Outside the V&A museum, Dundee, Scotland

Visiting the V&A Museum in Dundee, Scotland

Dundee is one of those cities I’ve driven through many times, but had never actually stopped in – so when we stayed at Piperdam Lodges last week, I was keen to take the opportunity to see a bit of the city, and, in particular, the V&A design museum, which opened there last year.

Big confession coming up first, though: museums aren’t really my thing, usually. Shocking, I know, and, yes, it’s purely because I’m a complete and utter philistine, basically. Oh, don’t pretend you weren’t thinking it. OK, I’m not really a philistine (Or I don’t THINK I am, anyway, although now that I’ve embarked upon this particular train of thought, it’s certainly making me wonder…), and it’s not that I don’t find the contents interesting – it’s just that I tend to find them more interesting in context. It’s why, I suppose, I enjoy visiting stately homes so much: I guess it’s just easier to imagine the item being used when you see it in its rightful place, rather than inside a glass case in a museum. So I do enjoy museums once I’m in them, but I don’t actively seek them out, or rub my hands together with glee when someone suggests visiting one. (See also: farmers markets. I just… it’s just food? Why is this a thing now?)

The V&A, however, is a museum I was willing to make an exception for: partly because, as you might expect from a museum dedicated to design, the building itself is absolutely spectacular, both inside and out:

Side view of the V&A design museum in Dundee
Visiting the V&A design museum, Dundee
The V&A Design Museum in Dundee, Scotland
Designed by Japanese architects Kengo Kuma, the V&A sits on the banks of the river Tay and is a modern masterpiece of water and glass, combined with layers of concrete, to stunning effect. Inside, it’s equally impressive, with a sweeping staircase taking you up from the ground-floor cafe and shop, to the exhibit spaces above. Our first stop was supposed to be the Scottish Design Galleries, but Max became very enamoured with the Soap Opera bubble-blowing robot just outside (Which, to be fair, was pretty cool. I mean, what’s not to like about a bubble-blowing robot, right?), so we spent a good few minutes watching that, before heading into the next room, to the Design Galleries.
The Soap Opera exhibit at the V&A Dundee
For fashion lovers, this exhibit is an absolute treat, featuring clothing by Scottish designers like Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane and more, plus other items carefully chosen to showcase the best of Scottish design (And not just fashion, but everything from video games to furniture) through the ages. The centrepiece of this exhibit is the Charles Rennie Macintosh Oak Room, which was first created for a Glasgow tea room, in 1907, and which has been carefully restored and reconstructed at the heart of the V&A. Stepping from the super-modern museum into the wood-panelled room is a bit like stepping into another world, but it’s only fitting that one of Scotland’s most famous designers should have a permanent exhibit at the museum.
I didn’t take many photos inside the museum itself, because it turns out Max isn’t all that interested in design, but there’s also a top-floor restaurant, with glorious views out over the water, and numerous smaller exhibits to trigger the imagination. Once you’re done, meanwhile, the V&A is just a short walk (Through a lovely garden area, which Max really enjoyed…) to Dundee city centre, with its shops, restaurants, and other attractions, like the Caird Hall auditorium (Which my dad once sang in with his band…), and more.
When I was growing up, Dundee had the reputation of being a bit, well, rough, really, for want of a better word, which is probably why it’s taken me so long to get round to actually visiting it. This perception is actually quite unfair, though: Dundee, after all, is the home of Scottish journalism – and, well, Desperate Dan, who has a statue in the centre of town. It’s where Grand Theft Auto was invented, and is still at the centre of video game development. It’s where the postage stamp was invented, and the city claims to get more sunshine than anywhere else in Scotland: which actually DID prove to be the case while we were there, so, yes, obviously true, then. It is, in other words, a much underrated little city, and one we really enjoyed visiting: it’s just a shame it took us so long…
[P.S If you ever wondered what all of my vague-blogging was about in posts like this one, and many others back in 2016-7, the answer to that question is now up on my Patreon page: be warned, though, it’s not a nice story…]

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  • Ooh, that Charles Rennie Mackintosh tea room sounds amazing! I’ve always had a soft spot for Dundee, as my mum grew up there. I think it’s like Glasgow in a lot of ways; both are thriving, vibrant cities (and, I can say as a former Edinburgher, friendlier than the capital ?), but they still have the reputations they earned 30+ years ago.

    October 9, 2019
  • Mary Katherine


    I do so love your travel posts, especially about Scotland. My brother and SIL are in Edinburgh right now, and I’m terribly jealous!

    But you’ve finally broken me, and I just subscribed to your Patreon page! I feel like an investor in a start-up, bwaha. But this will probably make me FAR less productive at work, so I’ll have to ration my reading.

    Best wishes to you, Max & Terry
    Mary Katherine

    October 9, 2019
  • Your dad was in a band? That is all kinds of awesome! Tell us more!

    October 9, 2019
  • wow, the museum looks amazing, the architecture is just spectacular. I’ve never been to Dundee, but now it’s on my list!!

    October 9, 2019