Since it was settled in the twelfth century, local fishermen have been landing their catches at ARBROATH, about fifteen miles northeast of Dundee. The town's most famous product is the Arbroath smokie – line-caught haddock, smoke-cured over smouldering oak chips and still made here in a number of family-run smokehouses tucked in around the harbour. One of the most approachable and atmospheric is M&M Spink's tiny whitewashed premises at 10 Marketgate (Tel:01241/875287); chef and cookery writer Rick Stein described the fish here, warm from the smoke, as "a world-class delicacy".
The town's real glory days came with the completion in 1233 of Arbroath Abbey (daily April– Sept 9.30am–5.30pm; Oct– March 9.30am–4.30pm; £4.50; Web: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk ), whose rose-pink sandstone ruins stand on Abbey Street. It was the scene of one of the most significant events in Scotland's history when, on April 6, 1320, a group of Scottish barons drew up the Declaration of Arbroath, asking the pope to reverse his excommunication of Robert the Bruce and recognize him as king of a Scottish nation independent from England. The wonderfully resonant language of the document still makes for a stirring expression of Scottish nationhood: "For so long as one hundred of us remain alive, we will never in any degree be subject to the dominion of the English, since it is not for glory, riches or honour that we do fight, but for freedom alone, which no honest man loses but with his life." It was duly dispatched to Pope John XXII in Avignon, who in 1324 agreed to Robert's claim. A radically designed visitor centre at the Abbey Street entrance offers some in-depth background on these events and other aspects of the history of the building.
For somewhere to stay, the central and friendly AOld Vicarage (Tel:01241/430475; Price: ₤61-70) offers a breakfast table that includes smokies, a freshly baked loaf and home-made preserves.