Stormy Dundee. V&A Museum. October 2018.

Helen Rose Outdoors Diary 



I had a family visiting and we decided to go to Dundee and see the new Victoria and Albert Museum and possibly the Discovery ship. The day was particularly stormy but we made it to Dundee in gale force winds and rain. Dundee is a coastal city on the Firth of Tay estuary in eastern Scotland and is the fourth largest city in Scotland. Rapid expansion was brought on by the Industrial Revolution, particularly in the 19th century when Dundee was the centre of the global jute industry. This, along with its other major industries gave Dundee its epithet as the city of “jute, jam and journalism”. The discovery that the dry fibres of jute could be lubricated with whale oil to allow it to be processed in mechanised mills resulted in the Dundee mills rapidly converting from linen to jute. Among the smaller industries, the most notable was James Keiller’s and Sons (established in 1795), which pioneered commercial marmalade production. The publishing firm D.C. Thomson was founded in the city in 1905 and produced among other publications, comics such as the Beano. Dundee was said to be built on the ‘three Js’: Jute, Jam and Journalism. I do like alliterations!

Dundee’s regenerated waterfront has two nautical museums: ‘RRS Discovery’, Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship, and the 19th-century warship, ‘HM Frigate Unicorn’. There is the excellent Verdant Works museum celebrating the city’s jute-manufacturing heritage and the McManus Art Gallery & Museum displaying art and archaeological finds.

V&A Museum

The V&A in London is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The Museum holds many of the UK’s national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance. It is my favourite museum in London. They decided to open a new V&A museum in Dundee as Scotland’s first Design Museum and it opened in September 2018 following ten years of planning and building. Following an international architect’s competition, it was designed by a Japanese Architect Kengo Kuma.

While I am fine with the concept of building to look like a boat on the water, I have some serious concerns on the design and location. The great bulk of the building over shadows the RRS Discovery moored nearby on the river. The entrance to the building is small and there is a wind tunnel effect. On the day of our visit, it was stormy and a visitor was blown over in the wind and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. The main door was closed and we had to exit by the staff entrance. There are obviously some design faults that need to be resolved but it is early days.

The outside looks like shelving of granite but can be grey looking on a dull day. By contrast, the inside is light and airy with plywood shelving floor to ceiling although the entrance is not welcoming with the reception desk around a corner. On the plus side, visitors can take in their own picnic although the café food did look good. The galleries are on the first floor and the Scottish Design Gallery included a dress which I found impressive as two figures were depicted in the design.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Within the Scottish Design Gallery, the jewel in the crown is Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room, the painstakingly reconstructed interior of part of Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street, Glasgow, Tea Rooms which has been unseen for 50 years. It is a very dark interior and I nearly walked in to a wall! Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a Scottish artist, architect, and interior/furniture/textile designer who had a professional influence on the development of the modern movement. He worked to create totally integrated art and architecture including the recently restored Willow tearoom in Glasgow.


Discovery Point is home to RRS Discovery, made in Dundee and designed for adventure. The Discovery was the last traditional wooden three masted ship to be built in Britain. Designed for Antarctic research, it was launched as a Royal Research Ship (RRS) in 1901. Its first mission was the British National Antarctic Expedition, carrying Scott and Shackleton on their first, successful journey to the Antarctic, known as the Discovery Expedition. Unfortunately, due to the inclement weather it was closed to visitors.

Storm Ali

It was unfortunate that Storm Ali hit Scotland on the day we travelled to Dundee which was an experience in the winds gusting up to 100 miles an hour in some places. In some ways it enhanced the visit to the V&A museum as waves on the River Tay lashed the outside of the building. On the plus side, on returning to Glasgow the lawn was a sea of apples blown off the apple tree by the winds!

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Berwick on Tweed Again. November 2018.
Algarve. September 2018

This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary

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