Coastwalk #36 – Dundee to Arbroath

START: Dundee, Angus

FINISH: Arbroath, Angus

DISTANCE: 18.1 miles (Total – 442.8 miles)

APPROXIMATE TIME: 7 hours

OS MAPS: Explorer 380 & Explorer 382

ACCOMMODATION: Bamse B&B, Montrose

It’s always exciting to start a new county and Angus (or Forfarshire as it is historically known) would be my eleventh so far on the Coastwalk. It only has a short coastline, just over forty miles in length, but there is plenty of variety along this short stretch and it was something I was greatly looking forward to walking along.

Straight after coming home from my last trip to Fife (see Coastwalk #33, Coastwalk #34 and Coastwalk #35), I was looking on Google and TripAdvisor to see where I could stay for the next stage of the Coastwalk. I found a great place to stay in Montrose, a nice town at the northern end of the county and booked myself in for six nights. The plan was to start off in Scotland’s fourth-largest city, Dundee, where I had left off last time, walk the entire Angus coastline through Arbroath and Montrose and then start the first sixteen miles of the Aberdeenshire coast to the village of Inverbervie.

DUNDEE

discovery

It was a bit of an overcast Monday morning when I arrived in Dundee railway station following a forty minute train journey from Montrose. From the station I headed towards the Tay Road Bridge where I had left off last time, passing by the RRS Discovery (right) which is nestled in a little dock of its own next to Discovery Point. The ship, which was built in the city, transported the 1901 British National Antarctic Expedition to Antarctica and was the first purpose-built ship for scientific exploration. On this three year expedition the ship was captained by the then unknown Captain Robert Falcon Scott (he of “Scott of the Antarctic” fame) who became a national treasure when the expedition returned to Britain in 1904. Scott later made a further expedition to Antarctica where he lost his life in 1912.

The Discovery continued to sail the seas, first with the Hudson Bay Company, then running munitions to Russia during the First World War, before making a journey to the Southern Seas in 1926 to map whale stocks. Following a final voyage to Antarctica as part of the B.A.N.Z.A.R. Expedition in 1929-1931 she returned to Britain where she became a training ship for the Boy Scouts. By the 1980’s the ship was in a dilapidated state and a campaign was launched to restore the Discovery to her former glory and return her to Dundee, which she did in 1986. 

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The expedition ship Discovery in the Antarctic, alongside the Great Ice Barrier             (Cropped from a photograph published in H.R. Mill: The Siege of the South Pole, Alston Rivers, London 1905)

Along with the RRS Discovery many ships were built in Dundee including whaling ships, and the city has a long maritime history with strong trade links with Baltic ports being recorded in the 14th and 15th century. The city was attacked during the English Civil War by Cromwell’s troops in 1651 when up to a sixth of Dundee’s 12,000 residents were slaughtered and a large part of the merchant fleet destroyed. It took over a century for Dundee to recover and by the 18th century the city’s linen industry had taken off thanks to the import of flax, doubling the population size in no time at all. By 1835 Dundee had thirty-five flax spinning mills in operation, employing many of the city’s 40,000 residents. 

In addition to it’s linen industry, Dundee became known as the city being built on “Jute, Jam and Journalism”. Jam came first in the late 1700’s where a Dundee woman called Janet Keillor discovered marmalade when trying to find a use for bitter Seville oranges. Her recipe was then used by her son, James who set up the James Keillor & Son jam and marmalade factory in 1796.

desperate dan

Journalism followed soon after in 1801 with the opening of the Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser newspaper. A century later the publishers DC Thompson was established who would later go on to publish the ever-popular comics The Dandy and The Beano along with newspapers and magazines such as The Sunday Post and The People’s Friend. A statue of the comic character ‘Desperate Dan’ stands in the city centre in tribute to the city’s publishing heritage (right). 

In 1835, jute was first exported from India which started to replace flax in the making of carpet backing and sacks. The jute industry took over the traditional linen industry and Dundee soon became known as ‘Juteopolis’. By 1860 over a third of the city’s population was employed in the jute industry.

The jute industry collapsed in the 1920’s due to fierce competition from India where it could be produced more cheaply. The shipyards too closed down one by one. The loss of two key industries with the decline of the jam making industry had a deep and profound shock on the city. Since the 1960’s Dundee has undergone somewhat of regeneration, with the opening of the Tay Road Bridge in 1966 providing better links to the rest of Scotland. This regeneration has been recently accelerated in the 21st century as massive building projects are underway in Dundee. The publishing industry is still on the up with DC Thompson employing 2000 people and things are looking good for Dundee. 

