Intercity: Aberdeen

Intercity Scotrail train at Aberdeen

The last instalment of Intercity started, fittingly enough, on a train. An Intercity train, no less, the inspiration for this series. I started from Dundee and trained it up to Aberdeen. It was a bright morning and the coastal views by Montrose and Stonehaven were braw, the white-topped waves lapping against cliffs and over sandy beaches. The train approached Aberdeen by the river Dee, not always the most welcoming of approaches surrounded by industrial premises and offices. The train pulled in and I got a photo of the Intercity motif on the loco. Then I got a selfie with an Aberdeen sign behind me, just to have some sense of occasion.

Demonstrators on Castle Street, Aberdeen, in front of Mercat Cross and Salvation Army
Aberdeen Sheriff Court and Tolbooth, Union Street

My choice for Aberdeen was Union Street, named after the 1801 Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland and created to link the main routes into the city. I could have picked Pittodrie Street, leading of course to the football stadium, but when I thought of Aberdeen, it had to be Union Street. I started by the Mercat Cross and there was a group gathered there with flags and banners, the flags possibly South American. Sadly I didn’t have time to investigate more. (It turns out they were Venezuelan.) What I hadn’t noticed about the Tolbooth as I walked along was the sundial about half way up the building. It might be why one of the buses that passed declared it to be part of the Sunshine Line, a notion which deeply amused me in such a grey city as Aberdeen. There was also the Platinum Line but I doubt it was as exclusive or lavish as the name suggests. It sounds like a strip club, to be brutally honest, or a place to buy posh fishing gear.

There were quite a few empty shops along Union Street, far more than in the oil boom, and a few had been repurposed. Esslemont and Mackintosh was now a steakhouse, for example. There were also a few beggars, including one on the steps of a church, which was too ironic for me. The place was busy, in the midst of the Saturday lunchtime bustle, and I found it hard to get stopped to take photos on the narrow city pavement, particularly outside the Music Hall, which has just recently been redone. An interactive display featuring Eddie Izzard caught my eye as I walked past. It struck me how it would be a good psychogeographic exercise for someone to walk along Union Street regularly to capture it in different weathers and different moods. It won’t be me, though.

Architecturally Union Street is a blend of traditional granite buildings and more modern, mostly 1960s, jobs. My favourite bit was the colonnade outside St. Nicholas’s Kirk, designed by local architect James Smith, right next to a narrow close wonderfully named Correction Wynd. Later I found out there was some good street art down there too.

Towards its western end Union Street got quieter and also a bit nicer. Those things were not necessarily related but it didn’t hurt. I was taken by the regular presence of clocks on the buildings but of the three I saw, only one showed the right time. Luckily I had a phone with the time built in. As I came to the end, where I knew there was quite a beguiling mural (shown below), I heard very loud revving engines. I stood at the traffic lights and saw a long line of motorbikes, some with sidecars, a lot of them Harley Davidsons. I stood and watched them go, or at least the first lot before the traffic lights turned red. It was a nice end to Intercity, showing some of the wonderfully random things one can see in Scotland’s cities, the beautiful and the downright bizarre.

Mural at end of Union Street

Thanks for reading. I have also written a post just in case I didn’t manage to get this one done in time. It’s about dialect and it’ll be here tonight. I liked it so felt it was worth doing a bit extra. Next week here will be the February digest then after that the welcome return of Streets of Glasgow the week after.

10 thoughts on “Intercity: Aberdeen

    1. Aberdeen has some charms but of Scotland’s cities, it wouldn’t be my first choice for a fun day out. It does have some interesting buildings and street art, though.


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  2. Alli Templeton

    I have also visited Aberdeen – but only once – and a very long time ago. But I do have the enduring image of the grey – it lives up to its name of the granite city. Architecturally interesting though, and that mural looks amazing. I think I must have missed out on the colonnade outside the kirk though. Maybe next time. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t disagree. Marischal College, which now houses council offices, had been stone cleaned and looked all right. But I would rather have the colourful buildings of Glasgow or even Edinburgh.

      Liked by 1 person

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