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29th July 2019 Lorraine Flood

The best places to go shopping in Dundee, Angus and Perthshire

Shopping can reflect the character of any destination, and this is no different in Dundee, Angus and Perthshire. Small communities can be replete with galleries and interesting finds, while larger centres of population will provide us with those national chains that can be vital, even when away from home. A blend of familiarity and surprise is the best possible outcome of course, but we do like to find those independent stores and hidden gems that make the experience of any destination so much richer. And if we can find a souvenir that reminds us of a place that stole our hearts, then it makes a shopping trip into a treasure hunt.

Big names and designer brands

Perthshire has a popular shopping city at its heart in Perth. It benefits from being at the heart of the rather affluent county, so can attract many high fashion brands and good quality homewares – there’s an AGA shop at Sculleries of Stockbridge in Princes Street for example, not that one of its desirable ranges could be a souvenir! It’s not all designer names, however. The covered St John’s Centre has the High Street fashion, electronics, jewellers, and everyday stores that we need all year round, whether it’s a birthday card, having a key cut, or buying a new diary. There are also a range of independents, selling everything from bespoke furniture at The Original Chair Company to vintage fashion at Revival.

Family shopping

Find all of your favourite brands and more in Dundee, Angus and Perthshire

Beales, which is part of the largest independent market town department store group in the UK has taken over the impressive St John Street buildings that used to house the Perth institution of McEwens. Heading into the more rural areas, there are gems in every town and village.

Many people head to Aberfeldy specifically to visit The Watermill, included by The New Yorker in a book of the “75 Greatest Bookshops in the World”. It also has a cafe, gallery, and homeware store. It is a beauty of a building and covers three floors of a converted oatmeal mill and deserves its place in that top 75.

Heading north west of Perth and into the hills, the Glenalmond Tweed Company is two miles due west of Harrietfield and a must for anyone looking to take a slice of Scottish style home. The muted, sophisticated Harris Tweed tartans are used in a range of clothing, bags, and cushions and are stylish enough to be fashionable but classic enough to be a mainstay of any wardrobe for decades to come. The company also sells the tweed to take away and use in your own dressmaking or craft projects.

Another family-owned company at Bankfoot just off the A9, only five minutes north of Perth, showcases the best of the area at Taste Perthshire. This has taken the place of a traditional visitors’ centre and, despite the name, offers much more than just food and drink under its impressive roof. It also offers local art and crafts, homewares, books, and music. And, of course, this being one of the most glorious areas in the country for forest walks, outdoor clothing and footwear are also available.

Perthshire has a popular shopping city at its heart in Perth. It benefits from being at the heart of the rather affluent county

Artwork and shopping malls

Many of the small towns and villages are a haven for artists inspired by the surroundings. In Dunkeld and Birnam, for example, there are many small galleries selling paintings and one-off pieces of sculpture and ceramics. They might not be collector’s pieces, but they will be unique to you and your memories of coming across it. The National Trust’s Ell, beside the Atholl Memorial Fountain, has traditional gifts from supersoft lambswool scarves to locally-made chocolate.

In fact, the picture of artists finding their homes and an audience in Perthshire is repeated throughout the towns and villages like Aberfeldy with artists such as Heather M Cumming exhibiting her iron sculptures there. She recycles industrial and agricultural scrap metal into sculptures reflecting the natural world. More traditional art from Scottish artists can be found at The Aberfeldy Gallery, with its mixed and individual artist shows. Outdoor types will find clothing, footwear and accessories in abundance on the small main streets, too, as well as local produce to take as a picnic on a hike or maybe even a fishing trip.

Only four miles west of Aberfeldy is Karelia House, a must-visit for crafting enthusiasts looking for top quality fabrics, yarns and more besides. Another way to gather the goodies is meet the producers on the first Saturday of every month at the Perth Farmers’ Market in King Edward and High Street from 9am to 2pm. It has garnered a reputation as one of the country’s most extensive and best organised markets. Shopping at a farmers’ market is unlike any other and can add to anyone’s culinary journey as they try before they buy. Whether it’s for a picnic or a souvenir to take home, bring strong bags to carry your swag.

Dundee’s city centre shopping is dominated by two malls which bookend its boundaries. With the Wellgate in the east and the Overgate in the west, it’s a pleasant stroll along the pedestrianised cobbled Murraygate and High Street between them. Strictly speaking the area behind the Overgate is still city centre but it fringes the West End of the city. The two centres and the streets in between offer the mainstream shopping that we expect to find in any busy city centre.

Many of the small towns and villages are a haven for artists inspired by the surroundings. In Dunkeld and Birnam, for example, there are many small galleries selling paintings and one-off pieces

Legendary stores

However, there are an increasing number of independents cropping up to join stalwarts such as traditional tea and coffee merchant JA Brathwaite, which has been in the city centre for 150 years and in Castle Street since 1932. Most of the independents are to be found down the small streets which run from the High Street towards the waterfront. One of the most popular souvenir shops with visitors is Quirky Coo in Union Street, which sells design-led local memorabilia and gifts.

Around the corner, Lovely Things in Nethergate does exactly what it claims to – sells beautiful homewares from sofas to lamps, from modern to vintage. The era and size doesn’t matter, as long as they’re lovely. Exchange Street is becoming a food and fashion hub with a branch of the hippest new name in T-shirts, Abandon Ship. Fashion fans should also take a stroll up to the ever-stylish Westport area, where a small independent optician is gathering fans among the musicians who visit the city.

