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Scotland's Tay Country

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TAKE THE COAST ROAD

Tay Country offers miles of stunning coastline to explore. The Fife Coastal Path is Scotland’s longest continuous coastal path and one of Scotland’s Great Trails. Tour the 117 miles between Kincardine and Newburgh, stopping for photo ops among lobster creels and pastel-coloured fishing villages. There’s sea life in abundance visible from the shore or take a pleasure cruise from Anstruther to the Isle of May and feast your eyes on flocks of puffins and diving gannets.

The East Neuk of Fife is also known for its fabulous seafood — visit the seafood shacks in Crail and let the fishermen recommend their catch of the day. Stop in at Anstruther’s famous fish bars for haddock and chips best enjoyed al fresco, sitting on the harbour wall as the sun sets. 

The Angus Coastal Route takes in a string of seaside resorts starting from Dundee – plenty of opportunities to breathe in that salty sea air! Don’t miss the rolling surf and golden dunes ofLunan Bay just three miles south of Montrose. You’ll often get the place entirely to yourself, leaving you free to wander alone on swathes of empty sand.

GET YOUR ADRENALINE FIX

Back in 1689, a Redcoat fleeing the Battle of Killiekrankie escaped his pursuers by leaping across the River Garry (later the beauty spot was to become known as “The Soldier’s Leap”). Now, why not throw yourself in headfirst with a bungee jump off Garry Bridge. For fearties, tandem jumps can be arranged and kids can try a 15m freefall.

Bring your bike or simply hire one here and enjoy the Kingdom of Fife Cycle Ways, a network of over 300 miles of cycle routes on old railway paths and forest tracks. At Pitmedden Forest near Auchtermuchty, you’ll find miles of track, plenty of choice for beginners and experts alike.

Pistonheads are well catered for with stunning drives (explore the never-ending back roads around the Glens of Angus starting from Kirriemuir), but for those who enjoy an even faster experience, Dunfermline hosts Scotland’s only internationally graded racing circuit. Hire a Formula Race Car and feel the tarmac just centimetres from your rear end! YOLO, as they say!

SPLASH AROUND IN THE RIVER TAY

Scotland’s longest river begins as a tiny spring on Ben Lui in the southern Highlands, gathering momentum from Loch Tay as it flows east through majestic Perthshire, finally spilling into the Firth of Tay, just south of Dundee. By the time those spring droplets make it to the North Sea they have travelled 190km from their source.

The Tay Estuary at Dundee are home to bottlenose dolphins from May until September, so why not take a boat trip to spot dolphins and seals, or admire local lighthouses and the impressive new V&A Dundee from the water? Or imagine starting your sea kayaking journey with the 15th Century Broughty Ferry castle in your sights (the name Broughty comes from the Gaelic Bruach Tatha, which means the bank of the Tay) or sticking closer to civilisation and wake-boarding at the docks.

Tay Country is carved by water; for kayakers, white water rafters, canyoners or fans of river bugging, there’s nowhere like it. Especially afterwards, when you’re dry, with a well-deserved dram in your hand.

EXPERIENCE THE GOLF OF LEGENDS

Scotland is the home of golf, it was invented right here in Tay Country at St Andrews. Join in the 600-year-old tradition and be part of golfing history as you enter the ballot to play a round at the Old Course.

This July the Open returns to Scotland for the eighth time. The historic Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus are one of the venues in the Open rotation and also one of the toughest courses in Britain, thanks to its challenging bunkers and strong winds. Book your spot as a spectator, sit in the stand at the 18th Green or watch an outdoors in the Spectator Village.

There are a phenomenal 112 courses in Tay Country, giving you the chance to shout “Fore!” in a variety of stunning settings. The Montrose Medal Course is the 5th oldest in the world, Strathtay Golf Club, near Aberfeldy is a scenic inland course with an old-time honesty box for green fees. Blairgowrie Wee Course, Piperdam Wee Piper and Forbes of Kingennie offer nine holes, and no one has the excuse to go home without having played at St Andrew’s when the Ladies’ Putting Club offers a wee shot on their hallowed “Himalayas” for £2!

