Social Distancing in Aberdeen. Embark on a Granite Sculpture Trail – In the current pandemic so many beautiful places in Aberdeen are off limits. Skene House has three city centre locations and it’s important to focus on what we can do to keep the mind and body stimulated. This granite trail is a quirky way to explore the city, whilst maintaining your distance from others.
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.
One of the proudest statues is that of William Wallace. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Skene House’s three properties are located in the centre of Aberdeen so an ideal base for embarking on a statue trail. Skene House Rosemount is particularly ideal for visiting a list of statues nearby. With one, two and three bedroom self-catering, self-contained apartments and modern duplexes, Skene House offers appropriate accommodation in Aberdeen if you need it. To find out more please visit skene-house.co.uk. Call +44 1224 659 392 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
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Images courtesy of Aberdeen City Council and Scots2Travel.com.