From the Station, past Sensation
The Railway Bridge
Back along the riverside with a poem by William Topaz McGonagall
Dundee has one of the finest riverside settings in Europe, together with the tragic history of its railway bridge across the River Tay. This route enables you to appreciate both these aspects, together with one of Dundee's city centre parks.
It can now be made into a circular walk from the Railway Station, of about 2.5 miles (4 km) in length, taking an hour or so. This makes use of the new footpath and cycle way cutting through the old railyards - now being developed for housing and digital media businesses. It's an easy walk, with just a railway bridge and a busy road to cross.
Alternatively if you have less time and energy you can just drive out towards the Railway Bridge and use the parking spaces beside the river, on either side of the landfall of the Bridge.
My own place of work is now close to the Railway Station, so I have started to use this circuit for a lunchtime training run, combining good paths and fine views. However, you often catch a strong wind coming in off the estuary of the Tay from one direction or another.
Starting from one of the parking areas near the Station such as the Olympia / RRS Discovery car park, cross over to the Station at the traffic lights and then follow the new pavement round on the other side and along to the left. This is a new road, the first to be realigned as part of the major reshaping of Dundee's waterfront.
It rises gently uphill, and then a sliproad leads off to the left towards the Sensation Science Centre. There is parking here, and this is another possible starting point - some members of your group might prefer to visit the Science Centre (or indeed Olympia or Discovery Point) whilst others complete the walk. Indeed, Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre (DCA) can be reached up steps near to the Sensation Car Park.
The walkers should walk past the front (or back) of Sensation, and cross over the road to the start of the cycle way / footpath which is close to the fenced off railway line. It's a level route for the next half mile or so. To the right, you can see the redeveloped warehouses that now provide premises for digital media companies, drawing on Dundee's growing reputation for computer games, computer aided design and other creative industries. To the left of this impressive development is a new flight of steps - around 130 of them - leading up to Perth Road and Dundee University campus.
Beyond this, new houses are being built, reflecting the recent turnaround in Dundee's population - after many years of steady decline in population, the latest (2006) figures show an increase over the previous year.
The new cycle path eventually reaches the end of the old railyards site, and emerges into a car park at the lower end of the Roseangle - a well established routeway which also runs up to Perth Road.
Cross the road carefully to the line of trees on the other side which fringe Magdalen Green. Of course, you could simply drive down the Roseangle and park here!
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Magdalen Green is another of Dundee's precious green spaces, a long-established area of common ground of 17 acres sloping down from a long terrace of orderly houses on the far side of Magdalen Yard Road. Streets lead up from here, some wide (such as Windsor Road) and some narrow, providing a little maze of old Dundee. This includes university residences and a large former jute mill now converted into high quality flats. It's one of several of these massive, distinctive industrial buildings that have been returned to productive use in the modern city.
You can stroll around the Green at leisure, enjoying the fringe of daffodils in the springtime followed by the white cherry blossom on the avenue of trees running down to a footbridge over the railway line.
To the side of this avenue is a well-maintained Victorian bandstand, standing out from the rising grassland. New trees along the lower side of the Green will in time add further to its attraction. Magdalen Green was a favourite spot of one of Dundee's best-known artists, James McIntosh Patrick.
Crossing the footbridge, you descend to another wide grass area which borders the main artery of Riverside Drive on its way out to Dundee Airport. Ahead, you will see the river and the Railway Bridge across it. A new item of public art - somewhat more abstract than Desperate Dan in the centre of the city - has been placed here recently (spring 2006). It's a feature of unknown meaning, next to a large layby beside the river.
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Cross over VERY carefully to the riverside, and admire the structure of the Railway Bridge. If the tide is low, you will spot the stumps of the old bridge that was destroyed in a gale on the evening of 28 December 1879, with the loss of all 75 persons on board. Subsequent investigation showed that it had serious design weaknesses (see this item in Wikipedia).
When I was there recently I noticed a small boat bobbing around close to the bridge, not seeming to be heading anywhere - it looks rather odd in the photos, positioned under the massive metal structure.
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Walking back from there along the riverside path, you are now separated from the busy traffic by a rolling wave of urban landscaping with grass and young trees. Under your feet, you may notice some words carved in a line of stones in the pavement. This is one of the poems of William Topaz McGonagall, who marked the disaster with perhaps his best known work. However, I have led you in the wrong direction - you'll be reading the poem in the pavement backwards unless you walk from the direction of the City!
At the far end of the pavement poem is an information board providing more explanation of the Railway Bridge and the work of McGonagall. Today, many celebrate McGonagall for the uniqueness of his style, even though it is regarded by others as awful!
As one local website asserts: "William McGonagall is Dundee's best remembered nobody." A bit harsh perhaps.
From here you can continue along the Riverside footpath, past the entrance roundabout for Tesco's superstore (which some felt was not the most appropriate type of development to grace such a fine location) and then a series of other recent office and leisure developments. The offices display an "interesting" mixture of metallic coated structures and coloured plastic wall panels. Never mind, you can call into the more "traditional" Discovery Quay Inn for something to eat and drink, before returning to your car or going on to another part of Dundee.
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Contributed by Andrew Llanwarne, May 2006