Dundee, Perth and St Andrews, June 2023

June 10 – Inverness to Dundee – We had a bus trip booked to Inverness, the same bus that we had caught up from Glasgow then a change at Perth for a relatively short haul to Dundee. We had a wait of a couple of hours between having to vacate the lodgings and catching a bus so we just wandered town, finding different spots to stop and sit. We chatted to a few others in similar circumstances, an Austrian chap off a cruise ship and a woman who lives on the mainland over-looking Skye. She remarked how some of her neighbours who are dependent on rain water are starting to run low. We didn’t get to actually see Perth, because the intercity bus station is some distance out, so it was marked down for a visit later. The scenery was a repeat of before, so it was very much a doze and listen to music trip, most relaxing.

Once again, we had a place that was in the suburbs, meaning a #28 bus trip. We are getting quite good at these now and don’t feel quite so self-conscious about hauling luggage onto a crowded commuter bus. Everyone is very helpful and kind. We just join in with the prams and wheelchairs, standing up and hanging on for grim death. A ride through Dundee didn’t fill us with wonder at the grandeur of the place. It appeared as a mix of semi-grand, plain modern and squalid. Our estate was worse. The flat was nice enough, two big bedrooms and all the necessaries, but the area was unkept, and the street rubbish was terrible. To be fair to the residents, the rubbish wasn’t thrown around, but spilled out of rubbish bins. I don’t know what the collection pattern is but it obviously is not enough, and the cats and foxes raiding bins adds to the issue. It seems to be a problem throughout the UK. We didn’t see any untoward behaviour or hear anything bad happening but it looked like something out of an episode of The Bill. Ah well! What we did notice on the bus was a notice that strike action would commence in two day’s time, cutting some lesser routes out and putting the rest on Sunday timetables, with nothing at all after 7pm. This would continue until further notice. It may prove to be a nuisance but it doesn’t come as a surprise. Prices are going through the roof in the UK and it will be certain that wages haven’t risen to match.

June 11 – Dundee – A bus trip into Dundee was in order. Not being used to any rain, we walked the 150m to the bus stop, but as we waited , the rain started coming down. Christine at least had a rain jacket, I had a cotton pullover that would be ghastly when wet. We headed back, dried off and repacked, this time with umbrellas. It proved to be a wise move. By the time we got into town, the rain was continual and moderately heavy. Few people seemed to have planned for it and there were some very uncomfortable looking people.

The bus let us out at Albert Square, a beautiful part of town with the museum as a centrepiece in the square and a glorious stature of Queen Victoria, in her later and heavier years. We walked down through the town following largely pedestrian streets and revised our opinion of the city. There are some pretty parts and some buildings of merit after all. Near the harbour, is the polar expedition ship Discovery, which was used on a voyage of Antarctic exploration in 1901-04, with Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott amongst the explorers on board. We have been on board enough famous ships now to be content with a view from the outside. The nearby ultra modern building proved to be the V&A Museum (Victoria and Albert), a name which evoked images of displays about their life and times. However, it was a textile and design museum, not quite our cup of tea, but we did spend some time with the counter staff who gave us some tips on what to see and do, including advice about getting to St Andrews.

The V&A textile museum and Antarctic ship Discovery

We walked on through the rain, worse at times, until heading for a Greggs to get a cup of tea and a sausage roll. Greggs is a chain of fast food cafes that has 2,300 locations around Britain. We need it in Australia. You can pop in, buy a tea or a range of coffees, grab a pastry snack or sandwich and not lose half a day’s wages in the process. The food is as good, in some cases better, than the café across the road that charges ridiculous prices and they always seem to have enough staff that one is not left waiting for ages for a coffee to be made.

Emerging from the Greggs, we made our way up to The McManus, home to the Dundee Museum and Gallery, spending a pleasant hour browsing the displays and some lovely art pieces, especially in the Victoria Gallery. It helped that we now knew many of the scenes of the Highlands that the paintings depicted. We may have been more than an hour, because by the time we left the museum, the rain had ceased and the ground was almost dry again, the sun breaking through. We continued to wander town before finding a Tesco, then heading back to the apartment.

The McManus

Views of Dundee

June 12th – Perth – Today we caught a train to Perth, a trip that only takes 20 minutes or so. We had anticipated problems getting a bus into Dundee due to the planned strike, but just as we walked up to the stop a bus appeared. As we walked through the city, we passed a group of strikers, holding their placards and getting lots of toots in support from passing motorists. We got onto the train and were soon in Perth.

As the train crossed the River Tay, the city was presented at its best with a beautiful river frontage, stately stone buildings spanning the riverfront between the rail bridge and two road bridges.. We left the station and wandered down around town, which is small in area. There are a few squares and walking streets to wander through and some nice alfresco cafes to choose from. We picked one to stop for tea and scones, luckily sitting under an awning section, as the rain came down shortly after, sending other people scurrying. The shower was short and the sun re-emerged.

Perth on the River Tay

Our walk took us to the river and over one of two road bridges, stopping to watch a group kayak up into the fairly strong current. On the other side of the river, a beautiful riverside garden lead upstream to the other road bridge, making a pleasant walk.

