Walk 58: Dundee City Walk: One City, Many Discoveries…

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Probably about 2 miles (3.22km)

Time to walk: Another walk which we can’t attach a timescale on as it’s a city centre one so it’s ‘walk n browse’

Difficulty: Easy – all flat on hard paths

Parking: We were staying in the central Travelodge so just walked from there

Public toilets: Lots of bars, cafes etc

Map of the route: 


So…what can we tell you about Dundee? Firstly it’s a great little walking city & there’s plenty to see & experience

Dundee is Scotland’s 4th largest city laying within the eastern central Lowlands on the north bank of the Firth of Tay, which feeds into the North Sea

Historically part of Angus, the city developed into a burgh in medieval times & expanded rapidly in the 19th century largely due to the jute industry. This, along with its other major industries gave Dundee its epithet as city of “jute, jam & journalism”

Today, Dundee is promoted as ‘One City, Many Discoveries’ in honour of Dundee’s history of scientific activities & of the RRS Discovery, Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic exploration vessel, which was built in Dundee & is now berthed in the city harbour. Biomedical & technological industries have arrived since the 1980s, & the city now accounts for 10% of the UK’s digital-entertainment industry. Dundee has two universities — the University of Dundee & the Abertay University. In 2014 Dundee was recognised by the United Nations as the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design for its diverse contributions to fields including medical research, comics & video games

A £1 billion master plan to regenerate & to reconnect the Waterfront to the city centre which started in 2001 is expected to be completed within a 30-year period, with the Dundee Victoria & Albert Museum opening by 2018 at a cost of £80 million. It’s still ongoing as we’ll see

So…Lets Walk!

1. Our walk today starts in an area of the city called The Nethergate, which is down towards the river. Where it starts was once sea & was reclaimed for the dense closes & courtyards of the port’s Maritime Quarter. Turn away from the river & walk up Whitehall Street


Looks like we've got company!

Looks like we’ve got company!

2. At the top turn left along Nethergate…


…crossing Union Street


Union Street was designed by the city architect, David Neave in 1824 & is typical of the wide streets that were built heading from the city centre down to the harbour, thus allowing large loads to be transported without problem. This is a city where you need to ‘look up’ as many of the buildings had former lives in the heyday of the port. The pub on the corner still bears the arms above the door


Today Union Street’s a mixture of eclectic shops including some traditional ones…


3. Carry on along Nethergate. Over the road’s a church which we’ll have a look at in a moment…


Before this though on the left’s a rather interesting building…the old Green’s Playhouse Cinema which is now unfortunately a bingo hall


The cinema was designed by John Fairweather in 1936 & was the second largest cinema in Europe. The foyer was designed by his nephew George Fairweather who played a part in the design of Blackpool Tower


4. Cross over the road & turn back to have a look at the Market Cross, or as they know it in these parts, the Mercat Cross which was originally located in the High Street


 Designed by John Mylne in 1586 the unicorn on the top was a later addition by Scott Sutherland


5. The green next to the Mercat Cross has a memorial on it…


This memorial is to Mary Mitchell Slessor, weaver, missionary, teacher & magistrate. Mary lived in Dundee & worked in Baxter Brothers Mill. When she was 28 she travelled to Nigeria & Malabar to try & change their views re evil spirits

6. Gotta love the Dundee spirit in the way they use their signs…


It’s time to have a look at the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary which, with its 1470 tower & 48 altars & chapels, was the largest parish church in Scotland. It used to have a spire, but no longer


7. Whilst we love churches this one was closed as we were walking quite late, but follow the shopping centre round to find the penguins…


The penguins were designed by sculptor Angela Hunter. Originally introduced in 2005 after a commission by Dundee City Council, they were made to commemorate the RRS Discovery, the famous ship used for Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s first successful journey to the Antarctic…& they are fabulous & apparently quite frequently get “knit-bombed’ i.e. dressed in clothes, something we first came across in Cardiff



8. Turn left along the High Street which was once Dundee’s Market Place


We’re not going down there but have a quick look along Crighton Street on the right…


This street was originally a traditional Scottish Close, but was widened. The chambers with the oriel windows were designed by Sir John Burnett in 1924



9. The High Street used to be Dundee’s Market Place & the centre of town. It’s an interesting fact that all of the streets narrowed as they approached Market Place to shelter it from the wind. Classical Reform Street on the left’s a classical example of this, leading up to The Meadows which we’ll pass through later


10. On the street ahead of us are some interesting characters that reflect the city’s association with the Beano & Dandy comics…

Desperate Dan - coupe anyone?

