The Urban Quarter in a Cultural Quarter: a native designer’s view of the changing nature of the City of Dundee.

Andy Rice, founder of the creative agency ‘Not Just Design’ is a born and bred son of the City of Dundee. He now lives in Perth but there is no denying the love and enthusiasm for his hometown. With Not Just Design’s contribution to some of the visual thinking within Urban Quarters, we invited him to share his unique perspective on the City. Here, he talks about some of his passions and how to enjoy a stay with Urban Quarters boutique apartments – a base for business and a space to ‘explore the City with 2, 5 and 15 minutes walks.


Dundee has always been a forward thinking, vibrant city. Today what I love is that it is regaining a confidence and learning how to shout about these qualities!

The transformation in the City is palpable and it is extraordinarily inspiring to watch. Most especially these past five years across Dundee’s waterfront with preparations well under way for many new sites, most notably the prestigious V&A Museum of Design Dundee. But the current changes are arguably nothing compared to the 1755 Tsunami, which was triggered by an enormous earthquake in Lisbon. The resulting tidal wash wiped out the hugely busy harbor port causing utter devastation. Sheds and offices were completely destroyed and as a result, the rebuild of the city harbour was raised more than 2 stories higher to avoid any future visitation of wild nature. As a visitor, you can learn more about this and other aspects by visiting the original harbour level by booking an organized trip through Dundee Heritage, revealing more of times gone by.

Often tagged with the 3 J’s (Jute, Jam and Journalism) - an enviable heritage for a city - I consider it the backbone of where we are today, on the brink of more high innovation and leadership. You see, I grew up in a heavily industrialised city through the 60’s and into my teens of the 70’s, I even had a spell working in the Jute mills. Yes, it was a hard city but a very hard working city; from Shipbuilding (Rob Caledon) to Watches (Timex) to Textiles (Levi jeans) the Dundee factories employed tens of thousands of people. (

Today, this part of its rich heritage is one of the many things that make Dundee great. Personally, I relish delving into its past and creating imaginative connections for the City’s future landscape. I’ve learned so much by understanding the City’s rich social and cultural history, and this little insight into my hometown (hopefully) reflects this.

Dundee is officially the sunniest city in Scotland – and, do not let anyone tell you otherwise! However, Scotland is inclined to bouts of inclement weather, therefore I thought I’d share how to enjoy a Dundee City break at Urban Quarters by walking no more than 1, 2 or 15 minutes from their front door!

As designers go, we have a propensity to create a little order in things; hence most of us are real lovers of maps – a beautiful, little piece of comfort to any traveller. I thought it worthwhile to do a little mapping for anyone staying at Urban Quarters.

All are close by, and the ones needing a taxi trip are truly worth it.

The 90 second walk - aka the comfort zone You are practically keeping your slippers on for these ones! For easy food & drinks to suit most palate’s

  1. West House (a lively venue at night, good food range)
  2. Beer Kitchen (top drawer drinks range, within crawling distance if you stay ??)
  3. Bar Tonic (biggest burger selection in town)
  4. Dundee Contemporary Arts (big venue, big restaurant, cinemas, galleries)
  5. The Pheonix (real pub)

The 5-minute walk - not quite working up a thirst distance

  1. D’Arcy Thomson (themed on one of Dundee’s own pioneering academics)
  2. The Parlour (same company as Folk Café *****)
  3. Gallery 48 (Tapas with art)
  4. The Folk Café (legendary food, excellent breakfasts) Folk_Cafe-Dundee
  5. 172 The Caird (a new kid in town)

The 15-minute - walk Worth the effort

  1. Castlehill Restaurant – (Scottish dining - booking advised
  2. Mai Tai (Thai)
  3. The Italian Grill
  4. George Orwell (simple austere pub – before or after the food)
  5. Aga Khan (fab, very quirky, delicious - booking advised)

Call a cab

On the food front, these are not to be missed:

  • Taypark House (boutique style, food, drink, gin bar, unusual)
  • The Tayberry - (fine dining - booking advised)
  • The Newport – (newbee but excellent -booking advised)

And, if it’s just a real pub you’re after, here’s the place for you:

  • Speedwell (untouched real bar, impressive whisky bar, hang out of many famous artists)

Entertainment, Culture and Dundee things:

The Rep Theatre, turn right out door, less than a minute walk.
Art and design of the community
Dundee Print Festival
Dundee Design Festival
Wasps Sudios
Gaming – the city that gave you Lemmings & Grand Theft Auto, Dundee is the
birthplace of Scottish Gaming

If staying as a family, I would recommend visits to any of these venues.

  • Climb down to to the keel of the Unicorn, oldest floating warship 200 years old:
  • Where wagons roll, 2 venues showing the rich tapestry of Dundee Heritage:
  • It’s not all about the history, there’s science too – an area of contemporary life that Dundee University is pioneering and world renowned:

Alternatively if it’s a wee bit pampering you like? Look no further than Urban Quarter neighbor, The Sunflower Rooms. Jen, the owner, is just fab having created a wonderfully relaxing environment with excellent service.

The Sunflower Room

Shaken not stirred

The grandfather of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming has a striking history in the city. He was one of the shrewdest investors of his generation and an acknowledged expert in the financing of American railroads and a contemporary of JP Morgan. The Fleming Gardens Estate in Dundee was erected as a result of a gift of £155,000 Fleming made to improve worker's housing. Part of this development is a famous little Art Deco bar called ‘The Clep’, and while a little tired looking now, it has great character.

In fact, another similar Art deco bar exists not too far away with a lounge modeled on the great ship liners of the day - it’s called ‘Frews’, what I find interesting is how Design influences are prevalent – then and now.

A fine walk

A favorite walk of ours, head down to the waterfront and bear west along The River Tay walkway: Scotland’s longest river at 117 miles ebbs and flows past the magnificent Tay Rail bridge, the second construction. The first crashed into the sea on a stormy night of 1879, the steam engine was subsequently recovered and put back into service, the drivers called her ‘The Diver’. The bridge you see now is marvel of engineering and innovation, built with hydraulic platforms to work with the river tides.

The Law (meaning The Hill)

By far the best view of the City come via a visit to the top of the Law - our very own extinct Volcano - it gives a 360 panoramic of the city and well beyond. Sunrises and sunsets are magnificent! You can drive to the top or take the adventurous walk to get there.

Recent talk is to establish an Arts Venue to the foot of The Law where a carried smaller trains up and over in a bygone age, we are pretty good at appropriating.

McManus Galleries in the centre is 10 min walk and highly recommended. A very informative mosaic of life in the city is housed in the here, with beautiful galleries showcasing an abundance of Fine Art.

A favorite read

n terms of history, look no further than the late Charles McKean’s writings, Emeritus Professor of Scottish Architectural History at the University of Dundee., McKean has written numerous books on the area and in particular, ‘Dundee: Renaissance to Enlightenment’, gives a historical flavour of the area with real insights into the eclectic nature of what makes Dundee tick and the people who made it.

Central to the stay

NJD had business meetings and social events to attend and chose to stay at Urban Quarters to maximize both time and energy. Choosing Urban Quarter was a no brainer; it is a new gem in the cultural quarter, with sophisticated design sensibilities it offers a quality in parallel with the eclectic nature of Dundee’s West End. It peeks out onto the University of Dundee Campus, consistently rated one of the best in Times Higher supplement, so cleverness is in abundance. With four stunningly fitted apartments and flexible stay options to meet the growth in ‘Destination Dundee’. They simply ooze that something different. Check it out here...

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