BAG A MUNRO

Mountaineer and politician, Sir Hugh Munro (1856–1919) never quite managed to climb all the mountains he catalogued as over 3000 feet high. Today, many keen climbers make it their mission to bag all 282 of them, a bucket-list hobby that can be dipped in and out of over a lifetime.

Tay Country offers 38 Munros to explore, from splendid Schiehallion to Driesh above Glen Doll, but for a gentler introduction to hillwalking the Angus Glens contain a group of peaceful valleys, ideal for cycles and country rambles. Or consider devoting some time to the historic Cateran Trail, straddling the border between Perthshire and Angus that takes its name from cattle thieves who preyed on good hearted locals and their stock until the 17th century.

We won’t judge you though if you decide to stay indoors at one of our well-stocked whisky bars. Sometimes mountains are best viewed from the ground level, by the light of a roaring fire!

SAFARIS AND SAILING – SCOTTISH STYLE!

One thing that Scotland isn’t short of is wind, so why not turn that to our advantage with a sail across the sand? It’s go-karting for grown-ups and an opportunity to tear about West Sands Beach in St Andrews, Fife, where ‘Chariots of Fire’ was filmed, like a big kid. Indeed, if you happen to be around when the community stages their annual race in homage, you will hear them play Vangelis’ cinematic score along the route. If not, you’ll have to hum it as you wheel around the beach.

Head inland and the splendour of the Tay Country wildlife is available to the keen nature spotter in the wilderness of Highland Perthshire, where on a good day you may just spot red deer, mountain hares or a soaring golden eagle. Local guides can share hard-won knowledge, supply binoculars and even remember to pack hot drinks and shortbread for a pit stop surrounded by panoramic mountain views. For rambling, fell running, mountain biking or camping, Tay Country has miles of unspoiled landscape and friendly people who are only too happy to advise. 

EMBRACE THE SCOTTISH CLIMATE

We’d be avoiding the elephant in the room if we didn’t talk about Scotland’s famously fickle weather. After all, this is a part of the world where you may see four seasons in one day. But that’s all part of the charm; moody vistas become soaked with atmosphere (and look great in a black and white photo on Instagram, fyi) when the rain clouds roll in, only for the skies to clear ten minutes later.

We’ve even got a word for that feeling when it’s time to head indoors, draw a blanket around your shoulders and sip a dram next to a roaring log fire; còsagach, a Scottish Gaelic word, is a bit like our version of hygge, and means “snug, sheltered or cosy”.

Pack your sunglasses next to your knitwear though; we know how to do bright sunshine and big blue skies up here too. Scotland’s only south facing city, Dundee is proud to be the country’s sunniest city. Tay Country’s full of picturesque spots for taking advantage of the long summer nights and late sunsets.

DISCOVER THE BRAND NEW V&A DUNDEE

Here’s one of the big reasons why GQ called Dundee ‘Britain’s coolest little city’. Opening on 15 September 2018, V&A Dundee, part of the £1 billion transformation of the Dundee waterfront, will be the only V&A museum in the world outside of London. The first British building designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, he wants his curved creation to be a ‘living room for the city’.

V&A Dundee will be an instant international mecca for lovers of design and innovation; from video games to fashion and comic strips, it will tell the story of Scotland's outstanding design heritage with exhibitions and installations from up-and-coming designers sitting alongside household names.

To celebrate this year’s 150th anniversary of the birth of architect, artist and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his Oak Room will be unveiled as a centrepiece of V&A Dundee’s Scottish Design Galleries. Salvaged in the 1970s and kept safe by Glasgow Museums, the entire double-height room has been conserved and restored. 

A multi-purpose, stunning museum space with a restaurant and café to hang out in, V&A Dundee is an unmissable landmark; a place to feast your eyes, feed your brain and fuel your imagination.

FILL UP ON CULTURAL THRILLS

Dundee Contemporary Arts, the former brick factory that now houses art galleries, print studio, shop, two cinemas and a buzzy bar and restaurant is the ideal spot to set yourself up for the day with a pancake stack or wind down with a craft beer or a cocktail mixed with Tay Country small batch gin. For gifts for your friends and family (and, let's face it, yourself... you are on your holidays!), don't miss the design focused shop, full of cool bits and pieces and limited edition prints from the workshop.

