After decades of industrial decline, Scotland’s fourth city is re-emerging as an international centre for design.

Words Lesley Gillilan

This small Scottish city, best known for ‘jute, jam and journalism’, has been elevated to the world stage; not only as the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design, but also the home to an exciting V&A museum.
Opening back in September 2018, Scotland’s V&A was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, costing over £80m and inspired by the cliffs at nearby Arbroath. The spectacular ship-like structure – leaning into the River Tay – marked a new beginning for Dundee. 
The city is good at re-inventing itself. The former whaling port was built largely on jute, linen and yarn, a global industry that went into decline in the mid-20th century. The jam factories went the same way (one marmalade maker remains). Only journalism survives: this is still home to DC Thomson, which publishes newspapers, magazines and comics. A statue of Desperate Dan from The Dandy is a local landmark. 
The new Dundee is all about tourism (the name ‘City of Discovery’ refers to Captain Scott’s Antarctic ship RRS Discovery, moored on the Tay and open to the public), the arts and culture which revolves around the city’s thriving university and its vibrant video gaming industry. The V&A is the icing on the Dundee cake for a place that already had a lot going for it. Back in 2015, GQ magazine described it as ‘the coolest little city in Britain’. It also claims to be the sunniest in Scotland. The regeneration of the waterfront and docks has added new life to the centre. And as for the location: the glorious city views from the top of Dundee Law (an ancient hillfort and extinct volcano) tell you why the V&A chose Dundee as the setting for its exciting museum. 

The best address is the suburb of Broughty Ferry, the former fishing village where rich Victorian jute millionaires built mansions overlooking the estuary in a spot that’s handy for beaches and the city. Closer to town, the boho West End is a good bet: look for sandstone terraces and detached period villas around the Perth Road area. Other good streets can be found on the lower slopes of Dundee Law – Albany, Inverary and Dudhope Terraces are among those with views of the Tay. On the other side of the estuary, the pretty Tayside village of Newport is a popular choice and it’s only a three-mile commute across the Tay Bridge into Dundee (by bike, it takes just 20 minutes). 

Even the posh bits aren’t too expensive: a five- or six-bed detached villa in Broughty Ferry still leaves some change from £500,000; four- or five-bed terraced Victorians in the West End or Newport-on-Tay sell for £200-400,000; roomy period bungalows for around £250,000. To the north of the city centre, it’s possible to buy a four-bed townhouse for around £200,000. Two-bedroom apartments start at around £130,000. 

For beaches head for Broughty Ferry or to the mile of sand at beautiful Lunan Bay (40 minutes north). St Andrews in Fife (on the other side of the Tay) is home to one of the world’s best-known golf courses but there are closer links at Carnoustie and Monifieth. There is a wakeboarding course in the City Quay. And aside from the V&A, Dundee is well-served by museums and arts venues including the Contemporary Arts Centre (for galleries, cinemas and an excellent restaurant), Caird Hall (for concerts and live performances), 15th-century Broughty Castle and Verdant Works (dedicated to the story of the jute industry). Cross the bridge for The Newport ( which combines rooms, restaurant and the Tatha Gallery. For more, see

Dundee claims to be within 90 minutes’ drive from 90% of mainland Scotland. Edinburgh, 63 miles to the south, is exactly 90 minutes away (slightly less by rail). Aberdeen is just over an hour by train; Dundee to London is around six-and-a-half hours. Dundee has a small domestic airport (with two daily flights to London Stansted) but for air links to other UK cities and Europe head for Edinburgh International. 

In Broughty Ferry, there is the highly regarded Grove Academy (reported positively by HMIE, the Scottish equivalent of Ofsted). To the east of Dundee, Craigie High School has been deemed ‘satisfactory’. 

There are ‘fixed price’ properties on offer, but buyers should be aware that, under the Scottish ‘offers over’ system, most advertised prices are only a guide and often come with a closing date for competitive bids. 

The V&A is just one element of a £1bn regeneration scheme that is reconnecting the city to its once derelict Tay-side docklands and creating employment, culture and confidence. The plan still has several more years to deliver, but the city waterfront is already transformed. New hotels – including Malmaison, Indigo and Sleeperz (part of a shiny new station concourse) – sit alongside riverside housing developments. 

Apex City Quay (01382 202404,
This modern, waterfront hotel is not the prettiest of buildings, but what it lacks in looks it more than makes up for with great service and a brilliant location – right on Victoria Dock within five minutes’ walk of the V&A. Facilities include a busy quayside restaurant and bar, family rooms and suites, a Yu Spa with pool and views of the River Tay. Doubles from around £62 per night. 


Dundee: £162,487
Broughty Ferry: £230,128
Newport: £238,199
UK: £240,500 
Average house prices: 
[MAY 2021]. Source: Rightmove