Desperate Dan – cow pie anyone?

DC Thomson is a British publishing & television production company best known for producing The Dundee Courier, The Sunday Post, Oor Wullie, The Broons, The Beano, The Dandy, & Commando comics. The company produces more than 200 million comics, magazines & newspapers every year from offices in Dundee, Glasgow, Manchester, & London


The statues are superb & we’ll come across Oor Wullie later

11. On the right’s City Square & quite magnificent it is too, looking slightly reminiscence of French ones…


It’s home to Dundee’s principal cultural venue… the Caird Hall. Caird Hall is the principal concert auditorium in Dundee, Scotland. It was built between 1914 & 1923 & is named after its benefactor, jute baron James Key Caird


The other buildings here are impressive too


12. Come back out of the square & continue down the High Street. Immediately on the left’s one of the oldest parts, a group of buildings known as Gardyne’s Land, which includes an award winning backpackers’ hostel


Gardynes Land consists of a complex of five buildings… a L-plan three-storey merchant’s house from around 1560; lodgings from around 1640; a tenement from around 1790;  a billiard hall from around 1820 & a Victorian retail unit from around 1845.

The merchant’s house is the only domestic building surviving from the time, when Dundee was Scotland’s second largest city


Above the door, the Town House Clock is impressive too


13. At the end of the High Street’s the old Clydesdale Bank…


This imposing Trades Hall was built in 1776 by city architect Samuel Bell. More importantly though, on the right now’s St Paul’s Cathedral


14. The foundation stone of the Cathedral was laid on 21 July 1853 & it was completed in 1855. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott & is in the style of the Middle or Decorated period of Gothic architecture. The total cost of the building exceeded £14,000 & ten years passed before the congregation could pay off all the debts incurred. The church was dedicated on All Saints Day, 1 November 1865. St Paul’s was raised to Cathedral status in 1905

The statue of Adam Duncan stands outside. He was a British admiral who defeated the Dutch fleet off Camperdown on 11 October 1797. This victory was considered one of the most significant in naval history


There’s also a plaque stating that this was also once the site of Dundee Castle which was destroyed around 1314. It was near this spot that William Wallace (Braveheart) struck the first blow for Scottish Independence in 1288

Besides the cathedral’s the beautiful Church House which has two storeys of medieval underbuilding


15. Turn back along the High Street & then first left down Castle Street


Castle Street was cut out in 1793 as access between the Market Place & the harbour. There’s some fine Georgian houses along here along with the home of one of the city’s first cinemas…


…plus there’s some fabulous deli’s including the famous Gazeley’s


 The old Theatre Royal’s on the left


16. At the bottom of the street’s the imposing Exchange building. This building was once on the very edge of the docks. Trading was done from the upstairs coffee lounge which overlooked the ships. It was built on the remains of Packhorse Square which was built as a huge cargo warehouse complex in 1644


Turn left along Exchange Street…


 …where there’s another array of super little shops




17. At the end turn left up Commercial Street where many of todays residential flats were once working Mills


Pass the cathedral on the left again & cross straight over & then right along pedestrianised Murraygate…


There’s quite a few ‘art-deco’ properties along this street, some of which are listed buildings


18. Before reaching the shopping centre look for a narrow passage on the right leading down Peter Street



At the bottom’s Seagate which was once the whaling area of the city with whale boiling yards & the Sugar House


