The road and the miles to Dundee

Apex Hotel, Dundee

Our second weekend away last November was to Dundee. We wanted to see the new V&A which had opened in September and, as Dundee has several other museums which we had never visited before, we decided to book a three night stay with John taking the Friday and Monday off work.

The title of my post is taken from a Scottish folk song which begins:

Cauld winter was howlin’ o’er moor and o’er mountain; wild was the surge on the dark rolling sea.

Our journey was nothing like that, well, apart from the cauld (cold) winter bit. We drove up the motorway and stopped in Perth for lunch and to stretch our legs. Perth is my second favourite Scottish city I think, and I’ve published several posts about it in the past. This time, something caught my eye that I hadn’t noticed before – the Sandeman pub which was previously a public library (you might have to enlarge the second picture to see the inscription above the door and windows).

I chose the Apex Hotel because, although I have never stayed overnight in Dundee before, I had visited it a couple of times for conferences and knew it was good. The location, right on the waterfront, is excellent and only a short walk from the V&A. It’s not the most exciting of buildings, but the surroundings were attractive at night (see top of post). Berthed nearby is HMS Unicorn, launched by the Royal Navy in 1824 and now the world’s last intact warship from the days of sail. We’d like to have visited, but just didn’t have time.

The hotel was also handy for a good range of restaurants. On the following evenings we would eat Chinese and Thai food. This first night we chose The White Goose – I can’t remember now what we ate but I know it was delicious, and I liked their goose mural shown above. We returned to our room eager to get a good night’s sleep to prepare us for our visit to the V&A the following morning.

Linked to Cathy’s On journey strand, though my journey is nothing like as exciting as her tales of the Camino.

Perambulations in Perth

Somehow our usual autumn holiday downgraded itself in 2016 to a couple of nights in Perth in early December! I’m not complaining, Perth is a beautiful city and the weather, though cold, was wonderfully bright. We spent most of our day there, Sunday, following the River Tay Public Art Trail.

Sunbank House Hotel
Sunbank House Hotel
Our hotel (Sunbank House – highly recommended) was on the east bank of the river so we started there and followed the trail through a series of parks and gardens before crossing the river and returning along Tay Street. Here are some highlights.

East bank

This was my favourite part of the trail with the tall spire of St Matthew’s Church an ever-present landmark.

Perth Bridge

We crossed the river by the Perth Bridge which is equally attractive by day and night. It was built in 1766 and widened in 1869. On the other side are the Museum and Art Gallery and the Concert Hall – we didn’t go in this time, but enjoyed visits to both earlier in the year.

Returning to the river, some of the art serves a very practical purpose as flood gates.

We passed the war memorial and regimental monument and admired the beautiful houses on the side of the river we’d just come from.

Then we crossed under the bridge to walk up Tay Street.

West bank and city centre

On the section of Tay Street between Perth Bridge and Queen’s Bridge there are ten wall carvings and several other sculptures, of which my favourite is Shona Kinloch’s chubby eagle standing proudly atop its fish.

The trail now took us away from the river into the city centre – lunch! But also more to see. The Salutation Hotel is another historic landmark, dating from 1699.

St John Street has decorative lampposts and gratings – I’m not sure if they’re meant to remind me of Munch’s The Scream, but they do. Round the corner, Walter Scott’s Fair Maid of Perth sits forlornly on her bench.

Nearby, Nae Day Sae Dark is another literary sculpture, inspired by Perth poet William Soutar. The two figures represent happiness and misery. It wasn’t possible to get a picture of the full circle because a (tuneless) busker had plonked himself right in the way.

After lunch, we continued along the riverbank, passing another sculpture inspired by Soutar, Soutar’s Menagerie, until we reached the Fergusson Gallery. Housed in an old water tower, this is dedicated to the work of Scottish Colourist JD Fergusson (1874-1961). It’s not open on Sundays, but we’ve been before and it is well worth a visit. It also has information about Fergusson’s partner, the dancer Margaret Morris, and their life together.

Craigie walk

From the Fergusson Gallery we set off to follow another trail – there was life in the old legs yet – which focussed on the life of the aforementioned poet, William Soutar. We set off across South Inch (large grassy area) – Soutar was born in one of its bordering terraces.

We then walked uphill to areas Soutar would have played in as a child, passing Craigie Waterfall and climbing Craigie Knowes, a little patch of wilderness in suburbia. In Soutar’s day, the waterfall was surrounded by malt barns, a laundry and a flock mill. Now it’s all houses, though some of the windy roads probably had their origins as farm tracks. Higher still is Craigie Hill, where you can see John striding along below. This looks like the country, but to the left of the picture is a golf course and out of sight on the right traffic thunders along the motorway to Dundee.

Descending again, we passed 27 Wilson Street where Soutar lived in the last years of his life. Here he spent 13 years bedridden with an incurable arthritis of the spine, all the time writing his poetry and receiving a constant stream of friends, neighbours and literary admirers. He died of tuberculosis aged just 45.

Finally, we returned to South Inch and amused ourselves watching the birds on the frozen pond.

Linking to Jo’s Monday Walks where you’ll find her on trail in the Algarve and her friends – well they’re cyber-walking all over the globe.