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After that long introduction to Dundee’s history I finally made it to the Tay Road Bridge. From here I headed along South Victoria Dock Road to the old Victoria Dock. I passed the rusting North Carr Lightship (left). The last remaining lightship in Scotland, she was originally anchored up to a mile east of North Carr Rock near Fife Ness where many ships were grounded on the dangerous rocks as they tried to make their way north from the Forth into the Tay or vice versa. The lightship was launched in 1933 but was out of service by 1975, spending subsequent decades as a museum in Anstruther, Fife until being transferred  to her current position in Dundee where she awaits restoration.

Just a little further up the dock from the lightship is the HMS Unicorn (below). Built in 1824 she is now the world’s last intact warship from the age of sail and one of the six oldest ships in the world. After nearly half-a-century of service in the south of England, she was brought to Dundee in 1873 to serve as the reserve training ship for the River Tay for nearly a century. She has remained in Dundee ever since, becoming a museum in recent years.

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Just before I got to the HMS Unicorn there was a footbridge across Victoria Dock into the City Quay, a modern shopping centre which overlooked the old docks. I went through the centre, inadvertently walking through a cafe and annoying the waitress who came to see if I wanted a table. She got into a bit of a huff when I said I was just passing through. On the other side of the City Quay I walked alongside a very long car park before heading along a cycle lane next to the road which served the new docks, still bustling with plenty of industrial activity.

Half a mile later I came to a security checkpoint which restricted access to the cycle path through the dockyard. To pass through the checkpoint I needed two things – 1. A bicycle and 2. A pass. As I had neither of those things I had to divert around the dockyards, cross the main railway line through Dundee and head alongside a busy road for a little while. It was also at this point that it decided to rain. 

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After a mile of plodding alongside the constant roar of traffic I was able to head back towards the river down Broughty Ferry Road. The next part of the walk to Broughty Ferry was rather pleasant despite the steady rain. I followed a promenade along the northern bank of the River Tay which was shrouded in mist and rain, creating an atmospheric scene. I passed by a sailing club and numerous old boat sheds before coming into the picturesque suburb of Broughty Ferry.

BROUGHTY FERRY

Broughty Ferry gets it’s name from the ferry that ran between here and Partan Craig (or Tayport as it was later known) on the south bank of the Tay from the early 1400’s until the ferry’s closure in 1920.

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The village became a popular place for the richer residents of Dundee to move to especially after a railway station was opened in 1839. Owners of Dundee’s jute mills and whaling ships relocated to the village to get away from the hustle and bustle of Dundee, leading ‘the Ferry’ to become known as “the richest square mile in Europe”. Broughty Ferry was also popular with Victorian tourists with many people travelling not only from Dundee, but further afield from Glasgow and Edinburgh for their annual holiday. Visitors could enjoy brass bands and pleasure boats in what became known as the ‘Brighton of the North’.

Broughtyferry2.jpg

Broughty Ferry is still a popular and pleasant place to this day and was fairly busy as I passed through, despite it being a weekday morning. I passed by the town’s lifeboat station before coming to a nice harbour framed by the picturesque Broughty Castle (below).

A castle was first built here by the 4th Earl of Angus in 1454 before being rebuilt in 1496. Due to it’s strategic importance it was captured by the English in 1547 during the period of the “rough wooing“. It took nearly another three years before a combined Scottish and French army retook the castle. Over the next couple of centuries, particularly after it was sold by the Earl of Angus in 1666, the castle fell into ruin.

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However it’s strategic importance was still noted and with growing fears about an attack by the Russian Navy following the end of the Crimean War it was purchased by the War Office in 1855 although no attack from Russia came. Five years later there were fears of a war with France so a major re-fortification of the castle took place so that it could protect the mouth of the Tay from any invaders. The castle was used as a defensive position throughout the First and Second World War before becoming a museum in 1969. As it was free to get in I had a quick look around the old fortifications before continuing on my way.

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I passed some old barracks built in the 1880’s to house the submarine miners whose job was to lay mines across the River Tay in the event of war. Just after the barracks I came to the town’s picturesque beach. The rain had now stopped although it was a bit overcast. This hadn’t dampened my enthusiasm however and I walked along the beach for a little while before joining more solid ground alongside a road called The Espalanade. I followed this for three quarters of a mile before heading along a path which took me in between the railway line and the shoreline until I reached another beach at Monifieth. 

