Fancy a quiet chat over a pint from the local brewery or a cocktail-laden night followed by a packed dance floor strutting to hits from the 1980s? The choice of nightlife in Dundee, Angus and Perthshire can satisfy every taste.
Live music and traditional bars
Dundee is a superb centre for live music, from concerts at the Caird Hall to excellent local bands in bars throughout the city centre and out in the seaside suburb of Broughty Ferry. With such a compact and walkable centre, it’s possible to visit many live music bars over the course of one weekend evening.
On Perth Road, traditional bars such as the Speedwell Bar, the Taybridge Bar and The Phoenix concentrate on preserving their beautiful interiors (the gents in the Speedwell with its traditional fittings needs to be seen to be believed!) and stocking good beers. The Speedwell is also known as Mennie’s in tribute to a larger-than-life landlady, Mrs Mennie, who ruled the bar for many years. It still has a community feel, albeit a more bohemian one now with its West End location.
Head to a traditional bar for a wonderful atmosphere and local ales
The Taybridge Bar has undergone a recent refurbishment, but instead of making it ultra-modern, this was done to uncover original features, including a beautiful old fireplace. Also adding atmosphere to a decent pint is The George Orwell. With its high button-back chairs, wooden benches and an ambience that attracts the literary types from the nearby university.
Also on Perth Road, the basement Art Bar, directly across from the Duncan of Jordanstone Art College is a popular hang-out for students and the student at heart! This is also an ideal place for cheap eats and has a relaxing covered area to the back for sunny days or smokers.
The live music scene is dominated by Clarks on Lindsay Street with an eclectic selection from Thursday to Sunday, including singer-songwriters with original material to powerful cover bands for dancing, to jazz and open mic sessions.
Dundee is a superb centre for live music, from concerts at the Caird Hall to excellent local bands in bars throughout the city centre
Craft beers and cocktails
Close to the new Waterfront development is Number 57 on Dock Street, which also has music throughout the weekend and keeps the quality high. This is family-run and has a welcoming staff who are always encouraging to those who want to take part in open mic nights. A smaller venue is The Bank Bar in Union Street, a bit of a Tardis but somehow they manage to fit all manner of bands into a small space. It’s cosy, friendly, and lively.
Also in the city centre, around Albert Square and near The McManus is BrewDog Dundee. The craft beer experts have created a stylish bar that has some live music but concentrates on a wide-ranging and ever-changing drinks menu in a relaxing atmosphere. Of course, it’s not all beer.
Enjoy a glass of wine by the waterfront
The Wine Press is well-placed for the city’s Waterfront development and offers a well-priced wine list as its main attraction but also nibbles to make sure the grapes don’t go straight to the head. One of the most popular haunts among the lovely set is Draffens, a speakeasy-type cocktail bar down Couttie’s Wynd. You won’t chance upon it, you really need to know it’s there. Named for the department store that used to inhabit this block, the atmosphere is 100% prohibition-era speakeasy but with a much wider range of cocktails. For more choices, just around the corner in Union Street is the ultra-stylish King of Islington.
The Malbar at Malmaison on the opposite corner also has a great reputation for cocktails. Also at the opposite curve of Whitehall Crescent is the stylish but comfortable Bird and Bear for good beers and food. If it’s a more raucous night you fancy, try some weekend karaoke at gay bar Salty Dog, part of The Pillars on Crichton Street.
Cocktail lovers can also head for Jam Jar in Whitehall Crescent, which is a popular location for small parties and couples looking to enjoy the fruits of the mixologists’ shakers
Dancing till dawn
Over in Broughty Ferry, there is a wide choice from the cosy bothy-like Fisherman’s Tavern to The Ship Inn overlooking the water to The Fort Hotel, which also has the adjoining Wine Spa. Then it’s back to Dundee for a dance.
Fat Sam’s nightclub in South Ward Road might sound like a 1920s gin joint but its retro feel is closer to the present day. Club Tropicana is 80s all the way – colourful, friendly and great fun. The alternative is Vogue, pure 90s with all the different styles of music from Madonna to Britpop.
Dance the night away in one of the areas brilliant nightclubs
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For those who prefer a quieter night, the DCA also offers two cinemas showing a mix of Hollywood and arthouse cinema. Dundee Rep Theatre is a short walk away if a night at the theatre is what you’re after. Both have bars to enjoy a quiet pre or post-show drink. Dundee doesn’t have it all its own way when it comes to live entertainment, however.
In Angus, the coastal town of Arbroath has the appropriately named Coast nightclub on Gravesend. With a mix of live music, DJs, and even food Coast creates a lively atmosphere that is particularly good for special nights out and those looking to dance until the early hours.
