When talking about Dundee, some people might refer to the Scottish city by its unfortunate nickname, ‘Scumdee’. Others might retort by affirming a rather more positive sobriquet, ‘Fundee’ (Woo!). Some might immediately draw upon horror stories of a murky underworld of drug lords and teenage pregnancy. Others might draw upon proof of the city’s emerging contribution to contemporary arts. Opinions are somewhat varied. But beyond the allegations, reputations and comparisons with cooler big brother Glasgow or the historical-tourist-favourite, Edinburgh, is a city that, for me, is as warm and inviting as it is interesting and diverse. It’s a city like no other in Scotland, merging modern arts and technologies with the community atmosphere of old that still resonates through the city. To quote McGonagall (Dundee’s most famous, albeit famously bad, poet), “Oh, bonnie Dundee! I will sing in thy praise!” Indeed, I too find that I just can’t get enough of Dundee, and here’s why.
Dundee, Scotland’s 4th city with a population of 150,000, lies on the East coast, perfectly nestled in the Tay estuary against a backdrop of the Sidlaw hills. From the Law, an extinct volcano that rises up as the focal point of the view of Dundee from across the river, you get an amazing view of the city and its surrounding countryside. Look one way and you’ll see Broughty Ferry castle jutting out into the river, look another and you’ll get an unspoiled view of the Sidlaws, sprawling out for miles beyond the city. Dundee is a place of such diverse natural and urban landscapes. You can be in the city centre one minute, and then strolling along riverside, or walking along a beach the next. You can explore nature reserves on the banks of the Tay, or take a wander through extensive forest parks, or find yourself planning a hike just minutes from the city limits. I’ve always loved the openness of Dundee; the feeling of freedom that comes with having everything on your doorstep at once, things that we often take for granted like places to walk, places to think.
Everyone knows everyone in Dundee. Try as you might, you won’t make it through your trip into the humble but homely city centre without bumping into someone you know. It’s a city that is so connected with ideas of community and historical value, which is something else that makes it so great. You can really feel the history of Dundee, “The City of Discovery”, “The ‘Three Js’” (jute, jam and journalism), as you walk through the city. From the beautiful, Edwardian buildings of the West End, which is now known for being the ‘culture quarter’, to the converted old mills that connect Dundee to its past prominence in the jute industry, to the exquisite Gothic architecture of the McManus Galleries, Dundee’s history is as alluring as are the juxtaposed modern university buildings and famous ships, the Discovery and the Unicorn, that add different elements to the composition of the city.
Dundee has so much going for it. Many people will comment on the on-going V&A project or redevelopment of the waterfront as reasons for why Dundee can now be considered a place of worth, one that can stand side by side with other Scottish cities and hold its own. But I think Dundee’s charm has been there all along. There is something really magical about the city, something that is at once difficult to describe but also, in a way, really obvious. I could write a thousand more words on what makes Dundee great, but for now I simply defend its name, defying the bad reputations it has been burdened with as well as the arguments that say it is only now coming to light as a place to take notice of. I say that it is a city full of warmth and character, defined not by competition with other cities, and not by what it could become, but by it’s own attributes and what it already is. A place of history and cultural, a warm community and my home.