ANGUS

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Well off the beaten path and most often by-passed by travelers heading straight to the Highlands proper, Angus is a treasure waiting to be discovered.  This is not a tourist county—it is a hardworking region thriving on the land and the sea just as they did many years ago.  It is home to very varied landscape—but there is order to its seeming chaos.  The mountainous terrain of the north and the coastal hilly topography of the south and east are tempered by the fertile Strathmore in the middle.  The famous Angus glens have the Grampian mountains as their backdrop.  Humble fishing towns, as well as remains of the Pictish heritage of the country, dot the region.  Here, too, you will find the fictional witness to Macbeth’s crime, the Glamis Castle.  It is a wonder how the county has remained a secret for so long, but it’s just as well.  The county of Angus thrives on being virtually untouched and unassuming.


Glamis CastleSet on a landscaped park that is part of the lowlands of Strathmore, Glamis Castle
(+44 1307 840393, £9.50) is a haunting and haunted castle and one of the most magnificent castles in existence in Scotland.  It is home to the Earl of Strathmore, but it is better known for being the home that the Queen Mother spent most of her childhood in (in real life) and the setting for Macbeth’s heinous crime (in fiction).

Several rooms in the castle are available for guided tours.  Some of the highlights include the Crypt room, which holds a collection of armour and weapons, and boasts of a twelve-inch wall.  The intricate plaster work and the arched roof of the Drawing Room is also a delight, and it is also haunted.  Ask the guide for some legends regarding the Glamis Castle, and you may well be more entertained, if you are so inclined.  Though the castle dates back to the medieval ages, you will hardly see any sign of this, because of the extensive remodeling done to the castle over the years.

While the rooms are worth exploring, the vast grounds will take up more of your time, and for good reason.  This fourteen-thousand-acre land is flanked by the Grampian Mountains to the south and the Sidlaw Hills to the north, and it is covered with varied gardens, and varied wildlife as well.  Explore the grounds and you will find a Baroque sundial, statues of James VI and Charles I, and a formal Italian garden, which was the last remodeling done to the estate in the 1900s. 

 



Arbroath AbbeyThe fishing town of Arbroath, located northeast of Dundee, has been inhabited since the twelfth century.  It is the largest town this side of Angus and was once a royal burgh.  It does not make as much in the field of fishing as it did back in the eighteenth century when it was a trade centre.  But it is not known for that as much as it is known for being the location wherein the eventual independence of Scotland was first initiated.

 Arbroath Abbey (+44 1241 878756, £4.70) played witness to an important turning point in Scotland’s history.  On April 6, 1370, a group of barons gathered in the Abbey, drew up the Declaration of Arbroath, which contains a plea to the Pope to free Robert the Bruce from excommunication and declare him King of a Scotland that is independent from England.  This paid off and in four years, they were granted freedom.  This has ensured that the culture of Scotland remains free of influence from England. 

Arbroath is no longer the big fishing town it once was, with less than fifty people accounting for its fishing industry, but the industry survives, if only for the legendary Arbroath smokies, or smoke-cured haddock, which tiny family-run establishments still serve. 

Hotels
If you must stay in Arbroath, stay in the very good Harbour Nights Guest House (4 Shore, +44 1241 434343, £65), which is located right by the harbour—this means great views, and also proximity to the best pubs and restaurants in town.  The rooms are all themed and en-suite, as well as large, cozy and immaculately clean.

 


 

Dundee sunsetWhen Dundee (pop  155 000), the fourth biggest Scottish city, collapsed, it seemed like there was no going back to its former glory days of local industries “jam, jute, and journalism” around which the city blossomed.  Nicknamed “Juteopolis” for being one of the largest manufacturers of jute (which supported another big Dundee industry, whaling, as whale oil is needed to manufacture the fabric), Dundee reached its fall when it was deemed much cheaper to outsource the production of the fabric in the Indian subcontinent, where the fiber for jute was harvested, killing not just one, but two large industries.  This left most of the Dundonians unemployed.  For years, Dundee became known for poverty and overall grimness. 

Nowadays, local visionaries are aiming to turn the city around, and they are doing this by reinvigorating cultural activities around the city.   More people are also turning their attention to the natural beauty surrounding some of Dundee—after all, it is on the bank of the Firth of Tay. Aside from celebrating its natural beauty, Dundee is also celebrating its heritage in jute mill with an award-winning museum.  The two other local industries—jam and journalism—are still thriving in town, and though they may not feed the entire population as did jute manufacturing back then, they certainly give pride to the locals.

In the city square, you will find two of Dundonian heroes, fictional though they may be—the statues of Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx, characters from the popular Dandy comic which are both standing at the intersection of Reform Street and City Square.  The D.C. Thomson publishing house that produces the comics is in the same street.

History
T
he city of Dundee has been inhabited since the Mesolithic Ages, but it was in the nineteenth century, when the combination of great strategic location, and extensive railway and harbour links made Dundee a boom town.  It is one of the towns to experience a quick growth during the Industrial Revolution.  But after its quick growth came a quick downfall a century later, after the decline of jute production on British shores.  This caused more than half of the population employed in jute mills, to lose their jobs.  Over the years, jute mills closed one by one till all were gone, and whaling and shipbuilding—both related to the jute industry—all closed.  As if to add insult to injury, another disaster struck the city when Dundee fell victim to one of the most tragic railway disasters in British history, when the Tay Bridge collapsed during a storm, killing lives and destroying a city landmark.