We only managed to find one store that sold tourist items, and then very little. Christine wanted a T-Shirt that said “Perth, Scotland” as a curiosity. The one tourist store had one design that said Perth, all the rest just said Scotland. I guess Perth tourism isn’t booming.

Around Perth

T-Shirt secured, we headed back to the train and Dundee, a relaxing and easy trip. That makes our 3rd Perth, having also been to the one in Tasmania. There are quite a few left in the World to visit.

The Tay Road Bridge

June 13th – St Andrews – It’s a pity neither of us play golf because today we headed to the birthplace of golf, St Andrews. We took the #99 bus, crossing the amazing Tay Road Bridge, which, at 2.2km, is one of the longest in Europe. It is interesting to see observe that on the intercity buses, almost no-one wears a seatbelt, even though they are fitted. The recent news from Australia of the wedding bus crash showed the importance of wearing seatbelts on buses, so we always belt up. In fact, we even get on trains and feel awkward when there is no seatbelt. The bus raced across the winding road at breakneck speed, making the feel of the seatbelt comforting.

The countryside was interesting enough, with some of the barley even starting to show signs of ripening. There were a lot of potato fields as well. The final approach to the town is alongside golf links, including the famed Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, that ruled the game up until 2004. There are five courses in all, and plenty of people out in the beautiful summer sunshine.

I had always thought that St Andrews was the name of the golf course, but it is actually a town of some 17,000 people and is primarily a university town the institution being established in 1410. In 2022, the University of St Andrews was ranked as the UKs best. It is impossible to miss the complex when in the town, its buildings dominate the streetscapes. Today was graduation day and the streets were filled with young people in academic gown, lunching with proud parents and looking like gearing up for the forthcoming Graduation Ball. We wandered the town, admiring the grand building and the quaint; there were more of the latter. Once in the University zone, we stepped inside a courtyard of the University, which was filled with young grads, mums and dads and professors.

Around St Andrews

St Andrews has an aquarium, which also houses a population of meerkats and a pair of marmosets, an odd combination but they are also into animal rescue. The aquarium side of things has local cold water fish on display and it was interesting to see live examples of the things we had been eating, such as Atlantic Cod and Haddock. They also had a tropical area, filled with all kinds of interesting fish, including some big piranha.

Atlantic Cod )top) and Sea Bass (bottom)

We joined a group of school children to watch the resident harbour seals being fed. These have all been born in captivity, except for one which was born a bit of a runt and abandoned as a pup. There behaviours were explained and demonstrated and it was interesting to see that they often swim upside down, part of their prey being bottom dwellers such as crabs and lobsters, and looking down makes hunting easier. A single large gull joined in the feeding and was extremely adept at getting to the thrown sprat before the seals. It was a wonder it could still get off the ground.

After the seals, the meerkats were fed. They are fed with live crickets, a whole bunch being released into the enclosure. The meerkats searched them out and pounced on them like I pounce on a Cornish Pastie. They actually have quite poor eyesight, which is why they are continually moving their heads, trying to focus. It was amusing because the watching crowd could see crickets on the rock outcrops with meerkats passing close by and missing them. Eventually, the score was meerkats 100, crickets 0 but it took a while, and is good exercise for the meerkats, if not the crickets.

The marmosets are a pair that were rescued from a private collector. Apparently, they were quite badly behaved when they first arrived, but with a consistent approach, their manners have improved. They don’t turn around and expose their bottoms at people quite as often. The species hails from South America and simply ooze cuteness. They are fast and nimble in the trees and don’t seem to stay still for long. Later in the day there would be a penguin feed but we contented ourselves with an explore of the aquariums before heading off and back into town.

Skink and Haggis Bonbons

A cute little pub attracted our attention for lunch. Christine had been keen to try a local dish called Skink, which sounds like a genus of lizard but is actually a type of fish chowder with smoked haddock and potato. I was equally excited by the haggis bonbons. Both proved excellent, although I can tolerate smoked fish in small amounts so I was glad a stuck with the haggis. Of course, the beer went down well. The pubs in the UK sell some terrific cheap food, usually have loads of ambience and are a fraction of the coast of cafes and restaurants. They must make a go of it because in some towns you can stand on a street and see four pubs within a stone’s throw of each other.

We left the golf shops and graduates behind and headed back to Dundee and the apartment (after a 40 minute wait for a bus that is usually every 15 minutes). Reflecting on our visit to Dundee, it has not been the best city on our tour by a long way, but it has provided a good base for visits to Perth and St Andrews, both of which are well worth the visit. It will be nice, however, to go to a city where rubbish collections are effective. Tomorrow, it is back to England and a stay in York.

  1. Good stuff T and C. Glad to see you are keeping well and having a ball.

  2. The boys would have loved the animal rescue visit.

  3. I keep reading/hearing that the UK is getting quite an “uncomfortable” place to live at the moment, which seems to come through in your travel diary.
    I see that longest bridge in Europe is 2.2km, which makes me gloat a little about our 2.5km local bridge (twin bridges in fact) here on the Redcliffe Peninsula.
    Keep safe (and dry) guys …. Onwards!!

  4. Yvette and Rob

    Perth, Scotland sounds very lovely. Great you got to get there and glad you got your t shirts.
    All the other places sound great, too!

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