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24th July 2019 Lorraine Flood

The best things to do in Dundee, Angus and Perthshire

In this glorious area of Scotland, the days can be filled with the challenge of the outdoors, coming face-to-face with history, meeting some of the feathered and furry natives, or some more historic but intoxicating experiences (bring your designated driver!). Read on to find out the best things to do in Dundee, Angus and Perthshire. 

The birthplace of Scotland

The county of Angus is known as Scotland’s Birthplace. It was here, at Arbroath Abbey, that the Declaration of Arbroath was drafted in 1320. The Abbey itself is a place to fire the imagination. Founded as a monastery in 1178, the Abbey buildings have obviously succumbed to the passage of time but enough remains to place yourself in history. There is also an interpretation centre that shows just how much of the American Declaration of Independence was based on the Scottish document written 400 years before.

Angus offers the best of both worlds, the ability to head for the hills and enjoy the beauty of Glenisla, Glen Prosen, Glen Clova and Glen Doll, reached from Kirriemuir, known as the Gateway to the Glens; and Glen Lethnot and Glen Esk, best accessed from Edzell. The Angus Glens offer 10 Munros (mountains of more 3,000ft, named for Sir Hugh Munro who was the first person to compile a list of these hills) but also offer easier walking trails and opportunities for nature spotting and adventurous cycling. There are rest stops, of course, such as the beautiful Glen Clova Hotel.

Arbroath Abbey Best things to do Dundee

Visit the historical Arbroath Abbey

Angus also has a glorious coastline, as the train journey from Dundee to Aberdeen clearly shows. There is one expanse of beach that takes the breath away, however. The crescent-shaped sands, with cliffs to its northern edge and woodland behind, is Lunan Bay. It needs to be reached by car, but once seen it’s never forgotten. There’s a great Lunan Café and Farm Shop just yards from the beach. Refuel there or buy picnic supplies. There’s also a campsite and a clean, basic bunkhouse if an overnight stay is required.

Animal lovers should head to Redwings Mountains at Glenogil near Forfar. This is an inspiring place which rescues horses, ponies, and donkeys and allows them to roam the 220 acres of paddocks and woodland. The animals are rehabilitated and rehomed, providing space for new animals to be cared for.

The county of Angus is known as Scotland’s Birthplace. It was here, at Arbroath Abbey, that the Declaration of Arbroath was drafted in 1320

Royal Connections

For those seeking a Scottish fairytale, a visit to Glamis Castle is an absolute must. Glamis is arguably the most beautiful castle in Scotland, surrounded by rolling countryside, manicured gardens, bowling-green lawns and approached down a spectacular drive.

Its royal connections stretch back much further than being the childhood home of the late Queen Mother. It has connections as far back as Mary Queen of Scots and the Jacobites. It’s even the setting for that most theatrical of Scottish kings, Macbeth. There are many castle sites to explore throughout the area, and for keen gardeners few can beat Edzell Castle and Gardens. Much of the castle is still intact but, due to the steps and cobbles, not suitable for visitors with physical impairments. There is a visitor centre, however, and that’s the feature that many people come to see, even over the castle itself.

The Pleasance is a formal walled garden at Edzell Castle, created in 1604. As well as colourful plantings, the garden has stunning stone panels, nesting birds, a tower house, a beautiful summer house and the burial vault for the Lindsay family who lived in the castle.

For a taste of the humbler life lived in Angus, head back to the coast and Carnoustie. A destination for golfers from around the world, it is also the home to Barry Mill, a rarely seen oatmeal mill that is still working, powered by the water that runs in the Barry Burn. It was purchased by the National Trust for Scotland in 1988, four years after flooding had caused it enough damage to leave it empty and derelict. Remarkably it had been a working mill until as late as 1982. Since it reopened in 1992, it has become a popular family day out, with milling demonstrations on Sundays. The fields around are populated with sheep and wildflowers, with benches and picnic tables offering a place to relax and take in the history.