Team a trip to DCA with a visit to Hospitalfield, a hidden gem overlooking the North Sea in Angus. It’s a beautiful turreted mansion-house that was once home to Elizabeth Fraser and her artist and collector husband Patrick Allan-Fraser, where visitors can meander around the extraordinary Arts and Craft interiors or explore the tranquil grounds on weekly Architecture and Garden tours.

The creative scene is so prevalent in Tay Country that art takes over picturesque Pittenweem every August, a living exhibition that has grown to include 100 or more artists and makers who exhibit in houses, studios, galleries and public spaces throughout the village.

GO FOREST BATHING

A relaxed wander through the forest, giving yourself the time to appreciate sounds, scent and colours, can be as reinvigorating as the most dynamic pursuit. In Japanese culture “forest bathing”, or shinrin-yoku, meaning “taking in the forest atmosphere” is a valued outdoor activity as well as an excuse for walking reaaaally slowly.

October brings a month-long forest spectacle to Highland Perthshire. Enchanted Forest brings sound and light to Faskally Wood, in a spectacular marriage of technology and nature. Wander through the woodland, you’ll pass waterfalls woven with fibre optics and experience the drama of shadows and lights passing through the ancient forest. Mulled wine and grilled marshmallows from the firepit will keep you warm.

Pitlochry, in the heart of Scotland’s Big Tree Country, is home to the brand-new Pitlochry Dam visitor centre offering a welcome cup of tea after autumn walks in a blaze of golds and reds.

The beachside pine forest trails of Tentsmuir Forest in Fife are a sensory delight whilst Dundee’s Botanic Garden offers access to its impressive range of trees, shrubs and exotic plants even when city-based. 

STEP BACK IN TIME

Live out your period drama fantasies in some of Tay Country’s magnificent historic buildings, including Falkland Palace, the country residence of Mary Queen of Scots. Wander around royal apartments and the Old Library, imagining the sound of frilly skirts that once swooshed through the ornate interiors decorated with tapestry, carved furniture and painted ceilings.

If this part of the world looks strangely familiar, that might just be because Falkland was used as a location for one of Outlander’s first scenes, made up to look like 1940s Inverness. If you’d like to follow the Outlander trail a little further, Culross and the privately owned Balgonie Castle were also used as locations for the TV show.

Learn about out why ships, trains and trams were so vital to Tayside at the fascinating Dundee Museum of Transport, and don’t miss a visit to RRS Discovery. Step onto the very vessel that took Scott and Shackleton on their first expedition to Antarctica and find yourself at the heart of a classic adventure story, one that celebrates the heroism and grit of truly remarkable men. 

GO CASTLE HUNTING

Which of Tay Country’s many castles will be your favourite? Discover the crowning site of the Kings of Scotland at Scone Palace, where Macbeth and Robert the Bruce once stood and where the Stone of Destiny was held.

Glamis Castle is often quoted as Scotland’s most beautiful castle, with its fairytale turrets, elegant gardens and a ghostly White Lady with seat still reserved in the chapel. Shakespeare fans will know that Glamis Castle was the setting for Macbeth. Nowadays the grounds are used for the hurly-burly of food festivals, outdoor theatre performances and open-air concerts where you can stretch out under a cosy blanket under the stars.

At the opposite end of the castle spectrum is Macduff’s Castle, a ruin in East Wemyss, in Fife, where you may wish to stop for a picnic on a summer’s ramble. Broughty Castle overlooks the mouth of the River Tay, 10 minutes drive from the centre of Dundee or you can find out more about Europe’s last remaining private army, the Atholl Highlanders, based at Blair Castle in Perthshire.  

DISCOVER A FEW TAY COUNTRY CURIOSITIES

Innerpeffray Library is Scotland’s first public lending library dating back to 1680. You’ll find it on the banks of the River Earn near Crieff. Perhaps the Library’s most valuable book is the original ‘Borrowers Registrar’, a handwritten record of the people who came to choose a book and take it home to read all those years ago.

