From wildlife spotting to tales of exploration, this Scottish city has lots to offer for a family trip, finds Jo Fletcher-Cross
It can seem like every second building in Dundee is an old jute mill — the industry was once the city’s lifeblood, with in excess of 100 mills employing more than 50,000 people at the end of the 19th century. Verdant Works is an evocative museum set in one such mill, explaining this vital element of the city’s history with excellent displays using workers’ stories and working machinery.
Jute wasn’t the only thriving industry in Dundee at the end of the 19th century; it was a whaling port with a thriving shipbuilding industry which specialised in constructing strong vessels which could withstand the ice of the Arctic whaling grounds. So, when a research ship was required for Antarctic exploration, Dundee was the obvious place for it to be built. The famous British National Antarctic Expedition set off in 1901 under the command of Robert Falcon Scott, with a crew that included Ernest Shackleton and zoologist Edward Wilson. They endured a two-year stay in the Antarctic under extraordinary conditions, showing immense bravery; visitors can find out how the men lived and worked together, even looking inside Scott and Shackleton’s cabins. There’s an excellent visitor centre and the ship is right next to the very impressive looking V&A Museum of Design Dundee, opening in 2018.
Set in a beautiful building, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, this art gallery and museum opened in 1869. Its collection focuses on the history of Dundee, bringing together art, history and nature in a very family-friendly environment which includes an excellent creative learning space and a fascinating gallery dedicated to what a museum is, looking at how the collections are cared for and shared.
HM Frigate Unicorn
Perfect for swashbuckling little ones, Unicorn is one of the six oldest ships in the world, and Scotland’s only example of a wooden warship. Small, would-be sailors can clamber around the four atmospheric decks, learning about life at sea on the 46-gun frigate. There’s even a chance to take a selfie with a replica of the masthead: a unicorn, obviously.
Pirate Boats seafari
If pretending to be a sailor isn’t enough, head out onto the Tay estuary from Broughty Ferry. As well as fantastic views of the new V&A building, from May to September bottlenose dolphins will frequently frolic along beside the boat, just a few minutes out from the harbour, ‘porpoising’ (showing off their bellies) and leaping away as they feed on the plentiful fish.