Angus is a county in North East Scotland, which historically had Dundee as its main conurbation though this is now separately governed. Angus can be considered the birthplace not only of Scotland – the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath first asserted the nation's sovereignty – but also of its grandparents. It was the heartland of the Picts from about 100 BC to 900 AD, when they merged into the Celts. Any place named "Pit-" is likely to have been their dwelling, but all that remains of their culture is the collection of carved stones dotted around Angus.
Towns and villages
- 1 Dundee was once a drab industrial place, but is now rejuvenated, with Captain Scott's sailing ship Discovery, the Verdant jute mill, and the V&A Design Museum. At last it's worthy of its fine natural setting at the outlet of the Tay.
A string of small towns line the coast to the north-east:
- Broughty Ferry was where you crossed the Tay until the railway bridge was built - and then, tragically, where you still had to cross. It straggles east into Monifieth.
- 2 Carnoustie has a famous golf course.
- 3 Arbroath is a small harbour with industrial history.
- 4 Montrose is another harbour and has a large tidal lagoon full of birdlife.
- 5 Brechin has a medieval cathedral, and 5 miles north is Edzell Castle.
- 6 Forfar home of the Forfar Bridie has Pictish stones, and nearby is Glamis Castle.
- 7 Kirriemuir was the birthplace of JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan.
The Angus Glens are five scenic river valleys flowing out of the Grampian Mountains. Their upper courses are part of Cairngorms National Park.
- 1 Glen Isla is above Bridge of Craigisla, where there's a 24 m waterfall, the Reekie Linn. The B951 climbs the valley through Kirkton of Glenisla and Brewlands Bridge to Forter Castle, a 16th century tower house that's now a private dwelling. The B951 here crosses the ridge west to join Glenshee. A dead-end lane continues north in the glen to Auchavan, where trails lead up to the glacial Corrie Fee.
- 2 Glen Prosen is above Kirriemuir. Inverquharity Castle at its confluence with River South Esk is a 15th century tower house, now a private dwelling. At Dykehead, a forest trail leads to the Airlie Monument on Tulloch Hill. An easy 4 mile trail connects Prosen and Clova, while higher up is the Kilbo Path.
- 3 Glen Clova is the 20 mile valley of the River South Esk. B955 runs up it to divide into a loop round one side to Clova village and back down the other. You can drive further up the lane to the car park at Glen Doll, where Jock's Road is an ancient drove trail.
- 4 Glen Lethnot west of Edzell is guarded by two Iron Age hilltop forts, the Brown and White Caterthuns, with the lane crossing the ridge between them.
- 5 Glen Esk north of Edzell is the 15 mile valley of River North Esk. The public road ends at Invermark Castle, a tower house, from where you walk up the track to Loch Lee, hemmed in by crags and cliffs.
- See Braemar and Blairgowrie & Rattray for Glenshee, which is in Perth and Kinross county. The Cateran Trail is a long-distance hiking trail through Glenshee and Glen Isla.
The county of Angus is named for the 8th century Pictish King Óengus, son of Fergus, whose power extended into Strathclyde, Ulster and Northumbria. This area was his heartland and its Pictish culture is seen in distinctly-carved stones and in placenames beginning "Pit-". It's a mostly lowland area, even though it lies north of the River Tay - the Highland Fault trends diagonally to reach the sea at Stonehaven. Angus, known as Forfarshire until 1928, therefore had armies march across it but saw no great battles, and quietly got on with raising its Aberdeen Angus beef cattle.
The textile industry, whaling and sea trade caused the port of Dundee to grow from the 18th century, and grow and grow, until in 1894 it was hived off as a separate "city-county". Local authority boundaries and terminology have changed several times since, but that in essence remains the present picture, with a City of Dundee (population in 2016 of 148,280) and an Angus Council Area (population in 2019 of 116,040). However for practical purposes, Dundee is the core of Angus, where all the transport routes converge, and with the bulk of visitor amenities and attractions, so it's convenient to consider it here.
See Dundee for long-distance routes by air, rail and road. The main railway line from London and Edinburgh crosses the Tay from Fife into Dundee, and continues north via Arbroath and Montrose towards Aberdeen. Trains from Glasgow approach via Perth and along the Tay north bank to Dundee. The main road A90 also approaches this way, bypasses the city and goes north further inland.
Along the coast, train is always much quicker; but they don't run inland. Stagecoach Strathtay Bus 27 connects Kirriemuir, Forfar, Guthrie and Arbroath hourly. Bus 20 / 21 connects Kirriemuir, Forfar and Dundee every 30 mins. Bus 30 connects Brechin, Montrose, Arbroath, Dundee and Perth every 30 mins.
- Dundee: other attractions include McManus Gallery, Desperate Dan, the Science Centre, and the University Botanic Garden.
- Pictish stones have striking designs, often a "Z-rod" with discs. The best examples can be seen at Aberlemno (on B9134 midway between Forfar and Brechin), but these (and many other outdoor stones) are boxed in winter to prevent frost damage. Museum collections can be seen at Forfar, Meigle, Montrose, Brechin, St Vigeans just north of Arbroath, Dundee, and the National Museum in Edinburgh.
- Castles: Glamis near Forfar is the big draw, but Edzell near Brechin is a gem with its walled garden. Lots more turrets and tumbledown ruins, such as Broughty Ferry.
- A pre-World War I airbase defends Montrose.
- Scotland's Gardens opens up private gardens once a year in summer, with all proceeds going to charity. There are about 30 participating gardens in this area, dates staggered so there's one open most weekends.
- Bonfest is a rock festival held in May in Kirriemuir near Forfar.
- Highland Games are held in summer in Brechin, Montrose and Glamis Castle.
- Quote McGonagall and probably at some length, as The Worst Poet in Scotland (if not the galaxy) was prolix, and didn't go in for pithy epigrams. He's best remembered in Dundee for his doggerel extolling the Tay Railway Bridge, which collapsed. His "poetic gems" fill three books, available in city bookshops.
- Forfar bridies are meat pastries - they don't contain potato so they're more substantial than, say, Cornish pasties.
- Arbroath smokies are smoked haddock. They're widely available in Scotland but in Arbroath you can eat them fresh-smoked.
- Aberdeen Angus is a small hardy breed of beef cattle. They've been raised at least since the 16th century, though systematic stock management only began from the 19th. The cattle are naturally polled ie hornless, black or red coated (though the US regards the red as a separate breed), and the beef has a marbled appearance. If you eat a burger hereabouts, chances are it contains Angus beef.
- Dundee has the best selection of eating places. Dining in the small towns is mostly bar food, but Montrose has an Australian diner.
- There are breweries in Dundee and Laurencekirk near Montrose, and distilleries in Dundee, Montrose, Brechin and Glamis.
- Avoid idiot drunks in Dundee (and don't be one of them) and watch for speeding traffic.
- The countryside is lowland, with no great natural dangers, just weary weather at times.
- Don't take the last train of the day on Sun 28 Dec 1879, or you'll end up in a dirge by McGonagall.
- Northeast brings you along a rugged coastline to Stonehaven and Aberdeen.
- Follow Glenisla north into Glenshee, over the bleak moor to Braemar on Deeside, then down the valley to Balmoral and lowland Aberdeenshire.
- West is Perth and Kinross county, an attractive mix of lowland and highland.