antarctica in 1901. She was at the time the first ship ever built in Britain specially for a scientific expedition. She cost £50,000 of the total budget of £92,000 for the expedition.

    Discovery Point, the present mooring of RSS Discovery, is one of the main attractions in Dundee. This research ship was built utilising the city’s experience in building whalers for Arctic and Antarctic whaling voyages. She left Dundee on July 31st 1901 bound for Antarctica. Now a pavilion containing displays and special effects brings the voyages of Discovery alive before climaxing with a tour of the ship.

    The ship’s massively built wooden hull designed to withstand crushing by ice offered greater strength than steel construction and could flex to resist damage. Hoisting the propeller and rudder into the hull preserved them from the bruising, crushing force of ice. Raked iron shod bows riding up over the ice could break through it using the dead weight of the ship.

    In the English Channel Scott considered the ship sluggish, short masted and under-canvassed. These characteristics become virtues in the Roaring Forties down in the southern oceans. She could sail through gales with canvas aloft that would have stripped the sails and masts from more conventional ships.

    After explorations along the coast of Antarctica, the Discovery wintered in the protected waters of McMurdo Sound. Frozen in, she remained there over the next two years until February 1904. A supply ship, the Morning, brought provisions.

    As well as an extensive scientific programme, the expedition aimed to reach the South Pole. A party of Scott, Shackleton and Wilson on December 31st 1902 travelled 300 miles farther south than any previous group. The effects of scurvy and a lack of food forced them to turn back 480 miles from the Pole. It took them over a month to reach their base - as Scott put it "We are as near spent as three persons can be." They had been gone for 93 days and had covered 960 miles.

    The "Morning" returned in 1904 this time with the "Terra Nova" and orders from the UK government for the expedition to return. The Discovery had 20 miles of ice between it and open water and seemed permanently locked in. Hard work with explosives, the wind shifting in the right direction and the two relief ships breaking their way through the remaining ice sprung Discovery out of the jaws of the trap. The Discovery arrived in Portsmouth on September the 10th 1904 carrying many specimens never seen before.

    Discovery Point is well worth a visit.

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  • Polar Exploration

    by bindiibabe Written Jul 3, 2009

    A visit to Discovery Point will give an insight to polar exploration both past and present.
    Visit RSS Discovery, the ship that took Captain Scott to the Antarctic.
    There is a cafe and gift shop as well as conference facilities and an exhibition space often used to display artworks or photography.

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  • Sensation Science Centre

    by rickvalentine Written May 30, 2008

    A unique four star attraction devoted to the five senses. With over 60 hands-on exhibits depicting the senses, visitors aged from 4 to 104 can experience the magic of science.

    From crawling through a giant nose to challenging the robots of Roborealm, the centre will provide hours of fun and stimulation Live science shows, workshops and talks take place regularly covering a spectrum of topics such as creepy crawlies, forensics and the environment.

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    Discovery Point

    by iaint Updated Jan 16, 2008

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    penguins? Dundee?
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    This centre contains The RRS Discovery - the ship used by Scott when he tried to reach the South Pole, early last century (1901-03). The ship is in dry dock, and adjacent to it is a very good visitor centre.

    You walk round both the centre and the ship.

    They have put 4 penguins (cement - not real ones - but life size and realistic) in the street outside, presumably to confuse the unwary passing by in the dark...

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    Dundee Discovery Point

    by SecretScotland Written Sep 20, 2007

    Discovery Point is an all-weather attraction based around the RRS Discovery, the ship used by Captain Scott for his 1901 exploration trip to Antarctica. This is an excellent attraction, one that we consider to be among the best in Scotland and it will appeal to all ages.

    Before embarking on the RRS Discovery you are taken through a series of exhibition areas that explain the purpose of Scott's mission, the construction of the Discovery, and the equipment used for Antarctic exploration in the early 1900's. It really is worth reading the details as there are some fascinating facts, but don't worry as there are also films that explain the history of Antarctic exploration and the RSS Discovery. Children will be kept entertained by the hands-on experiments and games.

    And then there is the ship! The RSS Discovery has been beautifully restored and you can explore the engine room, cargo hold, galley, mess deck, chart room and the relatively luxurious officers' Wardroom with Captain Scott's cabin looking as if he'd just left. The experience is brought to life by realistic figures and sound effects. Look out for the ship's cat!

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    Visit Discovery Point

    by kathymof Updated Apr 16, 2007

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    Discovery with animal pen display
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    The Royal Research Ship Discovery has been rehabilitated and is on display at this very nice museum/visitor center run by Dundee Heritage Trust. You can learn a great deal about what it was like to provision for and go on an antartic expedition. The Discovery is Scott's boat. Singleton, of Endurance fame, was one of his crew. You get to go on the ship and actually see the quarters, galley and multipurpose areas. It is a fun and interesting exhibit. The Discover was launched for the national Abntartci Expedition of 1901 and the ship recently cellebrated her 100th birthday. Your sense of awe and respect for these very brave people just keeps growing as you tour the boat and understand what the crew and researchers endured.

