Back when we were students in St Andrews, there were plans to knock down the building at the waterfront in Dundee and replace them with a V&A Dundee. I don’t pay much attention to things like this but Lloyd does and as soon as we decided to head up to Scotland, this was one place he insisted we visited!
The V&A Dundee actually stands on the grounds of the old leisure centre I told you about in the previous post, (fret not – the leisure centre still exists, just in a shiny new building 😄) and is a much welcome sight in Dundee.
The first thing you see when you arrive on the bridge from St Andrews (driving or even by train) is this waterfront and the building here weren’t the prettiest back in the day (to put it lightly). Having this new building, built to look like the cliffs of the East of Scotland is waaaaay nice than what used to be on here. 😀
The building is equally impressive inside and is home to some absolutely stunning Scottish design. Actually, I probably should have said that before – the V&A Dundee is a Design Museum (like the one in London) and is the first design Museum in the UK to be built outside of London.
The first exhibition on offer here (and it changes over time) is the ‘Ocean Liners: Speed and Style’ exhibition.
It’s a pretty interesting insight into leisurely ocean travel over the years and even includes jewellery made by Cartier for previous passengers…
…but the most fascinating piece has to be the piece of furniture from the first class lounge on the Titanic!
The piece was found in the Atlantic and is the first time a piece of the Titanic has been back in Europe since the boat left the shores of Southampton.
We carried on to the main exhibition, where you can see the tea rooms built by Rennie Mackintosh (tea rooms were places built to counter excessive alcohol consumption – by providing a place for people to hang out and drink tea instead), amongst many other pieces…
…including this winged tiara (also built by Cartier), which has the wings built on springs so they look like they’re fluttering as the wearer walks by with the tiara on.
The museum is smaller than the V&A in London (which is totally understandable – the population in London is much larger after all) but it’s perfectly formed and even has a picnic area upstairs for you to just grab some lunch and come enjoy the view from up here. It’s a place that’s genuinely been built to be part of the city and doesn’t cost a dime to enjoy (for the most part – unless you to a private/exclusive exhibition here).
Next door you have the RRS Discovery, the very same boat Captain Scott took on his journey through Antarctica.
How they managed to take what seems these days like a relatively smaller boat all the way over to the South Pole is nothing short of fascinating… especially when you see photos of said boat stuck in the ice back then.
For lunch, we headed over to the Flame Tree Café, another sign of how Dundee is evolving as it’s a café that serves up vegan and vegetarian meals (I can’t remember any places for veggies in Dundee from back in the day). Meat lovers fret not – it’s not just vegetarian and vegan stuff here, there are some classics for meat lovers here too.
Back when I used to work in Edinburgh, I absolutely loved Coronation Chicken jacket potatoes. It was just such a delicious, no-nonsense hearty lunch and seeing as I haven’t the faintest clue how to make coronation chicken after I left the city, I kinda just never really had it anymore.
Seeing this on the menu, and subsequently ordering it for lunch took me way back to my days in the Scottish capital. It’s not even a Scottish dish or anything but memories of wandering around Princes Street gardens and stopping for lunch with a view of the castle in the background just came flooding back with every bite. 😀
With that, we bade Dundee farewell and made our way over to Edzell, distracted along the way by a castle we had plans to visit initially, then shelved them only to pick up again once we realised we had enough time to pop into.
Said castle is Glamis castle – an absolute beauty of a castle and a true Scottish gem!
What I didn’t really know about Glamis Castle, however, was that this was the childhood home of the Queen’s mother and indeed, the Queen and her younger sister, Margaret frequently came here on holidays to visit their grandparents.
Her holidays here are in no small part why the Queen still very much loved to return to Scotland on holidays (albeit at Balmoral Castle) and it was at this very castle that her sister, Margaret was born.
You can take any photos or videos inside the castle so alas, I can’t really show you around but it is definitely worth visiting.
It’s so fascinating finding out the history of the castle; speaking of which – did you know that scenes from Macbeth were set here? Turns out Shakespeare was great friends with the Earl at the time and the castle inspired his tale of Macbeth.
There are guided tours through the rooms inside the castle but the outside is available for you to wander through at your leisure. (The prices are also different for if you want to just explore the grounds or if you wanna head inside).
Glamis castle has always been one I wanted to explore properly but my expectations were way exceeded by the time we’d explore the castle properly. It’s just such an amazing place.
My favourite thing here though is a letter by Queen Elizabeth, signed ‘Lilibet’ where she’s telling her Grandma how much she misses her and how being back at home in London seem so dull compared to spending time up in Scotland with her. It’s just so adorable!
This stop here, by the way, is why I’m so pleased we decided to get that rental car with Avis!
It’s just so nice to be able to switch your plans up and stop off wherever you feel like when you visit places like this. There are so many gems like this (and some other lovely Scottish villages) we’d otherwise have missed out on!
After a quick pit stop in the village of Glamis, we made our way over to the Glenesk Hotel, where dinner and a whisky tasting awaited us!
The Glenesk hotel, was something of a surprise, first off – finding a huge swimming pool in a hotel here was something I wasn’t expecting (especially considering this is the only hotel in Edzell so technically they could just relax and rest on their laurels 😁) but what really surprised me was finding out that the hotel is home to the largest collection of commercially available whiskies anywhere in the world! There’s even a Guinness World Record certificate to prove it! 😀
I’m not usually a fan of whisky but I soon realised as we went through our tasting that I had probably been drinking/tasting it all wrong. For starters, whisky’s got a pretty strong flavour so tempering it with some water is a good way to start.
Secondly, there’s a huge difference between single malt, single grain and blended whiskies, which makes drinking it a totally different experience.
The extra price you pay for really old whiskies compared to younger one is not as much to do with the quality as it is to do with the rarity (there’s less of the old stuff) so going for a 100-year old whisky doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to taste better than a 10 year one.
There is, of course, a minimum number of years required to make whisky by after that, what makes a whisky great is really down to personal taste and how each batch has been manufactured.
By the time we were done with the whisky tasting, I’ve got to admit, I had a newfound appreciation for Scottish whiskies.
With a whisky-lit fire in our bellies, we headed next door for dinner, starting with haggis, neeps and tatties for Lloyd and scallops for me – both of which were absolutely delicious!
For mains, I went for the lamb shank while Lloyd went for the beef stew, followed by sticky toffee pudding for both of us!
Dinner here was absolutely brilliant and the perfect way to end a beautiful day exploring some pretty great Scottish gems.