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The less obvious charms of Dundee

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What is it? The Apex City Quay & Spa Hotel, Dundee, a four-star hotel with extensive facilities and a child- friendly attitude. The pool and spa in particular are a great addition to a short break.

Where? Dundee, Scotland. Just go past Edinburgh and Glasgow and keep going!

Description: [hotel_bedroom.jpg.jpg] Dundee in March may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea, but one of Scotland’s “other” cities provide something for everyone – and then some. David and Mary Warbrick and children Jacob, 10, and Harriet, 14, only wished they could have stayed a little bit longer…

Having “done” Edinburgh and wanting to see a little more of what Scotland had to offer, we decided to venture a little further north. We were also attracted by the Apex family break package…

The hotel provided games for the children, DVDs to rent, and a reasonably child-friendly swimming pool. We were also within walking distance of some really high quality daytime activities for all ages, and a short drive away from many more.

None specifically at the hotel, although the restaurant and brasserie provide excellent quality food, and children under 16 eat (and stay) free. There is a TV with DVD player in all rooms, and a large range of children’s titles are available. Toys and games were also on offer to borrow.

None available.

Within the hotel there are a wide range of spa/pampering options, including massage, sauna, and a range of different treatments. The Japanese wooden hot tubs in the pool were the perfect antidote to a long day’s driving.

Local activities: More than you can shake a stick at. The RRS Discovery (Scott of the Antarctic) is docked a few minutes walk from the hotel, and has an excellent visitor’s centre and museum where children can play at being pirates (bandanas are almost compulsory). The Sensation science centre is also walkable, though possibly not with very small ones. Within a 30-minute drive are a host of other attractions, including Glamis Castle, Loch Lomond, Brechin Castle Country Park and Pictavia, a museum for children exploring the life of the Picts. For dads there are a number of distillery tours, and nearby is St. Andrew’s golf course (should you be allowed in – I wasn’t!).

Wish we had known: Just how much there was to do! Determined to see as much as possible we found we didn’t have enough time to do Dundee justice, and only skated over the surface of some of the excellent family attractions available. Next time we’ll need a week!

Our top tip: Look for deals online (see below). Apex family packages are great value and really cater to families.

Kids say: “The Science museum was brilliant, and the Ship we went on was really interesting too,” says Jacob, 10. “I could have stayed in the hot-tubs all day, and the food in the hotel was really nice,” adds Harriet, 14.

Getting There: Check out www.apexhotels.co.uk for booking details and deals. Children under 16 stay and eat free in a “double double” room. Short Apex breaks start from L37 per person per night, with cheaper family deals available.

About our stay: We left our family in Lincolnshire after an overnight visit to deposit the dog, and set north just after breakfast. After a brief battle between Satnav and google maps, we made good time up the M1 and headed on and on and on, arriving at the hotel at a little before 4pm. With a brief pause for coffee we were in the pool by 4.30 and already beginning to shake off the effects of a slightly longer journey than we were used to. After a very chilled hour and a little unpacking, we decided to venture into Dundee in search of food. A brief detour ensued during which Harriet discovered the shopping centre, and thanks to some friendly advice from a road sweeper we enjoyed an excellent all-you-can-eat Chinese meal in the city centre. At under L40 for all four of us, including drinks, we were pleasantly surprised, and extremely full! Back to the hotel, where Dad retired to the bar “to let the children get to sleep” (it didn’t work!). After a long day we all zonked out watching an odd but happily appropriate programme featuring a member of Girls Aloud. The next morning we awoke refreshed, and ready for a busy day of sightseeing and attractions. The hotel breakfast was outstanding featuring a massive variety of choice, and even Jacob, our picky 10-year-old, had enough to eat and more. After a short walk we arrived at the RRS Discovery, and Discovery Point visitor’s centre. None of us are particularly nautically minded, and since the Discovery was the vessel used for Scott’s first voyage to the Antarctic we didn’t even have his dying to look forward to (as Jacob pointed out!).  That said, the only thing which took us away from Discovery Point was the itinerary we had set ourselves – it turned out to be an extremely child-friendly activity centre that made polar exploration and scientific research seem fun, and we were very pleasantly surprised with the quality of the interactive exhibits. [mary_driving.jpg] After lunch we set off to Brechin Castle Country Park and Pictavia museum, a half-hour drive even further north. Even in the bitter weather the walk around the country park was very enjoyable, if a little bracing. It’s a wonderful place to visit with smaller children on a warm day, with vast expanses of green grass and a well-equipped (and safe) children’s play area. Also an excellent collection of animals, and some great go-karts which are almost big enough for adults. Pictavia museum, near the park, provides an interesting history of the life of the Picts, a confederation of tribes that lived in what was to become Scotland until the 10th century, in the area and some rather gruesome recounts of battles fought. Not necessarily for younger children, but ours had a great time. Back to the hotel for more swimming and relaxation followed by an excellent meal in the brasserie. The restaurant food, whilst tempting, looked a little pricey for a family of four, but the brasserie provided excellent. A dedicated kids’ menu kept Jacob satisfied with typical but well presented children’s fare – sausage and mash, meatballs and pasta, etc. Our final morning opened with another delicious breakfast. This time we all ordered from the menu instead of trying the buffet again. The scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on a toasted bagel were absolutely the best way to start the day. And we needed the energy, as we wandered into Dundee and were extremely pleasantly surprised at the massive range of shops in the Overgate shopping centre, including the biggest Primark my daughter had ever seen![kids_mindball.jpg] The highlight of our final day, and indeed probably the whole break, was the visit to Sensation, Dundee’s millennium project science centre. We ended up staying for over three hours because of the vast range of excellent interactive displays and exhibits. A range of different shows throughout the day and an absolutely first rate café (complete with Starbucks coffee and paninis) made for a brilliant end to our visit. We arrived back home totally exhausted but also refreshed, and determined to spend longer in Scotland’s less obvious jewel next time. * David and Mary Warbrick live in Halifax, West Yorkshire with their two children Harriet, 14, and Jacob, 10. David is headteacher of a primary school in Halifax, while Mary teaches at another local primary school.

Created: 2008-04-10 10:45:07.663

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