Pay a visit to the Dundee Rep Theatre
Also in Arbroath is the expansive DeVitos Nightclub. On Millgate, it caters to many tastes with live music for the big music lovers and DJs for those who just want to dance to the latest hits. An outdoor terrace is perfect for balmy nights and those who fancy a cigarette and for special nights out it has VIP package options.
Montrose has its own annual music festival, which in the past has been headlined by the likes of The Beach Boys, Average White Band, Status Quo and Madness. So obviously the live music scene is flourishing. Bars throughout the town, including The Black Abbott and the Neptune Bar, attract bands from across the area every weekend. Smaller venues throughout Angus are busy across weekend evenings.
Fat Sam’s nightclub in South Ward Road might sound like a 1920s gin joint but its retro feel is closer to the present day
Forfar, being the second largest town in Angus, has great bar venues such as Chapter and Verse and The Stag. The town also has the Reid Hall, which presents a wide range from traditional to classical. In Kirriemuir, Bar Ogilvy and Café Eck’s have been the traditional haunts of live music, but watch out for some special small gigs at the Bank Street Gallery. This tiny art gallery brings some big acoustic names to the town, including classic songwriters like Rab Noakes.
Also in Angus but closer to Dundee is the 19th Hole at Carnoustie which isn’t restricted to those who have just come off the championship links course. It sometimes attracts bands from Dundee and beyond but the karaoke nights can be popular and shows that there’s life in the nights outside the big city.
Grab a pint in a cosy pub
The Craw’s Nest is another lively choice for an unpretentious night of darts and a pint. Those looking for more theatrical entertainment can look to the Webster Theatre and the Abbey Theatre Club in Arbroath. The urban centre of Perthshire, Perth itself, will obviously offer most in terms of lively nightlife.
The Ice Factory has been entertaining club-goers for more than 20 years now and manages to stay, if you pardon the puns, cool for every generation and a place where they can chill out. Located on Shore Road, this is definitely a venue for the dance music fan.
The Loft is in the heart of Perth, on South Street, and offers an opportunity to get dressed up and show off in style. Its sister bar, located below, is That Bar. Serving food and reasonably-priced drinks, it also offers open mic nights on a Wednesday with a plate of that great Scottish delicacy, stovies.
Perth Theatre has now reopened after an extensive refurbishment and is the 21st-century theatre that was promised during its lengthy closure. Perth Concert Hall is also a great place to spend an evening if music or comedy is of more interest than theatre, and has a bar and cafe in the foyer.
Forfar, being the second largest town in Angus, has great bar venues such as Chapter and Verse and The Stag
Theatre and festivals
If it’s a night at the movies that appeals, Perth has the impressive Playhouse on Murray Street, which apart from new releases also screens live theatrical performances from venues such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and even The Met in New York. It also has IMAX capability for full cinematic immersion.
Also for the theatrically inclined, Pitlochry Festival Theatre offers an incredibly varied programme throughout the year. Outside of Perth and bigger towns, the nightlife may look more subdued, but spend a night at a Perthshire country pub and you’ll leave with great memories and several new friends. This is Dougie MacLean country, the great traditional songwriter and composer of Caledonia, the alternative Scottish national anthem, so don’t be surprised if you see guitars, fiddles, accordions and all manner of instruments appearing for an impromptu session.
Watch a performance at one of the areas many theatres
The great country inns are usually CAMRA friendly and stock great real ales that many have only been brewed a few miles away. Pubs like The Losset Inn in Alyth, The Kinloch Arms in Meigle, The Old Cross Inn at Blairgowrie, and Royal Hotel in Dunkeld serve old-fashioned hospitality along with well-kept beers, wide ranges of single malts and, of course, excellent wines and spirits. Each of them are a dream local. It’s not just drinking, though. You’ll find quiz nights, pub games like darts and dominoes and, for the more active, even pool tables and karaoke. Those travelling with dogs will also find that the four-legged visitors are welcome, too, and usually get rather special treatment.
Of course, there are bars with more contemporary styling in the area, too, with most being found in Perth. The Bothy in Kinnoull Street might sound cosy and rural, but it manages to create a modern ambience from an interior of natural materials like wood and stone. It’s also a fine place to eat and manages to keep the restaurant and bar apart, so diners can enjoy their food in peace and those in for a quiet drink can relax without plates whizzing by their heads.
This blend of modern and traditional is something that The Schiehallion Hotel bar in Dunkeld Street, Aberfeldy, also manages to achieve. High gloss and chrome simply wouldn’t suit the surroundings of Perthshire villages, but giving the décor, done in natural materials, a contemporary twist leads to a pleasing atmosphere and a rather comfortable evening. Cheers!
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