Sunday, September 7, 2014

Last minute holiday in Scotland–the start: Dundee and St Andrews

May/June 2014: You can’t always plan what you do months ahead of time and you have to be a little flexible. That doesn’t mean that you can’t consider your options though. So when things do firm up you are ready to roll (of fly, or walk or cycle or whatever).

As a result we ended having our Summer Hols touring around Scotland, the land of my forefathers. I was a baby when we left Scotland for England, however as a boy I have spent quite a few Summer Holidays on the West Coast in Troon where we used to stay with rellies.

This time we were going up to see my daughter on the East Coast and we were going to take her around the Highlands and Islands (1).  Despite having lived in Scotland for the last three years the extent of her travel has been centred around the Kingdom of Fife, Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow.

The only trouble with last minute bookings is you have to go with what you can find. Once my wife had sorted out an itinerary we checked it was ok with my daughter and then I checked my diary. Oops, I had a meeting in Manchester that I couldn’t cancel. After a bit more re-arrangement my plan was to fly down from Edinburgh for the meeting and then back to continue our hols. (In the end it was more convenient than my usual trip from Cambridge.)

Our plan was to drive up and as luck would have it, my car, the Squealing Pig (Land Rover Discovery 3) had developed a bit of front wheel wibble when braking. As is often the case, it was something that could be fixed by the transfer of a chunk money from me to the garage.  This time around the brakes didn’t squeak though.

The good thing about the Land Rover is it can carry loads of stuff. We had to take some stuff for my daughter, but I was also able to sneak in my Brompton. It has been a wee while since I last cycled in Scotland.

We headed up to bonnie Scotland in what seemed to be continuous rain, from Cambridge to Dundee. It wasn’t quite continuous but it made the driving pretty tiring. Although I do find that the A1 is not a bad way up to Scotland. It is generally less congested than the M6/A74(M).

Our first port of call was the Apex (City Quay and Spa) in Dundee. We have always found this to be a decent place to stay and not as expensive as some hotels in the area. We also like staying in St Andrews but the hotels are busier and expensive.  This time around the television didn’t work in our room, someone came up to have a play, but they couldn’t get it working. Mind you after the drive up I was pretty knackered.

Looking at this picture I perhaps should have sepia-toned it.

Dundee Quayside – outside the Apex

The next day the rain had stopped and although it looked a little grey it was a great improvement on the previous day.

The Quayside, Dundee – through a glass darkly spottily

Although hotels often entice you to book bed and breakfast we find that after a while you get fed up with the same old Buffet breakfast (although the Apex breakfast is fine). So we picked up my daughter and headed to St Andrews for breakfast.

No – we didn’t have ice-cream for breakfast. We had a Scottish Fried Breakfast. Although since our visit The Rule has revamped their menu and no longer serves haggis for brekkie! They still do the tattie scones though.

Ice-Cream anyone – St Andrews

Scotland is a very welcoming place – they named this shop in my honour.


Madras College in St Andrews, so named because it used Bell’s Madras System of education. (More able pupils teach less able pupils.)  The current college is on a split-site, there are plans for a single site operation at Pipeland. It seems to have been going on for a while though.

Madras College – St Andrews

St Andrews is quite a turretty sort of place.

Turret and St Andrew’s Cross

Another Turret – St Andrews

We headed back to Dundee to the Dundee Botanic Garden, but got slightly lost.  We ended in driving down into an area where the offices were made of Lego.

Actually we had driven into District 10@ Seabraes, where anything of alien origin was hidden away. Actually it was a former railway goods yard in the Seabraes area of Dundee.  This area is part of the Dundee Waterfront project.  With Seabraes being one of the five zones of the Dundee Waterfront.

This is Building 01, the first building to open in District 10 and is made of 37 recycled shipping containers, and offers 15 lettable office units over three floors.


Building 01, District 10@Seabraes

It took the power of millions of transistors (GPS) and a bit of common sense for us to get back onto the right road and back down Riverside Drive where there was a big sign pointing the way to the Botanic Gardens.  If you click on that link you will see a map. The Botanic Gardens aren’t far from Ninewells Hospital.  You might also notice that Dundee has an airport – although it seems that the only regular flights are from Stansted – which isn’t too inconvenient (twice a day).

