As usual we awoke early, and carried out our usual routine to be on our way. Our legs were still feeling the exertions of the previous day as we climbed up the other side of the headland and into the expanse of arable countryside. We were sticking with the Route 1 again today, our destination Dundee which was a mere 30ish miles away. After an initial route that was undulating alongside fields of various shades of green and gold, we almost sailed down into the town of Arbroath without so much as a peddle turn until we were on level ground.
Arbroath has long been an important fishing harbour and famous for it’s ‘smokies’; suppliers of which were in abundance. We tarried a while, reading the information boards around the route giving us a potted history of the town and spotting some of the mentioned landmarks.
After leaving Arbroath we had a lovely long stint of flat going on dedicated cycleway; such a pleasure after the stresses of the previous day navigating a busy A road. The going was almost entirely along the shoreline and alongside a railway line. As I have previously mentioned; we like a nice disused railway route, they are flat and easy going. The next best thing is a nice well surfaced cycleway that runs alongside a railway line; trains don’t do hills either.
We came to the charming little town of East Haven, which had an abundance of benches and picnic tables and public loos that were clearly well maintained by the locals, there were even pretty pictures on the internal walls of the public ablutions, and having availed myself of the facilities I was more than happy to make a donation to their upkeep. Moving on along the cycleway we were impressed with the floral displays along the way. They take the prize though for their support of cyclists by provision of a refreshments stop with juice and boiled sweets at their waypoint. This was a first for us
Before long we came to the town of Carnoustie, which I had a vague recollection had something to do with golf. On reaching it though it was evident that it was ALL about the golf. The course seemed to go on for miles! We were well overdue time out of the saddle for a coffee break but it was not until we had left the golfers and neighbouring military training area behind and reached Monifieth, that we found a suitable spot overlooking the beach, with a view of ‘dramatic’ rather than blue skies. The threatened rain held off though and we are always of the opinion that so long as it’s dry, it’s ok.
Negotiating our way through Broughty Ferry, we realised that we had in fact already entered the sprawling conurbation that makes up Dundee, our surroundings becoming more and more urban, with evidence of the heavy industry of decommissioning of oil & gas rigs along the shoreline. The skies were beginning to look a little more heavy by this point, and we were pleased that our check in time for the hostel we had booked was 13.00hrs as we were there by quarter past.
We have made much use of hostels during this trip, and though they do not have the fancy twiddles of a posh hotel, they suit our purposes very well. Nowadays they offer en-suite private rooms (which we opt for) as well as the dorm options, and they are always very accommodating when it comes to cyclists, usually with a dedicated secure cycle shed/outbuilding. We also like that they have well equipped kitchens for self catering and are quite social establishments, if you wish to be sociable. We are here for two nights as Dundee holds some sights that we wish to see.
Though our room is not one that looks out onto the High Street, our pleasure at having a quiet spot were soon dashed by the strains of ‘Yellow Submarine’ from a couple who had clearly imbibed a very liquid lunch. Thankfully they had peaked early but being a shore city, there is an abundance of gulls – and man they are loud. Discussing that birds tend to quieten down and roost when the sun goes down, we were relieved that this too seemed to apply to gulls as around 11.00hrs there was a definite tailing off of the incessant cawws. Drifting off to sleep, I was rudely awaken by what appeared to be a major seagull riot; thinking it must be about 06.00hrs, I was not happy to discover that it was in fact not yet quite 03.00hrs! There ensued a desperate scrabbling about for ear plugs as the only means to alleviate the din. They party hard those gulls!
I had previously visited Dundee for the day with our daughter in January of this year to see the recently opened V&A and had noted that located next to this was the RRS Discovery. This is of particular interest to Mr V as one of the crew of this Artic explorer was Ernest Shackleton, whose leadership philosophy had formed a keystone for an assignment in one of his Masters degrees. We were there early and have to say were impressed by the whole exhibition, spending an hour there before even stepping foot on the magnificent Dundee built ship. Mr V was enthused to be stepping in the footsteps of some very courageous me.
We took a turn around the V&A afterward, which though a spectacular building, we felt does not deliver by way of exhibition, we were not inclined to pay to view the temporary exhibition on video games, and had viewed the permanent one in less than an hour (less for me as I had seen it before). To be fair, when I had visited earlier in the year, the temporary exhibition was the great steam liners, and fascinating.
We wondered up the shore front and lunched in a lovely little backstreet cafe that our girlie had found on my last visit, and then went in search of the Unicorn. We found her in the Dundee harbour next to the rather worse for wear North Carr Lightship. We walked the gangway followed by a young lad, and when asked if we needed two adult and one child tickets, Mr V’s response of ‘never seen this child before in my life’ was clearly taken as a joke as we queried the total cost of our tickets to discover we had been charged for an extra child! HMS Unicorn was a ship of the Royal Navy for around 140 years, mainly in reserve and used for training. Built in Chatham Dockyard which we had visited a couple of years ago, and launched in 1824, she was in service as a training ship until 1968.
The ship provided a fascinating view on the past, and also had an exhibition about HMS Mars, which following decommissioning became a training ship that was a form of industrial school where destitute boys could be trained for a career at sea, in the days before universal education provision. Boys were diverted from a life of crime by being ‘sentenced’ to Mars. She was so used from 1869 to 1929 after failing a survey and being towed away to be scrapped.
The Unicorn really was an ‘access all areas’ exhibit and it was captivating to be able to scramble about right in the belly of the ship, one advantage of being diminutive of stature, I could walk upright without fear of bumping my head on beams, but even I had to crouch down as we went below the waterline to the Carpenter’s walk.
Fully satiated on maritime history, we meandered back to the city centre, taking in our starting point for tomorrow’s route which involves traversing the road bridge via a cycleway down the middle of the carriageway. After procuring our supper provisions we found ourselves in the Howff, a Victorian graveyard of some interest, and then through the city centre via the grand Victorian gallery, assisting a lady with directions on the way (thanks to google maps)
As the evening winds down, though we would like to head off to slumber, alas the gulls are still partying on.