Arriving by train into Dundee on a wet autumn day, the church-spired skyline looked sullen on my left and to the right the Tye Rail Bridge was blanketed in mist.
I walked the short distance from the station to Dundee Backpackers Hostel located across from the city square where the Caird Hall concert hall dominates. Built in 1560, the hostel is in a restored medieval building with 90 beds making it a unique and comfortable place to stay. Even one of the toilets had a fireplace!
The pedestrianised street outside has a conspicuous statue of 'Desperate Dan' and his cheeky followers from the locally produced comic “The Dandy”. The comic is a Dundee icon. The ciy is also the birthplace of computer games “Grand Theft Auto” and “Lemmings”.
Dundee is Scotland’s fourth largest city with a large student population due to the two large Universities. The city sits on the north bank of the Firth of Tye with the impressive landmark Tye Rail Bridge linking it to the south side.
One interesting attraction is the 'North Carr 'lightship at Victoria Dock. A lightship is a portable lighthouse and North Carr is an exceptional examples. Also berthed at Victoria Dock is the 'RRS Discovery' which Captain Robert Scott sailed on his first trip to Antarctic in 1901. Plus the 'HMS Frigate Unicorn'. Scotland’s only preserved wooden warship.
Intriguing day trips from Dundee make it a good place to base yourself for a few days. The home of golf - St Andrews is accessible by the local bus service if you have no transport of your own. And the historically significant Scone Palace is not far away.
The tourist brochure boasts there are 50 golf courses nearby. The shops in the small village of St Andrews cater for golfers and I saw some walking around dressed in tartan plus-four pants. Not that I came to St Andrews for golf, I came to see the medieval St Andrews Cathedral and cemetery.
The village streets have old stone housing and walls, archways with the usual weather-beaten brown-grey stones.
On the foreshore are the remains of the Castle and the neighbouring pier, rebuilt after a storm in 1655, with stones taken from the castle ruins.
An easy stroll along the coastal path you can see the famous St Andrews golf course in the distance and the beach featured in the running scene in the film “Chariots of Fire”.
Continuing a Sunday morning tradition after church, students from the University of St Andrews walk to the end of the pier dressed in red academic gowns. This is in remembrance of John Honey, a student who in 1800 rescued seven men from a shipwreck in the bay.
A short train journey from Dundee to Perth and it is not far to Scone Palace.
The township of Scone was once the capital of the Picts in the 700’s and stood within the Palace grounds until 1805, when it was moved two kilometres away and re-named ‘New Scone’. The old Mercat Cross (Market Cross) and graveyard remain along with the rebuilt archway town entrance. A lorry driver accidently knocked down the original archway down in 2010.
The Palace itself is open to visitors to peruse the extensive collection of antiques, period furniture and artwork belonging to the Murray family who own the property. The staff are friendly and happy to tell you more about what is on display and proud of the history within.
Within the grounds of the Palace estate there are a few sights to see. Most notable is Moot Hill, a raised naturally flat stage where medieval rituals, and up until 1296 the Kings of Scotland, including Robert the Bruce and Macbeth, were crowned upon the ‘Stone of Destiny’. A replica of the stone sits outside the quaint 'Lords of Scone' mausoleum and parish chapel. The original stone, also known as the Coronation Stone, sat in Westminster Abbey until 1996 when the Queen agreed to return it to Scotland and now in Edinburgh Castle until the next British coronation.
The Stone of Destiny replica
The ‘Old Scone’ burial ground has stories to tell if you walk among the gravestones.
There are short nature walks amongst the shady trees and it is possible to spot the rare red squirrel, wild deer and peacocks. A small butterfly and bee garden is now on the site of the old prison.
Visitors with children can get liost in a star-shaped beech tree maze. Half the trees are copper and green to create a tartan effect of the Murray family crest.
Getting there: Dundee is 90 minutes from Edinburgh, 2 hours from Glasgow, 75 minutes from Aberdeen. Train by Scotrail. Coach companies National Express and Megabus offer cheap fares.
All photos taken by myself.