A-Z of Secret Dundee: Old Steeple

The Old Steeple, Nethergate, Dundee

The Old Steeple is Scotland’s oldest surviving medieval church tower.

It rises up majestically next to the Overgate Shopping Centre but is largely ignored by passers by intent instead on some retail therapy. At 165 feet tall and with 232 steps to climb to the top, the Old Steeple, or St Mary’s Tower as it’s also known, is a terrific place to explore.

Remember to take your camera as the bird’s eye views of the city from the top are pretty spectacular

The tower dates back to the 15th century and has withstood fires and enemy invasions. The lock on the door leading from the entrance hall to the tower’s stairs is the same one that held it shut against Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers in 1651, when they set fire to a heap of wet straw piled on the floor in an attempt to smoke out the defenders of the town entrenched on the upper floors. The tower has also been used as a jail and the entrance hall still has evidence of where stocks and weapons of torture like knee-grinding screws, kept prisoners in check. There are a few interesting spaces to explore on your way up the tower including the antiquities room, the bell ringer’s room and the cap house. Ask nicely and you may even be shown the spikes where enemies’ bloody heads were hung in times of siege. Remember to take your camera as the bird’s eye views of the city from the top are pretty spectacular.

Touring the Old Steeple can be strenuous due to the number of steps between each level. Unfortunately there is no disabled access above the ground level.

The Old Steeple bells are rung twice on a Sunday for Church Service and also rung regularly for weddings and special events.

The Old Steeple, Nethergate, Dundee DD1 4DG.

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