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10 Best Historical Landmarks In Dundee

Dundee is a historic city, and there are a lot of historical landmarks that you can visit, from cathedrals to castles, observatories to ships, Dundee Culture looks at a list of the ten best historical landmarks in the city.

10. Verdant Works

Photo: Andrew Batchelor / Dundee Culture

Verdant Works is unique in the fact that it is the UK's only jute museum. It prides itself as an attraction which has a century's worth of history and allows visitors to explore what life was like in the mills.

One of the newer attractions that was opened in the museum is the absolutely gorgeous High Mill which went under an extensive renovation - and now it has been restored to it's former glory.

Fun fact: Verdant Works was named after the verdant-coloured fields that once surrounded the site of the jute mill.

9. Broughty Castle

Sitting on the banks of the Tay is the absolutely stunning Broughty Castle which has oversaw quite a lot of history.

Broughty Castle played a notable role during the Anglo-Scottish Wars of the late medieval and early modern periods.

Originally built in the late 15th century as a coastal defense against English raids, it witnessed several conflicts between England and Scotland.

In 1547, during the Rough Wooing, a series of Anglo-Scottish conflicts aimed at forcing a marriage between Mary, Queen of Scots, and the young English King Edward VI, Broughty Castle was captured and held briefly by English forces. However, it was later recaptured by the Scots. Throughout its history, the castle remained strategically important in guarding the Scottish coastline and resisting English incursions.

In the centuries that followed, the castle became a multi-purpose landmark, having housed a military school; then the Tay Division Submarine Miners Royal Engineers, who laid mines in the river during the Crimean War.

Today, Broughty Castle is now a museum operated by Leisure and Culture Dundee and it is free for all to enter.

Fun fact: Broughty Castle was once purchased by the Edinburgh and Northern Railway Company in the 1840s as part of their expansion to Broughty Ferry, but they didn't do anything with it until it was sold to the War Office two decades later.

8. Tay Rail Bridge

The Tay Rail Bridge is one of Dundee's most famous historical landmarks, having made international attention as a result of the Tay Bridge disaster which claimed the lives of an estimated 75 people back in 1879.

When constructed, it was the longest bridge in the world, and it quickly cemented itself to be one of the finest bridges ever built - until the disaster. When visiting the city, then US President Ulysses S Grant commented that it was a "big bridge for a small city".

After the disaster, it was decided that the stumps from the first bridge would be kept, and it serves as a historic symbol of the tragedy that struck on that awful December night.

It is a stunning landmark which has incredible views of the city as you travel inwards or outwards and holds a lot of value for Dundee.

Fun fact: The old railway station in Dundee was named after the bridge.

7. Cox's Stack

Dundee's tallest landmark is the Cox's Stack which is situated in Lochee, in the west of the city.

Built as part of the Camperdown Works jute complex in the 1800s, the Cox's Stack serves as a symbol of Dundee's jute industry - but can often be linked to the slavery and poor working conditions that jute workers faced.

It is a landmark that can be sighted from many parts of the city and is easily recognisable.

Today, it towers over the rejuvenated Stack Retail Park, and visitors can take time to look at its stunning architecture before and after they go shopping.

Fun fact: After the decommissioning of Camperdown Works, there were plans for the Cox's Stack to become an advertising tower with neon lighting that was inspired by the Las Vegas neon signs.

6. Mills Observatory

Photo: Andrew Batchelor / Dundee Culture

Opening to the public in 1935 as the UK's first purpose-built observatory, the Mills Observatory is a beloved icon which has been visited by the likes of Sir Patrick Moore and Apollo astronaut David Scott.

Mills Observatory was originally meant to be built on the Dundee Law, but the war and several setbacks stopped it from happening.

At Mills, you can see a Victorian refracting telescope, a small planetarium, and various display areas which feature astronomical objects - and it is free admission.

Fun fact: Mills Observatory is one of only two observatories in the UK that has a surviving paper-mache dome, the other being Godlee Observatory in Manchester.

5. RRS Discovery

Photo: Andrew Batchelor / Dundee Culture

The RRS Discovery was built in Dundee in 1901 and was the first purpose-built scientific research ship in the world.

It departed Dundee in 1901 to undertake research as part of the Discovery Expedition for four years. But it wasn't until 1986 until she returned to the city.

The RRS Discovery now sits at the beating heart of Dundee's waterfront. You can literally walk in the footsteps of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton which is absolutely amazing!

Fun fact: The RRS Discovery helped discover that Antarctica was a continent and was the first ship in the world to conduct research on climate change.

4. HMS Unicorn

The HMS Unicorn is one of the oldest surviving ships built in the world. With 2024 marking the ship's 200th anniversary, celebrations are indeed in order.

It holds an unbelievable amount of history, from historic items over the course of its time being a frigate ship, to a literal Unicorn replica in the main foyer.

The Unicorn does have a very exciting future. With the prospect of a new visitor centre opening by the 2030s, and the ship moving into dry dock at the East Graven Dock, it certainly is a place that deserves to have equal love and attention like the Discovery.

The HMS Unicorn has a lot of fascinating history - and is one to explore when visiting the city.

Fun fact: The HMS Unicorn actually turns 200 on 30 March.

3. McManus Galleries

Photo: Andrew Batchelor / Dundee Culture

Sitting in the heart of Dundee's city centre is the stunning McManus Galleries which is considered by some as the best attraction in Dundee.

The architecture of this building is beautiful and hosts a fabulous collection of artefacts relating to Dundee, and you always learn something new about the city each and every time that you visit.

The McManus Galleries is the best place to visit in the city if you are keen to learn more about Dundee's history. And the cafe, well, it is amazing.

The best part? It is free admission for everyone.

Fun fact: The McManus used to be called The Albert Institute, and it also has its own Collections Unit near The Howff.

2. The Old Steeple

The Old Steeple is the oldest surviving building in Dundee.

Having saw the city change over the course of six centuries, it still stands tall and proud, and is a symbol of Dundee's strength as a city as it survived numerous attacks and sieges over the course of its history.

The Old Steeple has been around to see Dundee change for a very long time, from a small village into a bustling city - and centuries on, it is still a beloved landmark.

Fun fact: The Old Steeple has bells which were cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, the same foundry which cast Big Ben and the Liberty Bell.

1. The Dundee Law

Photo: Shahbaz Majeed / Frame Focus Capture Photography

Arguably the most historic landmark in Dundee has to go to the place that has seen it all - the Dundee Law.

The Dundee Law is what remains of a volcanic sill, and has turned into a icon of the city. When travelling over the Tay Road Bridge, the Dundee Law is the first landmark that immediately captures your attention.

The Law offers you a breathtaking view of Dundee and the areas that surround it, and you can see it from every part of the city, from the West End, all the way through to Broughty Ferry.

Erected in 1925, the Dundee Law War Memorial is the highest landmark in the city. It was built to commemorate those in Dundee who lost their lives in both the Great War and subsequently, World War II.

2025 will mark the war memorial's 100th anniversary.

Fun fact: The Law is not actually an extinct volcano despite claims that it is.


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