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Travel: The best things to see and do in Dundee, voted the UK’s coolest city

© ShutterstockThe V&A Dundee.
The V&A Dundee.

So, what’s it gonna be this weekend? A culture-packed city break, teeming with people and possibilities. Or a slow-go weekend in the country, no noise, distractions or drama?

Here’s an idea – why not do both. Arriving at Taypark House Hotel, driving down a short, winding track, surrounded by tall trees and greenery, save for a few modern tweaks – more of which shortly – feels like wandering into a scene from Monarch Of The Glen.

But for all the country-chic grandeur this baronial mansion sits little more than a mile from the beating heart of Dundee, voted the UK’s coolest city by GQ magazine.

Taypark House was built in 1863 for a jute magnate, and it boasts period features such as turrets and Corinthian columns. Over the past half-century or so, it has been a care home, and the offices of Dundee University’s medical education department before becoming a boutique hotel.

© Steve MacDougall / DCT Media

A flowered-up tuk-tuk gorgeously designed by Dundee artist Joanne MacFadyen is parked in the drive, ready to taxi guests around the grounds on three wheels. In the gardens are a handful of crystal-clear dining domes, lit by fairy lights with room for six guests each. Nearby is an outdoor gin bar.

After a swift check-in, it’s off up a sweeping staircase, and another set of stairs, to the Wee Double Loft, which has an exposed stone wall, view of the grounds, plus double bed and wardrobe. Steps lead down to the en suite which has a large shower and bevelled mirror.

I have a slight pang of regret, as the sun goes down, at failing to pre-book one of those cool-looking pods for dinner. Nonetheless the dining room is bright, airy and attractive in its own right with a window seat giving great views of Dundee Botanic Gardens – which are just next door – and the River Tay.

I opt for chicken liver parfait and fig jelly, with sourdough bread, the latter plated in a toasty pouch. Then, thick-cut pork chop, creamed Savoy cabbage and braised pork hot pot. Both excellent dishes live up to head chef Glenn Roach’s fine reputation. Over a latte, I ponder plans for the following day.

First on the to-do list is a visit to The Law, the City of Discovery’s highest point. I cheat a bit and take the car to Kinghorne Road, from where it’s only a 10-minute walk up to the top.

Formed from volcanic rock, The Law has loomed over the city for thousands of years. A memorial honours the Dundee soldiers who gave their lives in both World Wars. It’s a sunny day, meaning city landmarks can be spotted from afar and there are clear views over the Firth of Tay and across to Fife. I also spot the next stop on my tour.

It’s nearly four years since the V&A design museum opened on the waterfront next to Captain Scott’s RRS Discovery, jutting out to sea like a ship’s prow, or upside-down pyramids, its sloping granite slabs inspired by Scottish cliff edges.

A single staircase leads from the wood-panelled atrium up to the exhibitions.

The highlight of the Scottish Design Galleries must be Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room. Designed in 1907 for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street tearooms in Glasgow, it was saved from demolition but, split into hundreds of pieces, languished in a warehouse, before being painstakingly restored and reassembled.

Other highlights include a Vivienne Westwood Harris Tweed suit, a pop-up stage set for the play, The Cheviot, The Stage And The Black, Black Oil, designed by John Byrne; and the best of Scotland’s comic-book art from The Beano to Frank Quitely’s Superman.

The touring exhibition is Cosmic Dancer, a celebration of the groundbreaking work of Aberdeenshire-raised, punk-inspired choreographer Michael Clark, across costumes, sets and films.

Two ’80s films about Clark by his collaborator Charles Atlas are spliced up in a multi-screen installation, soundtracked by bands such as The Fall, whose New Big Prinz is guaranteed to lodge in your head. Elsewhere is a giant Big Mac and fries, part of the staging from I Am Curious, Orange, Clark’s film project with the post-punk band fronted by Mark E Smith.

It’s all very loud and brash and further proof that it’s all happening on Tayside at the moment. The Dunaissance shows no signs of slowing.


A water sports and aqua park is providing thrills and spills in the heart of the city. Wild Shore Dundee offers wakeboarding, stand up paddle boarding, a floating obstacle course and open water swimming.


Wee Double Loft at Taypark House Hotel from £150 per night. Visit