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At Monifieth I hit a bit of an obstacle, namely a huge military firing range. I could continue along the coast around Buddon Point which lay ahead however red flags were flying next to the path that went this way. This meant that live ammunition was being fried so I definitely couldn’t go this away, not unless I wanted my head blown clean off. As a result I had to walk along a cycle path which ran for a couple of miles between the edge of the firing range whilst making a beeline for Carnoustie and cutting out Buddon Point altogether.

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CARNOUSTIE

I will admit that heading along that cycle path wasn’t the most exciting walking I’ve ever done, although admittedly I have not been on many walks where I can hear the distant popping and banging of military ammunition going off. After about half an hour of trudging I eventually came to a road which served the firing range.

I crossed over the road and continued to follow the cycle path as it ran alongside a railway line. I soon came to an edge of a golf course which was a hive of activity and with good reason. This was the world-famous Championship Course at Carnoustie which was just a month away from hosting the prestigious Open Championship. As I continued alongside the golf course I passed by a number of spectator stands, giant television screens and huge marquees. The playing of golf was recorded at Carnoustie as early as the 16th century although the present golf course dates back to 1842. It has since become a prestigious golf course and is one of the ten courses in the UK that hosts The Open on a rotational basis. 

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I continued past the golf course, and the huge stands surrounding the 18th hole. Just past the golf course was a bridge over the railway line. I decided to take a detour here into the town just to replenish my water stocks at a local supermarket before retracing my steps back over the railway line and towards the seafront where I took a long break, my first good one since leaving Dundee. 

Whilst I was sat eating my sandwiches I could hear the constant roar of the trains shuttling up and down the line a hundred yards behind me. The railway was largely responsible for Carnoustie’s development in the 18th century, not only bringing in golfers from Edinburgh to try out the Championship Course, but also bringing thousands of tourists to the town which like nearby Broughty Ferry was billed as the “Brighton of the North” (there surely must have been some copyright infringement there?)

carnoustie2.jpg

The opening of the railway line made the town desirable to industries – the Panmure Works which opened in 1857, produced six million yards of linen at its height whilst employing 600 people. The railway also made Carnoustie fashionable as a commuter settlement for Dundonians wanting to escape the noise of Dundee.

I too wanted to escape the hustle and bustle, but from the clanking and banging going on at the golf course with the stands and marquees being set up. After I had my lunch I continued a little further along the promenade before joining a grassy track which took me in between the shoreline and the back of a row of houses. Ahead I squeezed through a narrow pathway into a suburban street. A little further down the street was a track which led down to the shore to the beautiful secluded harbour of West Haven.

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This was a lovely little place and I stood on the beach for a bit watching a boat sitting in the bay rocking gently up and down on the waves. I then walked along the beach before joining a rough path which ran alongside a field. Ahead a stream emptied out into the sea which I had to find a way to jump across. I ended up doing an Olympic-style triple jump to clear the stream which was quite wide in places. At the other side of the stream I picked up another path which rang alongside some more fields until I came to the beautiful tiny village of East Haven.

EAST HAVEN

Just as I got to East Haven the path climbed up away from the shoreline and towards the front of a row of elegant houses. In front of the houses was numerous clusters of giant bright red poppies (below) which added bright colours to what otherwise was a dank and grey day. 

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The path continued alongside the row of houses before coming to a car park around which were numerous benches to sit on. I decided to sit down on one and have a quick break. It was a very peaceful place and deserved it’s ‘Haven’ name. The ‘Haven’ has been occupied since at least 1214 when the port and its fishing rights are recorded as being granted to the monks of Coupar Angus Abbey, making East Haven one of the oldest recorded fishing communities in Scotland. A small fishing fleet operated for many centuries, catching cod and haddock which were sold in local markets such as Dundee, and lobsters for export to London. 

east haven.jpg

The village was and still is quite popular with visitors. The Royal Family were regular visitors in the 1930’s whilst staying in nearby Glamis Castle. There weren’t many about the day I was there (tourists I mean, not the Royal Family). For a little while it felt like I had the whole place to myself. 

