Broughty Ferry and Monifieth coastal walk, near Dundee, Eastern Scotland
Just along the north coast of the Firth of Tay, a few miles east of Dundee city centre, lies Broughty Ferry. It’s one of those coastal resorts that has survived the downturn in the traditional domestic summer holiday thanks to a substantial local population and the number of day visitors. These days it is recognised as an attractive residential location, with new development continuing on the northern side, extending into neighbouring Monifieth.
This is a straightforward coastal walk that links the main scenic and historic attractions of Broughty Ferry and Monifieth. It's easy to cut the walk short and return by a different route. There’s an optional extension north through parkland along the Dighty Burn to the new village of Panmuirfield.
It’s an area that I know well, as I live just over a mile north of Barnhill Rock Gardens, and often go down there for a run at the weekend or a walk with members of the family.
There are car parks opposite the Library on the main road (Queen Street) and towards the eastern end of the main shopping street (Brook Street). More parking spaces stretch along Beach Crescent, just west of the Castle and Harbour. There’s also a railway station in both Broughty Ferry and Monifieth, but unfortunately very few services stop there. Frequent bus services (nos 10, 10X and 12) run between Dundee City Centre and Broughty Ferry, with Strathtay buses running through Broughty Ferry to Monifieth, enabling a return journey if you go by car to Broughty Ferry. Check details at Travel Dundee.
At either end of the coastal walk, near the Castle in Broughty Ferry, and at Riverview in Monifieth, are large modern play areas. This makes it easier for those with children to encourage them to come along for the walk with a prospect of half an hour clambering up towers and performancing balancing acts.
Broughty Ferry is one of those rare places where there are still plenty of high quality local shops with character, interspersed with cafes, bars and restaurants. It makes it an ideal place to spend a bit of time having lunch or shopping, before or after a walk. It reminds me a bit of Largs, on the Firth of Clyde, which is another popular day trip destination. It’s particularly well known for a choice of Indian restaurants, and Visocchi’s Italian ice cream shop and café.
Broughty Ferry grew up originally with fishing and the ferry service across to Fife, and the low whitewashed cottages along Fisher Street date from that time. It expanded inland as more of the wealthy Dundee industrialists moved out there, and tourism began to develop. The harbour area is overlooked by Broughty Castle, dating from 1496, which guarded the entrance to the River Tay right up to the early 20th century. It is maintained in good condition by the City Council, and houses a museum with displays covering the whaling and fishing industries, and military history. From the castle, and the rocks below it, there are excellent views west up the river to Dundee and the two bridges.
Broughty Ferry beach is a fine stretch of sand extending east from the Castle rocks towards Monifieth. Major improvements to waste water infrastructure a few years ago have resulted in much cleaner sand and seawater for visitors to the beach, culminating in a Blue Flag award in 2005. There’s a lifeguard on duty during the summer, and a safe area marked out for bathing. With the new play area close by, it’s a great place to spend some time on a fine day. There are secluded spots amongst the sand dunes further east.
Walking east from the Castle, you can go down onto the sand, or continue along the path along the grassy verges of the Esplanade. About half a mile from the castle, there’s a new glass-fronted café, the Glass Pavilion (strangely closed when this was first written), next to the white painted Jacques nightclub building. It is open in 2006, and is a welcome new facility for walkers to take a break and get some refreshment.
Just beyond the nightclub is an opening through to a nature reserve which extends alongside the railway line. It provides a tranquil stretch for walking through trees and bushes, with lots of birdlife, particularly welcome if you’ve arrived on a windy day.
You pass a metal bridge on the left (see variation 2 ) and the path rises slightly then comes down to open grassland near the road, at the start of Barnhill Rock Gardens. This is a popular place for short strolls at any time of the year, with many different trees, shrubs and smaller flowering plants. A group of eucalyptus trees with their distinctive patched grey bark and small leathery leaves dominates one corner, overlooking sloping grass and picnic tables. Several benches have been located around the rock gardens in memory of loved ones. There’s a WC at the far end, just where the esplanade road bends up to Bridge Street and back onto the main road (now named Dalhousie Road).
There are concrete steps here down to the beach – and you may decide to turn here and head back along the sand towards the Castle. At low tide, it’s possible to walk far out across the sandbanks towards a group of rocks that emerge from the sea.
Continuing towards Monifieth, a roadway and a path run either side of a grassy area with play equipment. Just before another bridge across the railway line stands one of the buildings constructed as part of the Tay Estuary Wastewater Project, and there’s a vast underground chamber.underneath the flat grassland in front of it.
This footbridge is at Balmossie Station, and you can cross here to walk up to the Dighty (see variation 3).
The path continues along a footbridge over the Dighty Burn, then there is a pleasant walk for half a mile between sand dunes and the railway line along the edge of Monifieth. If you prefer to walk along the beach, there are steps just after crossing the footbridge.
When the path reaches Monifieth caravan site, there’s another bridge over the railway line. The Dundee “Green Circular” cycle route goes over it, turning back towards the Dighty (see variation 4 ).
You can continue along the seafront for another quarter of a mile to Riverview Park, with its play area, WC, and parking. There are football pitches and more caravan stances beyond the parking area. If you go through the tunnel under the railway line here, and turn right, you will reach the Panmure Hotel and Monifieth Golf Course. Tay Street leads up to the centre of Monifieth where other shopping and eating facilities are available. From here, it's easy to catch a bus back to Broughty Ferry or Dundee.
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