19. Turn left, then left again up St Andrew’s Street


The area we’re entering now’s known as The Cowgate & was once the ancient route for Dundee’s cattle between the fields at Stobs Muir & the Marketplace

20. Directly ahead’s St Andrew’s Church…


Also known as the Trades Kirk, it was built as a symbol of the growing wealth of the Nine Trades in the city & retains that atmosphere within the banners, chairs & stained glass windows. The pub & apartment block on the corners embellished by the Grimond jute dynasty in 1888


Much of the Cowgate area was destroyed in the city siege 1651 & most of the properties here today had to be rebuilt including the row of classical terraced houses below


21. About turn & head back along Panmure Street keeping right past the shopping centre…



…to arrive in The Meadows which was once the source of the city’s water & the site of the mill pond. The area was also known for fairgrounds, market gardens & linen bleaching. In the early 19th century the Council moved all its main offices here

22. There was one problem though…the area has poor foundations as can be seen looking at the The Royal Exchange ahead on the right…


In 1850 the Merchants decided to relocate to the Meadows & build a Royal Exchange in the same fashion as the one in Glasgow. However the ground was unstable & the foundations kept slipping

Take a look at the right side of the building – it has an angle of lean the same as the Leaning Tower of Pisa


23. Over the road on the left’s The McManus, Dundee’s Art Museum & Gallery


McManus Galleries is a Gothic Revival-style building & houses a museum & art gallery with a collection of fine & decorative art as well as a natural history collection


The concept for the building was originally commissioned as a memorial to Prince Albert & intended to contain room for lectures, museum, picture gallery & a reference library. The building was designed by the architect George Gilbert Scott, who was an expert for the restoration of mediaeval churches & advocate of the Gothic architectural style. He intended to design a large tower like in his previous work at St. Nikolai, Hamburg, but the foundations were situated in a small wetland called Quaw Bog at the meeting of the Scourin Burn & Friar Burn, which has since been drained. This meant that the area under the building site was underpinned by large wood beams. However, when construction began in 1865, the ground proved too unstable to support the larger tower that he envisaged. The building was opened as the Albert Institute in 1867

If you fancy having a rest next to Oor Wullie, he’s on the wall…

IMG_5531 copy

24. With your back to Oor Wullie, head straight down the street to an area known as The Howff (no…not The Hoff!)…


This area was once the orchard of the largest Greyfriars in Scotland & was given to Dundee by Mary Queen of Scots in 1564 to be used as a burial ground.


The ground became known as the Howff – ‘howff’ meaning meeting place as it was used for meetings by the Dundee Incorporated Trades. On many of the gravestones you can still see the engravings of symbols & icons related to the trade of the deceased


25. At the traffic lights turn left & then right into the narrow, cobbled street at the end of which on the left’s the imposing building known as Dundee House. Created from a former jute factory owned by the Victorian West Ward Calendar, it became the centre of civic administration in 2011


26. Our light (& weather) was deteriorating now so it was time to cut this walk slightly short. At the roundabout turn left past Debenhams…


…to arrive back at the junction with Nethergate where we turn left to arrive back at the Market Cross


Ideally we would have liked to have carried on down the hill to an area on the right known as ‘Return to the Shore’, the former site of the city’s West Port & an area that was once an 18th century suburb. The area’s also home to Dundee’s Repertory Theatre, the University Campus & a complex containing an art gallery, restaurant & cinema complex

It would then have been a case of heading back along the new quay road to finish at the home of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s boat…RRS Discovery


RRS Discovery was the last traditional wooden three-masted ship to be built in Britain. Designed for Antarctic research, it was launched as a Royal Research Ship (RRS) in 1901. Its first mission was the British National Antarctic Expedition, carrying Robert Falcon Scott & Ernest Shackleton on their first, successful journey to the Antarctic, known as the Discovery Expedition. It’s now come home to Dundee

So that’s our brief look at a lovely small city which is ideal as a base to explore the beautiful east coastline of this area. It’s well worth a visit so…

Go Walk!