A trip to Dunedin (part one)

We are just back today from a short trip down to Dunedin, the ‘Edinburgh of the South’ and the second largest town on the South Island. I’m going to do a series of posts about the trip, with a few things popping up on Monday’s Small Pleasures posts too. So here we go with part one!

As the current tourist campaign says Dunedin – it’s not exactly Edinburgh but it sort of is. Well, it isn’t like it namesake despite sitting on an extinct volcano, having a castle and streets with the same names, but yet the connections with the capital city of Scotland (and my birth town) are there. For a start, the name comes from the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, Dùn Èideann. The city was established in 1848 by the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland, and by the end of the 1850s, around 12,000 people from Scotland had emigrated to Dunedin. The 1860s gold rush in the surrounding Otago area resulted in a big increase in Dunedin’s population and wealth, leading to it becoming New Zealand’s largest and most prosperous city for several years. 

We were last in Dunedin five years ago, and on our first afternoon we took a walk around to re-orientate ourselves. The Octagon is the centre of the city, an eight sided public space with a statue of Robert Burns in the middle (the one in Edinburgh is in Leith). Behind it you can see the St Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral which has occupied this site since the first parish church of St Paul was built in 1862. The main street running from The Octagon is Stuart Street (after Great Stuart Street in Edinburgh I presume), which you can see in the second picture below.

The current First Church on Moray Place (also a street in Edinburgh) has stood at that spot since 1873. The Reverend Thomas Burns, a nephew of the Robert Burns, was the first Presbyterian minister as you can see below.

No visit to Dunedin would be complete without seeing the railway station (see the featured image at the top of the post), the second most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere (the first being the Sydney Opera House). The building dates from 1906, and is such a striking looking building. You can see the booking hall below which features a mosaic floor of almost 750,000 tiles of Royal Doulton porcelain. 

Two trains still run from the station during the summer, The Inlander and The Seasider. Unfortunately, these only go on Sundays, so we weren’t able to go on one of the trips, but maybe next time…

The other iconic set of buildings in Dunedin are those of Otago University, the first in New Zealand, founded in 1869. It had been raining, and was still a little grey when we went for a walk around the campus, but you can still get a feel for what it is like. The Water of Leith river (yes, another reference to Edinburgh), flows through the campus, giving the whole area quite a special feel. The University Bell seen below was made in Edinburgh (of course!) and shipped to Dunedin in 1863. According to the university website, the bell was first placed in the Post Office building in Princes Street (another street in Edinburgh too) which was the home of the University from 1871 to 1877. After being lost for a number of years, the bell was returned to the Dunedin campus in March 2020.

So there you have an introduction to Dunedin. Six on Saturday gardening post tomorrow as usual, more Dunedin on Sunday.

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on thistlesandkiwis@gmail.com

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