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Look Up in Aberdeen! Embark on a Sculpture Trail

Aberdeen’s Look Again festival (27 April – 1 May 2017) encourages locals and visitors alike to look at the streets, monuments and statues in the city in a new light, and we’re delighted to sponsor these colourful, artistic events. As Skene House has three city centre locations we thought we’d ‘Look Again’ and discover more about the statues on our doorstep.

Aberdeen had a rich supply of granite from quarries in the city itself, as well as sites like Kemnay and Peterhead, so it’s unsurprising that craftsmen and sculptors created multiple works of art for the city. Aberdeen also boasts works of bronze and terracotta. It’s common to march past these statues, intent on where we’re going and what we need to do, completely missing out on the history and artistry of these pieces. It’s sometimes a pleasure to slow down and look, look properly, at these engaging works of art.

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William Wallace

One of the proudest statues is that of William Wallace. Clearly representative it was erected in 1888, positioned opposite His Majesty’s Theatre and across from Union Terrace Gardens, close to Skene House Rosemount. The statue bears this inscription: I tell you a truth, liberty is the best of all things, my son, never live under any slavish bond’. This enormous bronze depicts a man who probably never visited the Granite City but whose legend lives on.

At the other end of the spectrum from proud William Wallace is ‘Mannie’ – his name says it all! A dinky but muscular figure in a loincloth, Mannie can be found hanging out at Castle Street, next to Shiprow. His role was to decorate the top of the Castlegate Well, a well which was essential for the area’s water supply. In 1852 he took a wee jaunt down to the Green, but clearly didn’t like it as he returned to the Castlegate in 1973. Unlike Mannie the statue of the Duke of Gordon wasn’t particularly at home in the Castlegate and moved out. Check his statue now residing in Golden Square. The statue of the Duke of Gordon is historically important as it’s said to be the first statue in Britain to be carved in granite.

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Orb Detail of Edward VII

For a little bit of royalty then the Edward VII statue on Union Street on the corner of Union Terrace has been described as ‘Aberdeen’s most elaborate granite sculpture’. If you take a closer look he’s wearing rich robes in the Order of the Garter, holding a sceptre with the cross and an orb. On a complex frieze beneath him is Britannia, representing peace, St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, and several figures known as “Imperial Unity”. A statue of Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert can be found nearby, opposite His Majesty’s Theatre, again in close proximity to Skene House Rosemount. It was unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1863, two years after Albert’s death, when she was clearly still mourning. Another great king is Robert the Bruce situated outside Marischal College on Broad Street. This statue has particular relevance to Aberdonian history as he’s holding aloft the charter which he granted to give Aberdeen feudal rights over the Forest of Stocket, thereby enhancing the city’s scale, power and ability to raise revenue.

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Robert Burns

For those who like to see artists displayed in the arts then Union Terrace is also home to the nation’s bard – Robert Burns – unveiled in 1892. And Lord Byron, who lived in Aberdeen as a child and was schooled in the city, is sitting proudly in front of the Aberdeen Grammar School. After inspecting all these men it’s possibly time for a little ‘girl power’, which is embodied in Ceres. If you look up, on the corner of Union Street and King Street, you’ll see this powerful goddess with the British lion by her side sitting proudly atop a building that was once the North of Scotland Bank. She’s the most colourful statue in Aberdeen and was a grand addition to a financial powerhouse.

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War Memorial

But possibly the most iconic statues in Aberdeen aren’t the people, but the cats. At the grand War Memorial, on the corner of Schoolhill and Blackfriars Street, you’ll find a lion of Aslan proportions. Designed by local sculptor William Macmillan, silver-grey granite from Kemnay was carved to create this regal beast. The sculpture was unveiled on 29th September 1925 when King George V opened the new Cowdray Hall and Art Museum. For more of a feline fix you only have to potter to Union Bridge to find the city’s quirky ‘Kelly’s Cats’; cast iron leopard finials added to decorate the bridge in 1910. A few of these enigmatic cats can also be found within the Winter Gardens in Duthie Park. Aberdeen’s coat of arms features two leopards hence the link with this elegant big cat.

A final suggested stop is the poignant Gordon Highlanders Monument on Castle Street, unveiled by Prince Charles. From fighting at the Somme, to piping the allies over the bridge from Malaysia into Singapore as the Japanese advanced in WW2, these soldiers have made a big impact around the globe.

To discover more about the Look Again festival click here. Skene House’s three properties are located in the centre of Aberdeen so an ideal base for embarking on a statue trail or attending the Look Again festival. Skene House Rosemount is particularly ideal for visiting a list of statues nearby. With one, two and three bedroomed apartments and modern duplexes Skene House offers the benefits of serviced apartments with the luxury of a hotel. To find out more please visit http://www.skene-house.co.uk. Call +44 1224 659 392 or email reservations@skene-house.co.uk for further information.

Images courtesy of Aberdeen City Council.

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25 thoughts on “Look Up in Aberdeen! Embark on a Sculpture Trail

  1. Talya says:

    Such awe-inspiring sculptures. It’s amazing what you can see in a city when you take the time to look up!

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      It’s all been there for years, decades, even over a century. You just have to notice it!

  2. I’ve never been to Aberdeen and I had no idea it was such a historical place! I would love to visit having seen this!

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      Discovering that Byron was brought up here was unexpected!

  3. How fascinating! I love the idea of a statue trail. It’s amazing how much craftsmanship goes in to one!

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      A trail makes you pay more attention. An interesting way to explore any city.

  4. Joanna says:

    I love the idea of a sculpture trail its lovely to discover them when you have probably not taken much notice of them before.

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      Yes, it’s about paying that little bit more attention. When you know the stores behind the statues it definitely helps.

  5. I’ve never been myself. But I totally get it. We don’t spend enough time looking up and we end up missing out on so much. This is a great idea

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      Yes, from buildings to ceilings, ornate lamp-posts to statues. They’re so much to see if we slow down!

  6. Helen says:

    I’ve never been to Aberdeen before, but the sculptures looks very striking!

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      Statues tell the story of any city. Always good to delve a little deeper.

  7. I have never been to Aberdeen and even though I knew that it was big on history and culture I never knew anything about its statues. Fascinating to read x

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      I never knew that Lord Byron grew up here. Fascinating.

  8. Kara says:

    The one thing I loved when we visited Scotland was all the sculptures. Next time we will come up as far as aberdeen

  9. Great post to make us appreciate the areas we live in and look for the finer detail we usually miss

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      That’s it exactly. So often we’re so busy we miss the details.

  10. Wowee! That would make a great Instawalk. Love the William Wallace quote underneath the statue x

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      Thanks. Each statue tells a story, it’s just a case of unravelling it.

  11. Alina says:

    Very cultural and so much to learn. What a beautiful place and hopefully I’ll see it myself one day.

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      That would be lovely. We’d love to welcome you.

  12. I have never been to Aberdeen, but it looks like a beautiful historical city that I would love to viist.

    1. Skene House Blogger says:

      Definitely a lot of history here to explore.

  13. Anosa says:

    It is a real shame to think most of us have walked passed these awesome and gorgeous monuments bad statues without even taking a second glance.

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