On the road between St Andrews and Anstruther remember to keep an eye out for an innocent looking Scottish farmhouse, it happens to be the hiding place of Scotland’s Secret Bunker. Explore the underground tunnels and bunker created to survive a nuclear war, kept a secret for over 40 years. The beautiful village of Comrie in Perthshire (worth a visit in itself) is another unlikely military spot where you’ll find Cultybraggan Camp, the UK’s final remaining high security Prisoner of War Camp from the Second World War.

One of the most important Pictish collections in the area can be found at the St Vigeans Sculptured Stones Museum in Angus. Access to this hidden treasure can be arranged by the staff at Arbroath Abbey, where you’ll be able to enjoy the 30 ancient stones elaborately decorated by the Picts with carvings of imps, saints and fantastic beasts.

BRING YOUR BOOKS TO LIFE

Book lovers, often happiest curled up on a sofa, find the best of both worlds with a visit to Tay Country. Take a walk on the beach at Broughty Ferry and try not to get your copy of Frankenstein too wet. The young Mary Shelley spent time with family friends in Dundee in 1812 and a plaque on South Baffin Street marks the spot of The Cottage, mentioned in her monstrous book. How did the son of a poor weaver become the richest man in the world? You won’t want to miss the rags to riches story of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie at the world’s first Carnegie Library in his home town of Dunfermline.

Even our trees have literary merit. The Birnam oak is what remains of the great Birnam Wood, as mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth as part of the witches’ foretelling of his death. Birnam Arts reveals the literary connection with Peter Rabbit author, Beatrix Potter who spent her childhood holidays in the area. Then to Kirriemuir, gateway to the Angus Glens and birthplace of JM Barrie, who created Peter Pan. The sweet white cottage that was his family home is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. 

FOLLOW YOUR FEET AROUND DUNDEE

Learn more about the UK’s only UNESCO City of Design by exploring it on foot, it is Scotland’s sunniest city after all! (Don’t let the Aberdonians tell you different). There are more than 120 artworks to discover, including bronze comic book characters Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and Oor Wullie sitting on his bucket outside TheMcManus Art Gallery and Museum. Follow the Open/Close street art trail which snakes its way around colourful doorways, painted by local artists in unexpected nooks and crannies around the city.

Discovery Walk and Dundee Women’s Trail commemorate artists, trades unionists, social reformers, scientists and suffragettes whose lives have helped shape the city. Dundee was once known as She-town, a place where women were so integral to the jute industry that they received the pay packets and the men stayed at home.

Squeeze in a cardio workout with a guided running tour, stopping by the Oor Wullie statue, Tay Bridges and Botanic Gardens for some sweaty photo ops along the way.

For more macabre thrills, you can peer into Dundee’s murky past on a day or night time walking tour, delving into the city’s secrets of body snatching, riots and rebellion.

TAKE IN A LIVE PERFORMANCE

Music and storytelling are two of Scotland’s great passions, and that’s reflected across the arts of Tay Country, from the provocative drama of Dundee Rep (with a full-time company of actors, the last of its kind in the country) and the contemporary beauty of Scottish Dance Theatre productions, to the simple pleasure of live traditional tunes down the local.

Ewan McGregor, got his start treading the boards of the Perth Theatre stage, but would perhaps barely recognise the building now after a sleek £16m transformation, which created a state of the art space for enjoying live dance, opera, stand-up comedy and theatre, as well as the preservation of the B-listed Edwardian auditorium, now a riot of red and gold. Clubbers, meanwhile, will enjoy Dundee’s old public library, turned underground club recently namechecked by i-D magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

And remember to save an evening of your holidays to soak up the local culture. Ask your hosts where they go to hear music, plenty of our pubs and clubs will find a performer pulling out a fiddle and bodhran of an evening for some acoustic entertainment, and everyone has a favourite tune they like to play. 

TASTE SCOTLAND

The contemporary food and drink scene in Tay Country is thriving, from cultured cafes that double up as art galleries to adapted workshop spaces and Michelin-recommended fine dining restaurants. Blessed with a fabulous natural larder our talented chefs have no shortage of locally grown produce to choose from, sourcing entire menus from the region’s coastline and countryside. Be sure to book ahead for a table at our legendary ‘foodie’ restaurants, many in stunning locations with views to die for.