For those seeking a Scottish fairytale, a visit to Glamis Castle is an absolute must

Distilleries and tours

In Perthshire there is an opportunity to experience a different use for Scotland’s grain. Glenturret Distillery in Crieff has been making whisky by hand since 1775. Scotland’s oldest working distillery offers visitors the chance to experience the traditional distilling processes that have been used for generations. This area is beginning to challenge the great Strathspey Whisky Trail further north for lovers of the amber liquid.

At Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery, whisky has been made since 1898 and now offers a range of tours for everyone from the curious beginner to the well-informed aficionado. All tickets include access to the museum and warehouse experience.

Dewars Best things to do Dundee

Sample some delicious Whisky’s at Dewars Aberfeldy Distillery

The story at Tullibardine Distillery near Blackford begins as far back as 1488. Its connection with James IV of Scotland began when the king stopped to buy beer from the brewery there, which he favoured enough to grant a royal charter. Now the Classic Tour takes 45 minutes and details the full whisky making process. The Whisky and Chocolate Tour is 90 minutes and adds a tasting of four malts, paired with chocolate. The Bonded Tour at 90 minutes goes into more depth with a visit to the bonded warehouse and tastings. For enthusiasts, the Connoisseur Tour lasts over two hours and combines all the elements of the previous experiences.

Further north at the Fettercairn Distillery near Laurencekirk, the whisky is made from the fresh spring water that comes off the Cairngorm mountains. This is a smaller distillery and the tours reflect that, but feel much more personal for it. Whisky doesn’t have its own way now of course, with Scotland’s gin industry snapping at its heels. Now the gin distilleries are joining the tour circuit. At Persie Distillery, the experience is down-to-earth and personal, too. Located near Bridge of Cally, it’s open six days from February to December and will open by appointment in January. The owners are happy for you to pop in for free samples and a chat. To learn more book the three-glass gin flight in the distillery tasting room to hear the story of Persie Gin, the botanicals used in its three gins, the process and the brand.

In Perthshire there is an opportunity to experience a different use for Scotland’s grain in whisky making

Castles and Scone Palace

Back towards the city of Perth, visit the crowning place of Scotland’s Kings. Scone Palace is much more than a historic building. This is a destination that oozes history and atmosphere. It’s not about the grandeur, it’s about the importance of this place in Scottish and UK history. The spectacular location on the banks of the River Tay is another attraction. This makes its 100 acres a favoured destination for festivals and large events, such as the Rewind Scotland music festival, the Scottish Game Fair and even a Festival of Orchids.

Its royal connections are fascinating. Inside, visitors can walk along the Long Gallery, once the longest room in Scotland where Charles II proceeded to his Coronation and Queen Victoria witnessed an early demonstration of curling. Scone Palace also offers the chance to taste its own home-grown produce in the Old Servants’ Hall Coffee Shop. There may be scones on offer but remember that the palace is pronounced “Skoon”!

Heading to Highland Perthshire, Blair Castle has fascinating stories from its 700 years in the very walls of the beautiful building. As the seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, the story will take you from a visit by Mary Queen of Scots to the Civil War, and from the Jacobite cause to the disaster of Culloden following Bonnie Prince Charlie’s own stay in the castle. Outside, the Hercules Garden, a nine-acre walled garden recently restored to its original Georgian design, is a must-see and the woodland adventure playground is just within Diana’s Grove and offers children a perfect spot for play.

At Kenmore near Aberfeldy, the time machine takes us even further back – around 2,500 years. At this time extended families would live on the banks of lochs in crannogs, which were usually circular buildings. The Scottish Crannog Centre is run by the Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology and has reconstructed a crannog, using information from discoveries made in underwater excavations in the area. The crannog is at the end of a log walkway, meaning access for mobility scooters isn’t possible, unfortunately. Access for those with disabilities is limited, but staff will do what they can to help.

The centre is not only in one of Perthshire’s most beautiful locations, it has a busy programme of events to keep children enthralled and parents fascinated. Plan ahead and enjoy some of the outdoor activities, such as the Blair Castle Pony Trekking, which is available through the spring and summer months, and Land Rover safaris where people can explore scenery and view wildlife including red squirrels, birds of prey, mountain hares and red deer. Among many other activities on the estate, river salmon and hill loch brown trout fishing is available to book by the day or week. No matter the time of year, outdoor activities are a huge part of Perthshire life.