From East Haven I headed out of the village along a cycle path which ran parallel to the shoreline for a little bit. Ahead I had a choice of two routes – either I could continue to follow the cycle path which took a more inland route towards Arbroath or I could follow a rough track which followed the shoreline more closely. I chose the latter and spent the next couple of miles heading along the track which in places had started to collapse into the beach. 

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About forty minutes passed and I could see Arbroath starting to get closer. My legs were getting tired and a handily placed bench overlooking the sea allowed me to get a few minutes rest before continuing on the final push into Arbroath. I couldn’t follow the beach all the way into the town though as a wide stream – Elliott Water – blocked my path so I had to rejoin the cycle way which crossed the stream via a bridge before continuing alongside the shoreline as it curved towards Arbroath.

ARBROATH

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I walked alongside a tiny miniature railway (right) which ran alongside the main line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. This was Kerr’s Miniature Railway which has been ferrying which has been ferrying passengers on a half-mile return journey since 1935, making it the oldest miniature railway in Scotland.

The miniature trains weren’t running whilst I was there, it being a weekday and all so I continued onwards past a mini paddling pool, a mini golf course and a variety of other generic seaside attractions. Just past all of these was a football stadium – Gayfield Park – which is home to Arbroath Football Club. The stadium stands only a matter of yards from the North Sea and as such is the closest football ground to the sea in Europe. It must also be absolutely freezing whilst watching a game when the wind whips up from the North Sea.

signal tower

Continuing past the football ground I soon came to the Signal Tower (above) which was used as the shore station and family accommodation for the Bell Rock Lighthouse which stands some eleven miles offshore from Arbroath. The tower was built in 1813 and served the lighthouse until it’s decommissioning in 1955. In 1974 the signal tower was turned into a museum.

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My walk was now at an end. Just past the Signal Tower was Arbroath’s picturesque harbour (above) filled with boats where I decided to finish the walk. I was getting a bit peckish and rather handily there was a fish and chip shop overlooking the harbour. I purchased my fish and chips and sat down on a bench overlooking the harbour. Within two seconds of plonking my bum on the seat I heard a wooshing sound close over head followed by a loud squawking sound. Two seconds later this was followed by another wooshing sound and a loud squawk. Glancing upwards I saw about a dozen or so seagulls swooping around low over my head trying to get hold of my fish and chips. I ran for shelter underneath a canopy attached to a seafood restaurant and tried to eat my food in peace although a lone seagull stood watch nearby to see if any chips would be thrown his way.

seagullsI quickly wolfed down my food and then hurried on my way to the bus station to get away from the vicious Arbroath seagulls. On my way I noticed a sign almost pleading with people not to feed the seagulls (right)and I can understand why. When I got back to the B&B in Montrose I did a quick Google search to see if anybody else had had problems with the seagulls in Arbroath. Yes was the answer. In fact it had made the national news. In 2017 a notorious seagull nicknamed “Steven Seagull” had been caught numerous times stealing bags of salt and vinegar crisps from the local Greggs bakery. 

Still it was an interesting end to what had been a fantastic walk along the Angus coastline. I was greatly looking forward to completing the Angus coast over the next couple of days which promised more delights including the magnificent Lunan Bay and the dramatic Seaton Cliffs. I just hoped there wouldn’t be any more thuggish seagulls to contend with!

REFERENCES

Dundee

https://www.rrsdiscovery.com/exploration-article/the-story/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Falcon_Scott

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RRS_Discovery

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/dundee/discoverypoint/index.html

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/dundee/dundee/index.html

https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/victorian/trails_victorian_dundee.shtml

Sticky situation: James Keiller & Son

https://www.nlb.org.uk/HistoricalInformation/Ships/North-Carr-Lightship/

The History of HMS Unicorn

Broughty Ferry

https://broughtyferry.co.uk/visitors/burgh-history

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/broughty/broughtyferry/index.html

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/broughty/broughtycastle/index.html

Carnoustie

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/carnoustie/carnoustie/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnoustie

East Haven

http://www.easthavenangus.com/259939999

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Haven,_Angus

Arbroath

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerr%27s_Miniature_Railway

https://www.scottishgrounds.co.uk/arbroath.htm

http://archive.angus.gov.uk/historyaa/museums/signaltower/

3 thoughts on “Coastwalk #36 – Dundee to Arbroath

    1. Thank you! 😊 I try to make the blog not only about the story of my journey around the coast but also about the story of the places I pass through. Each village and town has it’s own unique tale to tell which I always find fascinating.

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