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Things you didn’t know about Dundee

Student Kira shares 15 unusual facts about Dundee.

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Most of you will know many things about Dundee, I am sure. Today, I want to bring you 15 facts about the city, a mix of quite well-known ones and more unusual facts, I am fairly confident I have at least something new for each of you to learn.

  1. Starting out with the basics, you may have heard of jute, jam and journalism, the industries Dundee was built on. When it was discovered that oil from the local whaling industry could be used in the production of jute, former linen mills were converted and expanded and in turn, the whaling and shipbuilding industries grew. While jute dominated Dundee, smaller industries grew too, most prominently those of marmalade and publishing. Many of the mills still stand today, some have been repurposed, while others lie derelict.
  2. Dundee actually used to contain the richest square mile in Europe. You wouldn’t really think of Dundee as a very wealthy place, but Broughty Ferry used to be the mansion paradise of Dundee’s jute barons.
Castle standing in front of sea

Broughty Ferry Castle, near Dundee. Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

  1. Along with wealthy, smart is not exactly the top thing I connect to the city, but in 2010 it was selected as one of the seven smartest cities in the world by the Intelligent Community Forum.
  2. Dundee has the second-highest proportion of university students of towns in Europe (1 in 7, second to Heidelberg). It is believed that Dundee has the highest percentage of Northern Irish students outside Northern Ireland, making up around 5% of the student population.
  3. Some of you may have visited Clatto Reservoir, today it is a lovely place to walk around, but it actually used to be an extremely popular water sports venue, with activities such as kayaking, water pole-vaulting and even pillow-fighting while standing on sailboards. More recently, they have sadly had issues with algae, the water is currently deemed unsafe and there don’t seem to be any activities planned in the future.
  4. Medieval Dundee lay between East and West Port, but very little of it is still around today. The only remaining part of the city walls is Wishart’s Arch.
  5. The Law is often referred to as being an extinct volcano, but this is actually not quite accurate. It is a volcanic sill, made up of lava that was forced through weaker rock. The weaker rock was then weathered away, leaving the harder volcanic rock behind. Balgay Hill was formed similarly, the volcano that formed the two was near Stirling.
  6. There is a disused railway tunnel through the Law that used to connect Dundee to Newtyle in Angus. After the railway was disused it functioned as a mushroom factory and a bunker. Although it is currently closed to the public, there are past stories of it being used for dares and more recently there have been people asking for it to be opened as a tourist attraction.
  7. Dundee actually has its own restored Cold War nuclear bunker in a dead-end street in Craigie. It occasionally opens to the public, I have been on a tour of it myself and can confirm they are absolutely worth it.
  8. You may have heard of ferries running between Tayport and Broughty Ferry in the past. These ferries linked the east coast railway lines. It was deemed inefficient to have to move goods on and off trains to cross the Forth and the Tay and tracks were laid on the ferries to allow full train wagons to cross. There were various passenger and goods ferries in operation on the Tay in the past, the bridges caused these to eventually stop.
  9. Probably the most famous ship built in Dundee, the RRS Discovery was an Antarctic research vessel, taking Captain Scott on his first expedition there in 1901. Craig Pier, where it can be found today, is where the ferries to Fife used to leave from.
V&A Dundee

RSS Discovery and Discovery Point Visitor Centre

  1. The Tay Rail Bridge collapse was one of the worst rail disasters in British history, killing 75 people just 18 months after being opened.
Tay Bridge on a sunny day with sandy shore nearby

Tay Bridge and the River Tay.

  1. Since the early 19th century, the shoreline has been altered significantly. For reference, Dock Street used to lie on the Tay, explaining the name. The same goes for the Seagate, that is not really near the sea today.
  2. The adhesive postage stamp was invented by James Chalmers, a Dundonian bookseller, printer and newspaper publisher in 1837.
  3. Practically side by side, Dundee’s two football stadiums are the closest two in the UK (in the world until 2009, when Malmo in Sweden build another stadium).

That was 15, I hope you learned at least something new, can potentially impress some people now and maybe I will continue this with a part 2 and another 15 bits of random knowledge.

Learn more about student life at the University of Dundee.

Kira Samide

Environmental Science student from Switzerland

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Student voice category Dundee, Places to visit