Grouchos shop front

Visit the legendary Groucho’s record store

Spex Pistols, in Johnston’s Lane, has revolutionised eyewear in the city. As long as you can bring your prescription, they can make your face furniture so much more stylish, from new and refurbished vintage frames. Further up the Perth Road, find the Windsor Gallery and Indigo House. They’re not too far apart and both carry an eclectic selection, including Scottish jewellery and ceramics, ethnic fabrics and leather goods, and unusual homewares. Both are great for gifts, as is Rockhaven, which can be found heading back into the city centre on Nethergate.

Men can head up to Commercial Street and find brands at the higher end of the casual spectrum in Manifesto. Alternatively, they can take a quick jog along to Gellatly Street where Ozzys sells skate wear, casual clothing and trainers. For gifts and local art, don’t forget the museum shop at The McManus on Albert Square, the museum shop at the V&A Dundee, or the shop at Dundee Contemporary Arts on Nethergate.

If you do happen to head up to the DCA, it will be difficult to pass a busy frontage with the face of Groucho Marx beaming out. This is Groucho’s, Dundee’s legendary record store and exchange. This shop has seen vinyl records go in and out of fashion and generations of the same family build up their collections from the stock that revolves through the store. It seems now that musicians visiting the city have two must-visit destinations – Groucho’s and Spex Pistols.

It seems now that musicians visiting the city have two must-visit destinations – Groucho’s and Spex Pistols.

Farm shops and local crafts

Groucho’s is not alone in benefiting from the vinyl revival. This Way Up and Le Freak along Perth Road also offer second-hand vinyl, cassettes, CDs and books. And over in Broughty Ferry, just a five-minute drive from the city centre, Assai is in King Street, selling not only records but turntables and other music-connected accessories. The Ferry, as it’s known locally, has usually been known as a more traditional shopping area, with upmarket boutiques and genteel tearooms, but designer gift shops and delicatessens are changing its profile. Being an affluent area, it is also a happy hunting ground for bargain hunters with a great range of charity shops.

The farm shop at Turriff’s Garden Centre and Farm Shop, next to Jessie’s Kitchen cafe on Albert Road is always a great source of high-quality produce, from loose fruit and veg to preserves and chutneys. Angus can also boast a fantastic range of farm shops, and like Perthshire it attracts artists from all over the world who choose to settle there and be inspired by the coastal views and the peace of the hills and quaint country towns. Local artists also thrive, however, and sometimes sell their work in the most unlikely places.

A centre for Angus arts and crafts can be found in the square at Letham. Hand Pict is a co-operative of local crafters and artists who have come together to offer a wide range of their items under one roof (but closed on Mondays). Shop for jewellery, woodwork, ceramics, painted glass, artwork, textiles, bags, quilting and more. Artist Jackie Gardiner sells her seascapes, landscapes and many other oils from a converted church property on Commerce Street in Arbroath, allowing her to meet directly with those interested in her work rather than taking the traditional gallery route.

In Kirriemuir, the birthplace of Peter Pan creator JM Barrie, is the Bank Street Gallery, a small but welcoming exhibition space with a range of interesting new work and the occasional special exhibition. Another small corner of Kirriemuir that could easily be missed is the Star Rock Shop on The Roods. A traditional sweet shop since 1833, it must have fuelled the young JM Barrie with sugar, and still sells not only sweets in jars, but all kinds of liquorice and treats for the more discerning (or grown-up) palate.

The farm shop at Turriff’s Garden Centre and Farm Shop, next to Jessie’s Kitchen cafe on Albert Road is always a great source of high-quality produce

Auctions and markets

Of course, people in Angus need to shop like the rest of us and the main shopping streets can be found in the biggest towns, Arbroath and Forfar. These are towns big enough to allow for supermarket shopping, electricals and other household goods, but small enough to allow independents to flourish, whether it’s traditional sweet shops, butchers, bakers, fishmongers, traditional ironmongers, and delicatessens. Arbroath has White Rose Confectionery, which is making plump marshmallows flavoured with locally-produced berries such as brambles and strawberries, but there is a whole range of flavours including white chocolate with butterscotch.

The area is a hub of salerooms and auctioneers, with Taylor’s in Montrose being Scotland’s largest, selling more than 4,000 items every month in a range of rooms specialising in painting, furniture, jewellery and occasionally a mixed box from a house clearance that can throw up an absolute treasure. Just for the mind-blowing quality of the sheer amount of items on show, Steptoe’s Yard, also at Montrose, is worth a visit. It takes a determined soul to find exactly what they need among the heaps of architectural salvage and piles of old furniture, but the fun is in the rummaging and wondering what the story behind every item is.

Angus Farmers Market

Pick up some local produce at the Angus Farmers’ Market

Angus is an area for outdoor sports, too, and particularly Carnoustie Country, the area that encompasses more than 30 golf courses. Golfers will be glad to know that there’s no need to cross the bridge and head to St Andrews for the best in golfing gear and equipment. They are well served by clothing and equipment across the area and right in town at The Carnoustie Golf Shop on the High Street. It also has experts to custom fit equipment, making sure your game is best served by the choice of equipment.

As in Perthshire, local producers come together to create an outdoor emporium of their wares at a farmers’ market. The Angus Farmers’ Market takes place in Montrose High Street on the first Saturday of each month and in Forfar at Strathmore Hall on John Street, on the second Saturday, both from 9am to 1pm. Apart from meats, seafood, dairy, preserves, and locally-grown plants and flowers, there is also a range of crafts including fragrant hand-made soap.

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Image credits: ©Andy Thompson Photography/Angus Council; David Marsh/Wallgo Creative; Dundee City Council; Dvoevnore/Monkey Business/Adobe Stock; Fraser Band

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