Our bars and cocktail bars also champion the field to fork revolution, stocking locally produced vodkas, gins and craft lagers, each with their own story. Ask at the bar for their local recommendations and how best to serve. 

And while our city centres offer every international cuisine, from Japanese to tapas and dim sum, don’t miss out on the charms of the village inns and family owned restaurants dotted around the area. You’ll be rewarded with comforting classics such as the delicious Smokie Pancake made with Arbroath Smokies, home baking and high-end fish and chips.

DIP INTO TAY COUNTRY’S NATURAL LARDER

Meet the committed families and food producers who bring their wares from farm, field and sea to your tables at the sensational Crail Food Festival, Dundee Flower and Food Festival and Taste of Angus and Great Perthshire Picnic. Find out just what makes an Arbroath Smokie quite so special and taste everything from rare breed pork to the delicately flavoured wild salmon and brown trout caught from Tay Country’s cool, clear rivers. You might even be lucky enough to get your hands on the Tayberry, an intensely sweet fusion of the raspberry and blackberry unique to the region. Or try your hand at picking your own raspberries and strawberries at our soft fruit farms.

If you’re not fortunate enough to land in Tay Country when these fantastic festivals are on, many producers maintain their own farm shops as well as attending monthly Farmers’ Markets throughout the year. There you will find not only specialist produce, but “basics” like freshly-laid eggs that will never see the inside of a supermarket. Food fit for a king, especially the double-yolkers!

EAT LIKE A LOCAL

Like Champagne and Gorgonzola, a Smokie can only call itself a Smokie if it comes from Arbroath. Named one of the Top 50 UK Foods, this divine delicacy is a haddock that’s been salted then hung over a whisky barrel filled with burning beech and oak wood. The results are delicious and can be sampled either in one of Arbroath’s pubs and smokehouses dotted around the harbour, or by picking up a pack of Smokies at one of the many farmer’s markets.

About half an hour along the road, you’ll find a Forfar Bridie. For those not yet in the know, it’s a special Scottish meat and onion pasty that’s been produced in the area since 1833. Go straight to the source and pick one up in a bakery on Forfar’s High Street.  

Get to know another tasty local delicacy from Tay Country, with a pot of tea and a slice of the world-famous Dundee Cake. Besides being famous for its “jute, jam and journalism”, Dundee is also proud of creating this classic fruitcake recipe made with sultanas, orange peel and almonds. You’re in for a treat - and a slice of something a bit lighter and crumblier than a Christmas cake.

FOLLOW YOUR NOSE!

Gin is hot on the heels of whisky as Scotland’s other national drink and Tay Country is fortunate to have an abundance of both types of distilleries, with distinct charms and welcoming tasting rooms. Everyone (except the designated driver) will love touring coast and country to sip gins and whiskies and hear about the expertise that goes into making them. None more so than at an ancient site in Fife where whisky has been distilled since the 15th century. Herbs and fruits grown in Angus give our gins their unique taste, so take home some of our tasty rhubarb, raspberries and blueberries in liquid form, or for the truly committed try one of the region’s blending masterclasses and make your own.

Of course, no one comes to Tay Country without stopping off for a dram, and where better than at a distillery whisky tasting paired with chocolates or one of our well-stocked, welcoming hostelries, some of which keep as many as 1031 types of whisky behind the bar. “Slàinte mhath!”, as we say… pronounce it slanjevah and wish everyone good health!

RELAX AT A RURAL RETREAT

Do you dream of escaping to the countryside and switching off your gadgets? Run into the open arms of Tay Country’s rural retreats, where country manners and home cooking will be a balm for the soul. You’ll find everything from quirky eco-pods to family run working farms, treehouses to more refined rural destinations. It’s up to you what you do when you get there. Put your feet up and read that book you’ve been trying to finish, offer to help out with the animals, take a cookery masterclass and learn to make the most of our outstanding Scottish ingredients. Or get some fishing in, there are guides aplenty and everyone’s got an opinion about the best fly to tie or bait to use.

And after a hard day’s work, message precisely no one to tell them about it. That can wait until you switch the wi-fi back on!