DUNDEE has been getting a lot of attention recently, with its V&A design museum opening to much fanfare last September. But head on an express train out of Dundee and one of the first stops up the coast will take you to the town of Arbroath. It has received far fewer headlines, but has no shortage of things to do.

It offers real variety for visitors, with a picturesque old harbour, sandy beaches and Jurassic-style sea cliffs that lie at the edge of the town.

As well as exploring the varied coastline around Arbroath, there is plenty to see within it, including the home of Scottish history’s most famous document.

The Declaration of Arbroath – where Scottish nobles officially swore their independence from England – was sent out from the town’s Abbey in the year 1320.

Historic highlights

First settled in the 12th century, Arbroath has long been a significant part of the Angus coast. Thanks to its position at the mouth of the Brothock Burn it was, for most of its life, known as “Aberbrothock” (with “Aber” meaning “river mouth”). By the mid-1800s the shortened form of Arbroath was being widely used, as the town’s economy began to flourish.

It became known for making sailcloth – apparently producing the sails that were used on the Cutty Sark – as well as lawnmowers and shoes.

However, the town was always most closely connected with fishing. Around 40 vessels worked from Arbroath at its peak in the early 20th century, with the council even recruiting fisherman from further up the coast and bringing them to work in the town.

A fish processing plant still exists in Arbroath, but now only one large ship regularly operates from its shores.

And despite Arbroath FC sitting down in Scottish League One, the town has a claim to footballing fame that can’t even be matched by the likes of Barcelona or Liverpool. In 1885, Arbroath FC beat Aberdeen Bon Accord 36-0, which still stands as the world record for the most goals scored in a professional football match.

What to do

The Declaration of Arbroath might not be there anymore (it is now kept in the National Records of Scotland), but a visit to the town wouldn’t be complete without stopping into Arbroath Abbey.

You can learn more about Scotland’s first push for independence, as well as the fascinating tale of how four students stole the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey in 1950 and then left it on the altar of Arbroath Abbey, which they saw as its rightful home. You can also enjoy great views from its towers. (www.historicenvironment.scot)

History buffs may also enjoy visit to St Vigeans Sculpture Stone Museum, found in a small hamlet on the outskirts of Arbroath. It houses 38 imposing Christian stones that were discovered in the area, and visitors can try to decipher their meaning through a variety of audio and tactile displays.

The real jewel in the crown of Arbroath’s tourist sites, however, is the Seaton Cliffs that lie to the east of the town. These red sandstone cliffs look almost otherworldly, jutting out into the sea in a series of fascinating formations.

You can admire the inlets, arches and sea caves that stretch along the coast, enjoying some excellent views – and bracing sea air – on a clear day. If you follow the coastal path further along to the village of Auchmithie, which itself sits at the top of a cliff, you can reward yourself with a drink in the But n Ben pub.

Any keen golfers should also make the trip to the Arbroath Golf Links. It is a deceptively difficult 18 holes, with some testing bunkers and fast-flowing burns to catch out even the most confident of players.

The warm Angus welcome is one of the best parts of the Arbroath course, with the reception in the clubhouse sure to make any visitor feel at ease.

Where to eat

The gastronomical star of Arbroath is undeniably its “smokie”: haddock left in salt overnight and then hung over smoking pieces of wood to cook.

A fish can only be described as an Arbroath smokie if it is made within a five-mile radius of Arbroath Town House, so if you want to try one then you will have to do so here.

The Old Brewhouse (www.oldbrewhousearbroath.co.uk), located just at the town’s harbour, does a particularly good smokie served with melted butter, lemon and a choice of sides.

For lunch, head to Vin-Tealicious in the centre of town. This vintage-inspired tearoom offers old-fashioned china, impeccably friendly service and great food to boot, with its rich, decadent cakes a particular triumph. Try the smoked salmon salad for your main if you want a taste of truly fresh seafood.

If it’s a cheap meal you are after, then you can’t do much better than Peppo’s Chip Bar, overlooking the harbour. Punters will frequently queue out the door for its freshly cooked fish suppers –which come in huge portions – with everything cooked to order rather than being left to keep warm.

Where to shop

If you can’t get enough of the Arbroath smokies and you want to take some home, then make sure to drop into M&M Spink. Reassuringly simplistic, the shop isn’t much more than a converted garage, but has been an institution in the town since it first opened in the 1960s.

They smoke their fish on site and then sell it in a vacuum-packed bag, which only needs heated for a few minutes before it is ready to eat. Shellfish, salmon and pâté are also on offer.

If it is gifts that you are after, then try Heather Cottage Crafts on the High Street. It is a treasure trove of artwork, furnishings and wooden crafts, as well as home-made beauty products. Many of the items have been repurposed or “upcycled” by the store’s owner Fiona, who also offers craft classes to teach others her skills.

Art is also on offer at the Resin Gallery, where local artist Gail Knight displays and sells her captivating resin paintings.

Where to stay

For luxury, look no further than Brucefield Boutique B&B. This fully renovated 1920s property was awarded a five-star rating from Visit Scotland – and high praise from the users of TripAdvisor – and it feels more like a top-quality hotel than a seaside B&B. Yet despite the glamorous interior, Brucefield still retains the personal touch of a family-owned business.

There is a mini bar in each room stocked with water and a pint of milk, as well as a complimentary bar downstairs that offers a choice of wine, beer and spirits. Rooms from £125.

The Townhouse Hotel, located bang in the middle of Arbroath, offers great value for money. The rooms are simple but stylish, the staff are friendly, and the Scottish breakfasts (included in the price of the rooms) are mouth-watering. Rooms from £90.

Croftsmuir B&B is a bit further out of the town but boasts excellent views of the rolling countryside and the sea beyond if you want to chill out. Rooms from £69.

What to do nearby

With the buzz around Dundee at the moment, it is unquestionably worth making the trip down from Arbroath. Make a visit to the V&A and the neighbouring RRS Discovery before heading to the Verdant Works, an industrial museum located in a refurbished mill.

Kids will love splashing about on Broughty Ferry beach, so if the sun makes an appearance then make sure to head there. It’s clean, spacious and a registered nature conservation site.