Dundee and Angus (the ancient county of Forfarshire) are steeped in history. Journey through the centuries with visits to souterrains and earth houses, carved Pictish stones, medieval abbeys, Georgian country houses, 19th century sailing ships and more. Read on for a possible itinerary.
The ancient ruined Arbroath Abbey has a modern visitor’s centre built by Historic Scotland where you find displays interpreting the Abbey remains and explaining the Declaration of Arbroath where the nobility’s support of Scottish independence of English domination, supposedly a model for the Declaration of American Independence, was signed in 1320. Every year there is a costumed pageant enacting this event. The Abbey itself was founded for the order of Tiron in 1178 by King William the Lion. There are many nooks and crannies to explore. The round “O” in the tower of the red building is visible for many miles around.
Heritage trails produced by the City of Dundee and County of Angus are often available from your B and B hosts.
The Georgian House of Dun, near Montrose, is maintained by The National Trust of Scotland. This1730 building, designed by William Adam, the famous and prolific Scottish architect, was once the home of Violet Jacob, the celebrated Angus poet and descendent of the original owner David Erskine. The house has the most intricate plaster work with stories attached to what they represent. Grounds are extensive and it is as well to take time to enter Lady Augusta’s garden. Shops stock local crafts.
HMS Frigate Unicorn sits at City Quay at Dundee waterfront. Her colourful white, gold and red figurehead of a unicorn, proudly wearing the heraldic naval coronet and supporting between his front legs the present-day Royal Arms pointing towards the city that has preserved this 191 years old lady. A wooden warship, that never went to war, she is covered by a roof to preserve her timbers and looks like Noah’s Ark. Mounting the gangway you enter a period of history when the Royal Navy was battle weary after the Napoleonic wars. Collect your guide book on the Quarterdeck. Children love to explore the Gun Deck, the main fighting deck, with massive guns. The Lower Deck provided accommodation for over 300 ‘ship’s company’, most in hammocks. Poor sailors! The Hold provided storage for this community, and ammunition for the guns. Concerts are held on board throughout the year.
Brechin Cathedral and Round Tower is maintained by Historic Scotland. The round tower is of Irish origin and this one is thought to have been built around 1100AD. The greatest attraction is the series of beautiful stained glass windows of the cathedral. The brain child of the Rev. A. D. Tait Hutchison, minister from 1893-1942, the scheme took almost 80 years to complete. The windows portray Prophets and Heroes of the Old Testament and the Apostles and Evangelists of the New Testament and culminate in the presentation of the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Our Lord. Many famous artists were commissioned and it is impossible to do justice to their work. This is a must see.
The Standing Stones of the 6th and 7th century found at the side of the road in Aberlemno are excellent examples of the legacy of the Picts – the painted people. In winter the stones are protected by wooden cases but are free to view by the summer traveller. Prehistoric cup marks, Pictish symbols of serpents, double disc, Z-rod, mirror and comb are some of the symbols found on the stones. Other carvings show religious and battle scenes. You get a terrific sense of the culture of our ancestors from these stones especially as there is no written record.
Two massive Iron Age hill-forts called the White and Brown Caterthuns, near Edzell, can be accessed from a lay-by on the road which lies between the two neighbouring low hills on the fringe of the Angus glens. A short walk to the top (can be difficult in winter) leads to fine views over the valley of Strathmore. An extra bonus is being able to spot black grouse and other unusual birds on the way to the top.