A trip through Dundee’s jute tradition

Marta Maziar / Shutterstock

You don’t have to leave Hotel Indigo Dundee to get a taste of the city’s jute-producing tradition — you’re staying in it. This beautifully-renovated, modern hotel used to be the Baxter Brothers jute mill, one of Dundee’s biggest, where more than 4,000 people once worked. It closed in 1978 as the industry contracted; the city’s last working jute mill, The Taybank Works, shut in 1999.

Which is not to say that jute, a type of twine used for making sacks and wrapping bales of cotton, is no longer a part of Dundee life. It may not be made here anymore, but its significance to the city lives on in local architecture, businesses and cultural institutions. Here’s how to get a taste of Dundee’s jute tradition on a short walking tour:

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Photo Credit: Verdant Works

Verdant Works

This beautiful old mill is the best place to start your jute tour. It tells Dundee’s textile story in colourful, engaging detail, including how the jute was harvested in India and woven in Dundee. You’ll get a taste of the deafening reality of a 19th-century mill while watching the machines at work, plus learn more about the everyday lives of the thousands of ordinary Dundonians who worked in the industry.

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Photo Credit: “Copper cladding, Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre” by Owen P via Flickr. License info.

Jute Cafe Bar

Located within the art and culture centre, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Jute Cafe Bar is the perfect spot for lunch, dinner, a snack or cocktail. The food menu includes plenty of local treats, from east-coast cured meat and cheese to superb fish. While its connection to Dundee’s jute heritage is in name only, its contemporary offerings alongside the historical reference are representative of a growing, changing city.

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Photo Credit: Caird Hall by Jesús Gorriti via Flickr. License info.

Caird Hall

Built between 1914 and 1923, this supremely elegant concert venue is a constant reminder of jute’s glory days. It’s worth a look, even if you can’t get inside. It is named for James Key Caird, a jute baron who became a noted philanthropist in later life (there’s also a park named for him in the north of the city). This neoclassical structure is one of the best places to see gigs in the UK, with acts like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin having graced its 2,300-capacity hall.

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McManus Galleries

This art gallery and museum celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. It’s the perfect place to spend a pleasurable hour or two getting a better idea of the history and culture of this coastal city. Of particular interest is the “Making of Modern Dundee” gallery, which tells the story of this city’s emergence from the middle of the 19th century. There’s plenty of jute interest, too, including the Tay Whale, whose skeleton hangs in the museum. Whale oil was used in the jute production, and Dundee became a centre of whaling in the 19th century as the jute industry boomed.

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Daisy Tasker

Named for a weaver who organised social activities for jute mill workers, Hotel Indigo Dundee’s new restaurant is a great place to unwind after a day wandering around the city. You can expect a huge variety of local food, from delicious Arbroath Smokies to Mulligatawny soup — and there’s an elegant cocktail bar, too.

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