Travels in Scotland Post 2: Tartan at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Dundee

Welcome to my series of blog posts Travels in Scotland. Whether you're planning a trip, reliving a memory, or relaxing into some armchair traveling...thank you for joining me! Here I will show you images & share stories of my one month travels through Scotland. I'll cover this beautiful country of mountains, rivers, glens, islands, history, and, of course, fiber and textiles.

Day trip by Scotrail from glasgow to dundee

Since I was a little girl and my father took me into NYC on the Long Island Rail Road, I have loved traveling by train.  When they say "it's the journey not the destination" that would be true for me because I relish the chance to be on a train.  The trip from Glasgow to Dundee is 64 miles (103 km) and 1 1/2 hours each way. ScotRail runs 47 trains per day between the two cities - perfect for a day trip.


Dundee, northeast of Edinburgh, on the River Tay,  is historically known for the thread, linen and jute industries (derived from flax). Exceptional for the times, were the married women of Dundee that played a large role in working in the mills from the mid-1800s.  Today, no mills of Dundee have survived.

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the victoria & albert Museum, DUNDEE, scotland

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London (read about my earlier visit in this blog post) built an extension in Dundee that was opened in September 2018.  Japanese architect Kengo Kuma was selected in an international competition to design the unique building, which he expressed as a "living room for the city."  I joined a daily one-hour architectural tour of the building to learn about its construction and the 2,500 concrete exterior horizontal panels (each weighing 6,000+ lbs/3,000kg) - mind blowing! In a way, this ship-like structure reminds me very much of my own Denver Art Museum's modern wing. For me this new, remarkable building was definitely worth the visit.

tartan special exhibition at the v&A Museum

Is there anything more quintessentially Scottish than tartan and maybe bagpipes (to Americans at least)?  This multi-media exhibit of the history, weaving, and cultural meaning of tartan was the highlight of my day and easily filled the afternoon.


The most surprising thing that I learned was that following the Jacobite Rising (1745) and Battle of Culloden (1746), the English government banned the wearing of tartan for 40 years and soon after began the Highland Clearances, all with the aim to weaken the clan system. Waves of Scottish emigration to North America had already begun in the 1720s, perhaps explaining the proliferation of tartan (or plaid as it is more commonly known in the U.S.).  When I was a girl in the 1970s, there was nothing more fashionable that I wanted than a pleated wool plaid skirt.  And is it any wonder the spread of tartan around the world? Today, the population of Scotland is 5.4 million people, but the University of Oxford estimates 100 million people worldwide have Scottish heritage, and I am one of them.


Interested in learning more about the history of tartans? Click here for an article by National Geographic.


Would you like to look up your family's tartan? Search online with the Scottish Register of Tartans.


Enjoy the clickable photos below for a taster of the V&A's exhibition.

oldest remnant of tartan weaving in scotland

Hands-on weaving exploration of tartan at the Victoria & albert museum, dundee

Outside of the Tartan exhibit, the museum had many activity rooms where the public and especially children could weave and explore textiles through hands-on activities. It's always a good thing when weaving is introduced to the public and especially to children.  Even a short exposure to textile arts can spark a growing interest further down the road...we should all be concerned with preservation and continuation of the art and craft of handweaving, which is part of our collective history,

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My travel journal, Dundee, Scotland, July 2023
My travel journal, Dundee, Scotland, July 2023

By now in this second blog, you will see that I enjoy museums, art, architecture, textiles and fiber.  I also enjoy nature and photography. My travel tip is to think about your passions - whether that is traditional music & dance, whisky tasting, golf or fly fishing - and seek out those experiences in the place to which you are traveling.  Build your plans around experiencing your interests in the new place and you are sure to enjoy your travels even more.


Thank you for reading my blog post. Travels in Scotland is a 12 part blog series filled with photos and stories of a fiber artist's journey through a beautiful land, encountering a land with a deep textile history, stunning landscapes, and of course sheep!


You can read all of the Travels in Scotland blog posts on my website.  I invite you to travel along with me, along the coast and through the mainland hills seeing, experiencing and learning about this place called Scotland. Turas math dhuibh! (Good journey to you!)  Amy

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