Who knew a Dundee open-top bus would hold so many stories

Former Dundee resident Anna Gunn and her family hopped on the brand new Dundee open-top bus and went on a journey of re-discovery.

Getting the best views in town aboard the Dundee open-top bus tour

As someone who spent the best part of my twenties living in Dundee, coming back is always special.  Why is it that when we leave a place, it becomes so much more meaningful? Dundee is a bit like that. One of those places you really, really appreciate and desperately want to soak up once you’re no longer there to take it for granted. 

It’s where I got my first ‘grown-up’ job and met my future husband. It’s where my son was born. It’s also where I discovered the joy of a wander up the Perth Road via the Phoenix after work. It’s lying on Magdalen Green on a sunny Saturday. It’s having housemates who invite an entire nightclub back to your house after a night out.

It’s a warm hug of a place. 

It is also one of the only cities that’s snug enough that you can just-about walk anywhere – or have the space to welcome a nightclub into your front room. I never caught a taxi once in my six years in the city because everything I needed to know about was right on my doorstep. 

Or so I thought…

I don’t know about you, but when I think of an open-top bus, I think of that big city south of Peterborough on the GNER line. Be honest, Dundee isn’t your first thought. Where would we go?

Well, lucky me that VisitDundee asked me to take the tour and find out. I took reinforcements – my other-half Stuart and my very excited five-year-old, George. Obviously, George loves any kind of vehicle and was beyond thrilled to have his first open-top bus experience. 

Run by Xplore Dundee, we hopped onto the Discover Dundee bus outside the V&A. The bus appears every 30 minutes and is pretty hard to miss. It’s great because you can jump on and off at any of the stops on the way around the tour route, so there’s plenty opportunities to catch the bus as well as take your time to explore the city sights at your own pace.

A ticket also allows you to go on any of the buses on the Xplore Dundee network on the day of purchase, so you can venture to other parts of the city as well away from the core bus tour. Really handy if you’re staying somewhere in or around the city.

After a lovely warm welcome from the driver, we were supplied with headphones to follow the tour. Of course, George shot straight up the stairs and made a beeline for the very back. A great choice as we could feel the wind in our hair and got a perfect 360-degree view of our surroundings. 

Also, it was fairly quiet being a Sunday morning so, for a lot of the tour, we had the upstairs to ourselves which felt like a bit of treat in itself. 

George wasn’t so keen on the headphones – he was more interested in taking in the sights and asking lots of questions. On the other hand, Stuart and I were pulled right into the commentary, pleased with ourselves, and channelling our geekiness when we knew some of the historical facts. 

Kicking off the tour, we headed up Whitehall Crescent and learned about how the Queen Mother used to shop in the once iconic Dundee department store Draffens. Being up high on the Dundee open-top bus, you really take in the beautiful Victorian architecture of the surrounding buildings. It’s amazing how different your perspective can be from 10 feet higher up.

Once we hit the Nethergate we learned that it is one of seven gates. We then preceded to reel them all off. Can you do it? Seagate, Wellgate, Overgate, Marketgate. We were stumped by the last two. 

The tour then took us up to the ‘contemporary quarter’ AKA the Perth Road. I’d never heard of the area being called that, but with the DCA and the Dundee Rep Theatre just across the road you can see why. 

Then we headed towards the Verdant Works celebrating the textile industry and heard the city’s once famous nickname ‘Jute-opolis.’ New to us, but maybe not so new to Dundonians. 

We glided past DC Thomson, home of the Beano and my old favourite (and said first job), Shout magazine.  The publisher’s iconic Meadowside building sits opposite the McManus; Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum. Easily two of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

Then, as you always do in Dundee, we started to ascend the hill. George was in his element as we climbed the winding streets up to the Dundee Law. At the top, we took in the vista. It was windy and, as ever, breath-taking. What a cracking view. Any time of year, whether you’re on a bus, on foot or in a car, there’s no better place to admire the city and all the way across the Tay to Fife.

A couple of people hopped off here to go to the very top, but we sat tight, appreciating how much you can really enjoy just sitting on the bus. 

Enjoying the view

On the descent we heard stories of the famous Hilltown clock, the demolition of the once famous high-rise flats that used to be seen from all around the city and some proper Dundee dialect through the headphones. We also heard the brilliant story of how Keiller’s marmalade came to be. If you haven’t heard it before, look it up. A great combination of opportunism and creativity. Very Dundee if you ask me. 

The tour was rounded off with what can only be described as a massive burst of adrenaline. Yes, we travelled across the Tay Bridge. Feeling the wind in your hair is a bit of a given in any circumstances while sitting on an open top bus crossing the Tay, but it was a little bit blustery and, let’s say, invigorating. 

The best kind of fun, but I did feel a little like Bridget Jones with mad hair for the rest of the day. The boys absolutely loved it – as did I. 

If you’re in Dundee visiting or you live there and the sun’s out, which it often is in Scotland’s sunniest city, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Discover Dundee open-top bus tour. From high-up, you literally see the city from a new perspective. We certainly did.

  • The Discover Dundee open-top bus sightseeing tour runs daily from April 30th– September 11th 2022. For more information click here

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