As you might expect, the Dundee Botanic Garden is part of the University of Dundee.  Although some universities are finding their Botanic Gardens unnecessary. St Andrew’s Botanic Garden has lost some of its council funding and has had an uncertain future. A Garden Trust has been set up and agreement between the University and the Council has been reached. Here is their business plan.

Dundee Botanic Garden doesn’t seem to be suffering the same uncertainties, the car park had recently been expanded, the grounds were extremely well kept and they had a cafĂ© that was thriving.  What’s more the car park also provide parking spaces for Kettles (or rather electric cars).


Dundee Botanic Garden – Car Parking Spaces for Kettles

The gardens were lovely, both in terms of their situation and the plants and trees there.

Foraging Bee

Pink Flowers

There are some nice properties around the boundary of the Gardens. Some have turrets. I bet they have a great view from there. (Here is a different house for sale with a turret overlooking the Tay – no price but nice brochure.)

They are good at turrets in Scotland – well the posh places anyway.


Turreted House overlooking Dundee Botanic Garden

As we walked around the garden there was even some graffiti, although I wonder if this was semi-allowed. It was in what looked like a large concrete compost bunker.


Graffiti – Dundee Botanic Garden

It was hard to believe we were in a city.

Dundee Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden also has both temperate and tropical glasshouses. Although we decided it was time for a snack before visiting them. (Second breakfast).

Tropical Glasshouse – Dundee Botanic Garden

Suitable fortified we visited the glasshouses – it was pretty hot and steamy (as you might expect). You could almost walk on the lily pads.


Huge Lily Pads – Dundee Botanic Garden

This looks rather loo-brush like – although in Australia it seems to be called a bottlebrush tree. I think it is a Callistemon – well according to Wikipedia.


Bottlebrush Tree – Dundee Botanic Garden

A Macro Micro Studio, developed by the University of Dundee and built by students to gain a better understanding of user behaviour and technical performance. (Well that is what they say.)


A live-work Passivhaus – Dundee Botanic Gardens

Plants Equal Life

A last look at the Garden before we got into a super-hot, built to cause climate-change, diesel guzzling car aka the Squealing Pig.


Dundee Botanic Garden

After that it was from one Discovery to another.

After the very pleasant stroll around the Dundee Botanic Gardens (and second breakfast) we drove back along the Riverside and then parked the Discovery (Land Rover) near to RRS Discovery. It was the last traditional wooden three-masted ship to be built in Britain (1901).  It was designed for Antarctic Research – RRS means Royal Research Ship.

The first voyage carried Robert Falcon Scott (as the captain) and Ernest Shackleton. Scott died on his second expedition to the South Pole, which they reached on the 17th January 1912, he (and his team) died of exhaustion on the way back.

His son was the famous naturalist – Sir Peter Scott. Among his many achievements he founded the WWF and was a British Gliding Champion in 1963.

As we walked from the car park to the ship I took some pictures (of course). This is the Tay Bridge, which carries the railway over the Tay. It is the second on the site. The first collapsed in 1879. It was re-built as a double-track construction and opened in 1887. This one lasted and in 2003 was refurbished at a cost of over £20million.  Apparently over 1,000 metric tons of bird droppings were scraped of the metal work, all done by hand and bagged up in 25Kg sacks.


Tay Rail Bridge – built to last

Looking the other way – to sea, is the Tay Road Bridge, it is one of the longest road bridges in Europe.  It was opened in 1966. It was a toll bridge, but the Scottish Parliament scrapped all bridge tolls in February 2008.


Tay Road Bridge

There is quite a centre, set up around RRS Discovery. We had a very pleasant time setting our knowledge straight on the history of the vessel. Apparently is used to roll a lot.


RRS Discovery

The Saltire

Now what was the ship called?

The weather was still fantastic in the evening, it had gotten better and better all day. Google+ occasionally pimps my pictures – they call it auto-awesome.


Dundee - Victoria Dock in the evening Sunlight

Dundee - Victoria Dock in the evening Sunlight

A Reminder of what these docks once represented. See how I’ve managed to sneak a cyclist into the picture. The Apex Hotel is just to the left.

Railway Tracks – Victoria Dock, Dundee

Next – off to Skye

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