Scottish Snapshots: Branklyn Garden

Scottish Snapshots is a series of short posts about places I visited in 2013 but didn’t write about at the time

Branklyn Garden is a National Trust for Scotland site in Perth. It’s a small (2 acres) but magnificent garden with an impressive collection of unusual plants, including the rare Himalayan blue poppy. My Mum and Dad love gardens so I took them there one afternoon last summer. We had a lovely time as you can see below.

Kinnoull Hill


As a post-script to our holiday, before we left for home this morning we spent an hour walking in Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park. The 222m hill rises over Perth just behind our hotel and from the ruined Kinnoull Tower, an 18th century folly, you can look down on the Tay and the road below.

Perth by night: where to stay and where to eat


For our long weekend in Perth we chose the Sunbank House Hotel, as shown above. It’s across the river from the centre but it only takes a few minutes to walk in – always essential for us because we don’t want to have to drive to dinner. The Sunbank is number one on Trip Advisor for Perth and we certainly found it very comfortable, and enjoyed our breakfasts too. The staff member who welcomed us was extremely friendly and helpful and gave us lots of tips about what to do and where to eat, so we felt really at home. At £304 for four nights we thought this was good value for the standard.

We were astonished at how quiet Perth was when we went out to eat on Friday night. In Glasgow, the place is usually heaving. However, we soon discovered that everyone was inside all the restaurants we had been recommended! Walking slightly further out from the centre we went into Tabla which we discovered when we got back was number two on Trip Advisor, so we chose well. It’s an Indian, but because the owners are from South India, the menu was not just standard curries. We shared a dosa and some lentil patties to start, then had paneer tikka and a mixed vegetable dish with rice, a garlic nan and a couple of pints of Cobra. It was delicious and all freshly made – you have to wait about 20 minutes for the dosa because they make the pancake from scratch. Coming from Glasgow, we consider ourselves curry connoisseurs and this was up there with the best. Highly recommended and all for just under £50.

Almost next door to Tabla is a Thai restaurant, the Mae-Ping. It looked interesting and, like Tabla, well occupied but not full so we thought we’d have a good chance of getting in and would try it on Saturday evening. This decision was affirmed by Trip Advisor (9 in Perth) and our friend in the hotel who said it was owned by people from Thailand and therefore more authentic than the other Thai restaurant in town. Again, we were happy with our choice though wouldn’t put it in the same rank as Tabla. We had mixed vegetarian starters, some of which were a bit heavy on the batter, then I had a vegetarian red curry and John had a duck dish. Both were meant to be hot but seemed quite mild to us, though they were delicious. Again, the bill came to under £50 and this included a bottle of wine and jasmine tea, which we thought was a real bargain.

One of the restaurants we were recommended and couldn’t get into on Friday was Sante, so we made a reservation for Sunday night. It’s number 3 on Trip Advisor and I’m told the rib-eye steak was delicious (whisper it, “better than the Chip”). I had the vegetarian assiette, mixed vegetable tapas, which was nice but unexciting compared to other places I’ve had tapas, so I wouldn’t rate this place as highly as the others we have visited, or not for vegetarians at least. For two courses, wine and coffee we paid just over £60, so a little more expensive too. But the olives on arrival and the complimentary bread and oil were nice touches.

On Monday, our final evening, we had rather over-eaten at lunchtime and decided to go out a bit later just for one course. We went to Breizh, another of the restaurants that were very full on Friday. Its owners are from Brittany and it specialises in crepes, or galettes. We each had one and, being easily influenced, followed the suggestion on the menu to pair them with imported Breton cider, and very pleased with it we were too. With a couple of coffees, this came to £31, so our cheapest dinner, but a lot less (deliberately) to eat.

Overall, we have been very impressed with the range and standard of the restaurants in Perth, but if I had to choose my favourite, it would definitely be Tabla.

To finish, here are a few shots of Perth by night – the riverside, St John’s Church, the Salutation Hotel and the Concert Hall:






Tomorrow, it’s back home, then back to work on Wednesday after a lovely break.

The pleasures of Perth


Perth is a beautiful and ancient city on the banks of the River Tay. It’s a great base for a long weekend and we spent today exploring it. The highlight for me was the Fergusson Gallery dedicated to both JD Fergusson, one of the Scottish Colourists, and his partner Margaret Morris, the pioneer of modern dance. Not only were the exhibitions interesting and well presented, the building was fascinating too – it was formerly (19C) Perth’s waterworks.


A final point about the galleries – the ladies on duty this morning had to be two of the most friendly and helpful attendants we’ve encountered. Hope someone in Perth and Kinross council is listening!

We had coffee in the cafe of McEwen’s, described to us as the Harrods of Perth. That might have been a bit of an exaggeration, but it was bigger than it looks in the picture, being spread over several buildings, and had a lovely homewares department.


After a wander round town and a visit to the Farmers’ Market (bought some scrummy chilli oatcakes) we had lunch in the cafe at Perth Concert Hall, a modern, light and airy building. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking the riverside path from which you get glimpses of Scone Palace on the other side of the river. One disadvantage of going away so early in the year is that many places, including the palace, aren’t open yet.


The ducks on the river seemed particularly playful today and John got some good pictures of them.



After that, it was back across the river to our hotel, of which more in another post.