Cruise on Scotland’s longest river into striking Dundee. Scotland’s fourth largest city is on the up as its impressive waterfront undergoes a massive revamp with a much-lauded new museum at its heart, the V&A Dundee. The Fife and Angus fishing villages tempt, as does St Andrews for golfers and non-golfers alike.
Cruise port location
Cruise ships dock in the Port of Dundee, which lies on the northern shores of Scotland’s longest river, the Tay. Saga, Azamara and Seabourn called here in 2019, with Cruise & Maritime Voyages using Dundee as a departure port. Two ships can normally berth alongside with tenders rare. For a reference point look out for the V&A Dundee to the west in the city centre.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
Handily you can walk into the city centre around a 1km to the west where the V&A Dundee lies. A tangle of busy roads snake that way so you may want to use the free shuttle bus run by DD One and Broughty Ferry Traders Association, which service the city centre and the beachfront suburb of Broughty Ferry to the east.
The local bus service is efficient, easy to use and inexpensive. The city centre is compact enough not to necessitate any public transport, especially if you use the free shuttle bus. Taxis are cheap too. If you want to explore further into Angus or south into Fife, a hire car is best.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages operates a number of cruises out of Dundee, with a spectacular sailaway down the River Tay out into the wider waters of the North Sea. A number of train services operate to Dundee from all over the UK, with the Caledonian Sleeper overnight service from London allowing some time in the city before boarding. Flights to Dundee Airport are limited, though Loganair services London Stansted.
Dundee’s burgeoning hotel scene offers an array of options. Right by the railway station the Malmaison Dundee is one of the most stylish of the chain in the UK. The even newer Hotel Indigo Dundee stands out, a design-led hotel built in a hulking old mill that fits very well with Dundee’s current industrial rejuvenation zeitgeist. It’s definitely worth arriving a night, or even two, before your cruise with an acclaimed restaurant here too. Both hotels are within walking distance of the port, or a five-minute taxi ride.
What to see and do
The V&A Dundee is the big hitter, but this emerging city's waterfront is ideal for exploring on foot, with a slew of galleries and shops to check out in the compact, grandly historic centre. Push beyond Dundee and the hinterland tempts with heritage sights, a rugged coastline and world-class golf courses, including the chance to play a round at legendary St Andrews.
What can I do in four hours or less?
With the city centre so close and flat you don’t need an excursion to make the most of Dundee. Culture vultures can make it a one-stop stay at the V&A Dundee. The Kengo Kuma-crafted world-class design museum, the first V&A outside London, opened to much acclaim in 2018. It’s ever changing temporary exhibitions keep it lively and its waterfront restaurant with river views tempts on longer visits. The McManus Galleries are another venerable cultural institution and the RRS Discovery, Captain Scott’s old ship, sits right by the V&A Dundee offering an experience more in keeping with the city’s long maritime history. If it’s St Andrews you seek, then Seabourn’s ‘St Andrews, Home of Golf’ tour allows you time to take in the golf heritage and the landmark cathedral.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
Full day trips are the best option as the vagaries of the local weather seldom allow a deck day sunbathing. There are myriad possibilities beyond Dundee, best opened up with your own car. Break north up the coastline and the fishing villages of Angus await, a miniature Cornwall of craggy rocks and bountiful beaches. Arbroath sports an active fishing fleet and a landmark cathedral that has played a pivotal role in Scotland’s history. Take the Tay Road Bridge south and Fife beckons with the legendary ‘Home of Golf’, St Andrews. Book well ahead to play any of the famous courses through the St Andrews Links.
Its boutique shops and restaurants are on hand for non-golfers. Seabourn offers a Fishing Villages, Coastal Walk & Stunning St Andrews eight-hour excursion that takes in the picturesque fishing villages of Fife, including Pittenweem, and includes a fish and chips lunch in the legendary multi-award-winning Anstruther Fish Bar. The trip then circles back to St Andrews to stroll in the footsteps of golfing legends, as well as Prince William and his future wife who met at the esteemed university.
Azamara, meanwhile, has an option for golfing at nearby Carnoustie, a British Open venue that normally can be hard to snare a round at. Another option is to take a shorter excursion that also allows you independent time at the V&A Dundee and the city centre before or after. If it’s beach weather, consider taking the free shuttle bus to Broughty Ferry, which enjoys a scenic location tucked where the Tay meet the North Sea and sports a decent sandy beach and cafés.
Eat and drink
Boat fresh seafood from the Angus fishing ports is the highlight. As well as superb quality white fish also look out for the Arbroath Smokies. This delicious smoked haddock delicacy was awarded special protected status by the EU as it’s unique and boasts a long heritage. Afterwards the famously sweet and satisfying Dundee Cake awaits.
Don’t leave without…
Dundee was famously built on ‘Jam, Jute and Journalism’. A striking souvenir made from the tough wearing jute is the ideal memento. The shop at the V&A Dundee also offers design pieces that draw visitors from all over Scotland. There's no online shop, making any purchases even more desirable.
Need to know
Most visits are trouble free if you take the usual city precautions. There are some rougher areas outside the city centre, but few sights of interest there.
Best time to visit
Late spring or early autumn when the V&A Dundee crowds are fewer and the city is quieter, with lower rainfall too.
Many shops close on Sundays.