Scone Palace is much more than a historic building. This is a destination that oozes history and atmosphere

Days out in Dundee

Dundee has been long regarded as the base where days out begin, but no longer. It’s possible to have a wonderful day out in the city, on foot, by bike or by taking a short bus ride. On the north west outskirts of the city is the expansive Camperdown Park. Apart from walking trails, an 18-hole championship golf course, pitch and putt and an adventure playground, there is a Wildlife Centre where you can see European brown bears, wolves, lynx, ring-tailed lemurs, meerkats, and otters. There is also a beautiful historic neo-classical mansion, at the moment closed to the public, but it can be admired as part of a visit to the park.

Dundee is replete with parks and open spaces, some gifted by the jute barons, such as Caird Park to the north of the city and Baxter Park, within a residential area on the Arbroath Road. Exploring the outer reaches of the city has been made easier by the Green Circular that offers a scenic route, taking in meadows, Claypotts Castle in Broughty Ferry, and finally the spectacular waterfront ride along the River Tay past the road bridge and iconic sweeping rail bridge.

V&A Dundee

Be inspired by a trip to Dundee’s brand new V&A

Getting to grips with what made the city one of the most prosperous in the world during the 19th century is simple at Verdant Works. This is an interactive, multimedia museum that will even enthral the smallest of visitors. The success of the museum led to Dundee Heritage Trust’s renovation of the adjoining High Mill, to extend the fascinating story of Dundee’s domination of the world jute trade. Also operated by the Heritage Trust is Discovery Point on Riverside, which tells the story of Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition and then allows visitors to step aboard the very ship that made the journey, the restored RRS Discovery. It now sits alongside Kengo Kuma’s futuristic building – the V&A at Dundee, part of the city’s redeveloping waterfront. This has permanent and visiting exhibitions and space to explore and great views of the Tay and the Discovery, from the Tatha restaurant.

Dundee has been long regarded as the base where days out begin, but no longer. It’s possible to have a wonderful day out in the city, on foot, by bike or by taking a short bus ride

Botanicals and the village of Broughty Ferry

In the days before cars and the road development, the fishing village of Broughty Ferry was cut off from the city but now, as a desirable residential area, it is only 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre and offers a proper seaside experience with sandy beaches, an esplanade and characterful streets with tearooms, excellent fish and chips and multi award-winning ice-cream from Visocchi’s in Gray Street.

Back in the city, the Dundee Botanic Garden is reached by what might be called a good walk up the Perth Road, a haven for independent shops and cafes. The walk down from the road to the gardens is the first part of Riverside Drive, which provides a sweeping view across the river. The Botanic Garden is run by the city’s university and has impressive ranges of conifers and broad-leaved trees and shrubs. Things become more tropical in the glasshouses – learn more about British plants and take a trip around the world with many exotic species.

Tay Bridge

The Tay Bridge, Dundee

And talking of botanicals, Dundee is home to Verdant Gin, voted Scottish Gin of the Year 2017, amazing considering it only went on sale in the same year. There had been no distillery in the city for 200 years and now, due to the success of the products, a visitor centre is planned for 2019.

Dundee is the sunniest city in Scotland but, for days that are slightly less welcoming, The McManus is a building that needs to be explored inside and out. Dominating Albert Square, the refurbishment transformed it into a 21st-century museum with all the grandeur and features that made it such a sensation when it first opened 151 years ago. The combination of its Victorian roots and modern refurbishment means that the exhibitions, talks and workshops are also a mix of fine art, traditional sculpture, Dundee social history and more challenging local and travelling exhibitions.

Whether it’s a day in or day out, this area has something to satisfy all tastes and ages.


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Image credits: ©Chris Watt Photography/Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery; Crown Copyright HES; Drummond Castle & Gardens; Ross Sneddon/Unsplash; Stephen Finn/Adobe Stock; Targn Pleiades/Shutterstock.com;

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