Dundee Scotland: Jute, Jam & Journalism
The two bridges over the River Tay are an exceptionally fine way to enter the city, and you’ll soon see an ancient fort rising from the heart of the city, the summit of Dundee Law. Scotland’s fourth largest city, Dundee is not beautiful nor is she elegant. But she is lively and smart and her position is exquisite. Set between the Sidlaw Hill and the broad River Tay, the southern exposure creates a buttery light.
Dundee had a thriving trade with India, and India’s jute brought prosperity. Broughty Ferry, a suburb of Dundee, was called, “The richest square mile in Europe.” Vast seaside estates were built by wealthy jute barons. Not a particularly romantic way to make money, and not one we have an easy time relating to today, but jute was right up there with precious metals. Without it, you’d have no strong material to hoist sails and bind goods.
The wealthy jute barons brought their tastes and desires, and what they wanted were sweets. Trade with India brought oranges and spices. What to do? Make marmalade to keep them fresh. And so, Dundee’s second claim to fame as the center for marmalade was born. Of course, where there is money and shipping there will be skullduggery, pirates, and deals under the table. Dundee was rife with stories for eager journalists. “Follow the money,” is as true in journalism as it is at a crime scene!
To feed her trade, Dundee’s ship-building prowess grew during the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the HMS Unicorn, built in 1824, is the oldest British-built warship still afloat, and it is still outfitted as if it was on its last voyage. It brings the importance of shipping home to have a shipboard experience other than a cruise! And, berthed at Riverside, is the royal research ship called “Discovery.” It was built in 1901 for the first of Captain Scott’s voyages to the Antarctic. (It was also one of the last sailing ships to be built in Britain.)
The majestic, medieval tower house of Glamis Castle is near Dundee, and her pinnacles pierce the skyline. Glamis Castle began as a royal hunting lodge in the 11th century. And, it was the childhood home of the late Queen Mother. (You can visit her bedroom, with a portrait of her, when she was young). The rooms open to the public are filled with china, paintings, tapestries, and furnishings that cover a period of 500 years. On the grounds are wrought-iron gates sculpted for the Queen Mum on her 80th birthday.
Dundee has been called, “Scotland’s City of Discovery.” You might bump into Desperate Dan, circle a dragon, become a polar explorer, shop to your heart’s content, test your senses, visit the theatre, go ice-skating, swimming, have a game of golf, visit several glorious castles, and hit a few cultural hot spots. Dundee has plenty to offer any traveler who is on the lookout for some authentic experiences in Scotland!