Hotels
Victorian, located in the quiet conservation area between Broughty Ferry and the city centre, this family-owned
Taychreggan Hotel (4 Ellieslea Road, West Ferry, +44 1382 778626, £80) has ten rooms, some of which offer a great view of the Firth of Tay.  The rooms are all en-suite and comfortable, wituffh fast free Wi-Fi.  The staff are also topnotch, with great professional qualifications and equally great service.

Apex Dundee City Quay (West Victoria Dock Road, +44 1382, 202404, from £65) is  of the chain Scottish hotels that are all modern, with more than a hundred rooms which area all furnished with large beds, comfortable showers, free Wi-Fi, and 24-hour room service.  What gives it personality is the structure that’s holding it—a redeveloped dockland area.

A simple six-room Victorian townhouse located in a quiet residential area, Cullaig Guest House
(1 Rosemount Terrace, Upper Constitution Street, +44 1382 322154, from £23/person) is situated on the slopes of the Dundee Law.  It has a regular list of people who keep coming back as it has developed a steady and loyal following among Dundee visitors.

Fisherman’s Tavern Hotel
(10-16 Fort Street, +44 1382 775941, £57) has the best pub in the city, and is simply quirky.  The refurbished rooms located on top of the pub are serviceable at best.

Personality aside, chain hotel Premier Inn
Dundee Centre (Discovery Quay, Riverside Drive, +44 1582 567890, £39)is located right by the discovery quay, making it accessible from many attractions in town such as the Discovery Point.

Shaftesbury Hotel
(1 Hyndford Street, +44 1382 669216, £72) is set in a handsome Victorian mansion located west of the city.  The rooms are all spacious, furnished with luxurious beds and feather duvets, free Wi-Fi and all are en-suite.  The whole hotel is tastefully decorated with modern and antique furniture.  Avoid the food though, as you can find better restaurants around the city.

 

 


 
McManus Museum artifactThe McManus Art Galleries and Museum (Albert Square, Meadowside, +44 1382 307200, free) closed for renovations a few years ago and has recently opened its doors to the public, better than ever.  It is Dundee’s most impressive Gothic-revival structure, and the biggest civic exhibition space.  The structure retains its integrity, even after the renovations, and the result is a state-of-the-art art space.

Verdant Works (West Henderson’s Wynd, +44 1382 309060, £7.75/£11.50 (joint ticket with Discovery Point) is an award-winning museum set in a former jute mill which tells the story of the town’s jute heritage.  It is a visual and narrative triumph, bringing to life not just the heritage of this local industry, but its social implications to the population who were most affected by the downfall, complete with Dundonian voice actors providing authenticity.  

RRS DiscoveryDiscovery Point (Discovery Quay, +44 1382 309060, £7.75/£11.50 (joint ticket with Verdant Works), south of the city centre, tells the story of another local pride, the RRS (Royal Research Ship) Discovery, the locally-made ship that took Captain Robert Falcon Scott to the Antarctic for his first expedition in 1901.  It recreates what it may have been like for the captain and his crew aboard the ship during the expedition, wherein they were able to fight against the harshness of the climate for invaluable scientific information about the erstwhile unexplored region.  To get an immediate feel for their living conditions, you can board the ship which is now docked in the area and examine the cabins themselves.

Sensation Science Centre (Greenmarket, +44 1382 228800, £7.25) is among the Scottish Science Centres Network and is strictly for the kids, though the whole family may find it a hoot to join in the hands-on and interactive museum about the different senses.  The whole museum is divided into six different zones and has over eighty interactive exhibits, as well as temporary exhibits.  It is fast becoming a favorite among visitors, attracting more than sixty-thousand of them annually since it opened in 2000.

West of the centre, near the Sensation Science Centre, you will find the hub of Dundee’s young artistic population in the Cultural Quarter.  This is where one of Dundee’s universities and its much-lauded and only full-time repertory company in Scotland are gathered, amongst Dundee’s best pubs and cafes, making it a lively and youthful place to people-watch.  It is therefore no surprise that this is where you’ll find the Dundee Contemporary Arts (152 Nethergate, +44 1382 909900), an exciting new space that incorporates a print studio, a series of galleries inside a complex, and a jute café-bar.  Here you will find some of the best and most exciting touring exhibits and art house films regularly screening in their cinema inside a sleek space designed by Richard Murphy.

Broughty Castle MuseumSituated on the shores of the Firth of Tay, the Broughty Ferry or affectionately called “The Ferry” is a suburb on the coastline that’s a little on the quieter side.  For a time, it was known as “the richest square mile in Europe” because of its connection to boomtown Dundee.  Its biggest landmark is the sixteenth century Broughty Castle (Castle Approach, +44 1382 436916, free), which stood as a fortress jutting into the Firth, and was used until 1932.  Nowadays, it has been reconstructed and turned into a museum detailing the town’s whaling industry.