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  • Panoramic Viewpoint

    by Dizee Written Aug 7, 2006
    Law Hill
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    If you drive or walk to the top of the Law Hill in Dundee you will have an uninterrupted 360 degree panoramic view of the area. You will see from the Tay Estuary, across Dundee to the Kingdom of Fife, up the Tay in the direction of Perth and across to the Sidlaw Hills behind the city. The Law Hill is an ancient volcano (dormant for many, many years) and signs give the geological history of the local area together with directions to viewpoints.

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    Glamis Castle

    by stevezero Written Jun 26, 2006

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    Glamis Castle
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    Glamis Castle is the home of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore, who open it to the public. It was the childhood home of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, best known as the Queen Mother, and her daughter, Princess Margaret, was born there. A picture of the castle is featured on the Royal Bank of Scotland ten pound note.
    The castle is one of the most legended castles in the world, it is “ a soaring pile of keep and towers, turrets and battlements.” It is said to have more dark secrets than any castle in Britain.

    Few families are older than the Bowes-Lyons, The Lady and Earl of Strathmore. They had their own army 600 years ago and their own private hangman. King Malcolm II of Scotland was murdered here. Shakespeare placed the murder of Duncan by Macbeth in the stone floored vaulted Duncan’s hall of the castle. And when the Queen mother was a child, she and her sisters always scuttled at top speed through this room.
    No family has had a more intriguing past. A Lady Glamis was burnt by James V as a witch, yet a few years later, Mary, Queen of Scots dined with the family and stayed the night. A monster is said to have dwelt in Loch Calder near the castle. There are many bricked up rooms in the castle. Somewhere in the sixteen-foot thick walls is the famous room of skulls, where the Ogilvies family, who sought protection from their enemies the Lindsay’s, were walled up to die of starvation, being no friends of the Strathmores. The tradition of the heavy pile contain much by its appearance and is impressive to the imagination.
    There is a tea room in the castle, and the gardens and grounds are also open to the public. They are also open to functions like dinners and weddings.

    Admission Rates:
    Castle & Grounds Adult £7.30
    Grounds Only Adult £3.70

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  • Dundee Harbour

    by Dizee Written Aug 12, 2005

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    HMS Unicorn

    Head down to Dundee Harbour and see if any boats are in. HMS Frigate Unicorn is permanently moored in Victoria Dock and for a small fee you can look around her. The ship has 46 guns, was built in Chatham and was launched in 1824. I wandered around her last summer and it was interesting to see what life was like for those who sailed her. (I defintely wouldn't have liked to work on the lower deck in a heavy sea!). Find more about her history etc on www.frigateunicorn.org

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    Resteneth Priory

    by stevezero Written Jun 6, 2005

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    Resteneth Priory

    Thr ruins of Resteneth Priory lie in a tranquil setting, just north of Forfar.
    The chancel and tower of the churh of Augustinian Canons still remain. The lower part of the tower is very early Romanesque work.

    In the care of Historic Scotland -
    Admission Free

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    Arbroath Abbey

    by stevezero Written Jun 6, 2005

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    Arbroath Abbey

    Arbroath Abbey was founded by the monks of the Tironesian Order by King William the Lion in 1178.
    The Abbey is famous in Scottisc history for its association with the Declaration of Arboath. In this document of 1320, Scotlands nobles swore their independence from England.
    A copy of this declaration can be seen at the visitor centre in the Abbey.

    In the care of Historic Scotland

    Admission Charge - Adults £3.30

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    Broughty Castle

    by stevezero Written Jun 6, 2005

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    Broughty Castle, Dundee

    Dundee was once one of the wealthiest ports in Britain. James II recognised the importance of defending the appoaches to the port and granted a license to the Earl of Angus to build a fort at Broughty on the Tay Estuary.
    The fortification changes hands many times, by the time the present five storey tower house was built around 1490
    The castle later fell into disrepair, but was renovated in the 1850's around the time of the Crimean War. The castle was bought by the War Office and remianed in service until 1949.
    It now houses a local history museum.

    Cared for by Historic Scotland and Dundee Council.

    Admission Free

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    Claypotts Castle

    by stevezero Written Jun 6, 2005

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    Claypotts Castle, Dundee

    Claypotts Castle is the perfect "Z" plan towwer house, built between1569 and 1588 by John Strachan of Angus. It remains both intact and little altered throughout the years.
    The castle owes its unusual appearance to the the asymetrical square towers corbelled out over two circular towers at diagonally opposite corners.
    It was later owned by Bonnoe Dundee, and was still inhabited into the 19th Century.
    It is open for limited opening days through the year, but the exterior is always approachable.

    In the care of Historic Scotland

    Admission Free

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