By Clint Brownfield
If you think things always remain the same in Scotland—think again. Here we take a look at some new must-sees in the Land of the Thistle.
You don’t need a car to tour Scotland’s major cities. Our small group relied on ScotRail which would journey from Edinburgh to Dundee. Via ScotRail, you will discover, or rediscover, as in most of Europe, the main train stations are located in the middle of all major cities and in the towns along the way. The trains are quite spiffy, and in no time at all, you can be in another corner of Scotland.
Edinburgh A visit to Scotland’s capital is a must. We stayed at the relatively new Scotsman Hotel conveniently located above the central train station. The classic building is the former headquarters of The Scotsman newspaper, which recently moved to new headquarters. The locally owned hotel is well run and has sweeping views of Edinburgh and is within easy walking distance to the main attractions—Edinburgh Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish National Gallery. Local transportation is inexpensive and so easy to catch a glimpse of the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now one of the most visited attractions in the UK.
Dundee After three days in Edinburgh we headed to Dundee, Scotland’s fourth largest city where we would attend the preview and opening of the new V&A Dundee, the first-ever branch of the venerable Victoria and Albert Museum in London (commonly called the V&A)—which houses the world’s largest design collection. As we crossed the bridge over the River Tay, we first glimpsed the museum, the focal point of the enormous project to revitalize the city’s waterfront. We would spend the next three days touring this spectacular new museum and its contents as well as the city of Dundee.
Dundee, historically, was known for the three J’s—jute, jam, and journalism. The jute business hit the skids a while back; jam isn’t what it used to be, and journalism moved to the Internet. This all left Dundee with some major economic woes. Enter Dundee’s ambitious revitalization project with the V&A Dundee as its centerpiece. The hope is that this will do for Dundee what the Guggenheim Museum did for the economy and profile of Bilbao, Spain.
The fantastic new structure was designed by noted Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma, and houses a permanent collection of Scottish design including the interior of a tearoom created by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scotland’s most famous architect and designer. The museum’s first special exhibit Ocean Liners: Speed and Style was well received. All is very fitting, since in 2015, UNESCO designated Dundee Scotland’s first design city.
In an interview with Mr. Kuma, we learned that his inspiration for the new museum was the sea cliffs he saw as a child in Japan and that the building would start a conversation between Dundee’s waterfront and the land behind it. And that it does. Discussions about the V&A will take place for centuries among locals and visitors alike.
The city’s center is charming and harkens back to its former heyday. It’s still possible to walk around this area and have the sense you’re in an earlier century. Within easy walking distance are vibrant cultural institutions that are must-sees during your visit: Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee Rep Theatre and the venerable McManus Museum making downtown Dundee a true art mecca.
THERE’S MORE TO DUNDEE
Dundee is surrounded by some of the most famous golf courses in the world. In 1457 people began smacking around a little leather orb stuffed with feathers at St. Andrews, about 30 minutes away. Nearly 600 years later, they still do. Another nearby golfing mecca is Gleneagles. After an ongoing renovation, this classic resort is ready to host the Solheim Cup in September 2019, the world’s most prominent women’s golf event.
Another Dundee design treasure is Hotel Indigo another recycled structure which opened just in time for the arrival of the new V&A. In what was formerly a textile plant, the hotel has preserved many of the distinctive elements of its former life while installing rooms, suites, an excellent new restaurant and bar using the most modern designs imaginable.
Diners in and around Dundee will hit the culinary jackpot savoring local lamb, beef, produce and some of the best seafood in the world. And, of course, there is salmon and haggis—you might want to look up the recipe for that before tucking in.
The new place to dine in Dundee is The Tayberry where chef-owner Adam Newth is bringing the area into the culinary forefront—great food and views of where the River Tay meets the North Sea. And, whatever you do, seek out the wares of Arbroath Smokies—where you’ll find delicious haddock individually smoked to absolute perfection. Even people who aren’t fish lovers immediately fall in love with these little gems.
A Scotland getaway is a must for 2019. Whether to brush up on the Highland Fling or simply discover new wonders, it won’t disappoint.
For more information on Scotland, visit visitscotland.com.