Aberdeen ambles

I was in Aberdeen for less than two days for the Ramblers’ Scottish Council in March this year, but I still managed to fit in three walks as well as attending the lively and inspirational indoor sessions.

I arrived on Friday evening and the first walk was on the drizzly Saturday morning, to Hazlehead Park.  This is the largest park in Aberdeen, covering 180 hectares.  It is also one of the oldest properties in the city, originally part of the old hunting forest of Stocket. This land was granted to the city by King Robert the Bruce in 1319 as the Freedom Lands, which were the responsibility of the mediaeval and, later, royal burgh of Aberdeen.

1a Hazlehead park

Hazelhead Park

Near the café there are stones which record episodes in the life of Robert the Bruce.

1 stone

A stone depicting an episode in Robert the Bruce’s life

In the North Sea Memorial Rose Garden there is a moving memorial to the victims of the Piper Alpha oil-rig disaster in 1988.



3 Piper alpha








2 Piper Alpha plaque







Each of the 167 victims is named on the sides of the plinth.

4 Piper Alpha names

At the entrance to the garden is a fine, Gill-like sculpture by Richard Robertson, Freedom with the Dove of Peace (1953).

5 dove of peace

From there we went into Countesswell Woods, which were amazingly tranquil considering they are close to the city.

6 Countesswell Woods

We returned via the Walker Dam, a reservoir reconstructed in the 1830s to provide a water supply for the mills and bleachfields.

The second walk was before breakfast on Sunday, led by Scottish Ramblers’ convenor Alison Mitchell who lives in Aberdeen.

First we visited Johnston Gardens, which is intricately laid out with winding paths to make it seem much bigger than one hectare.

7 Johnston gardens

Johnston Gardens

Then we visited Kepplestone and saw some rather dour houses which sell for around £1 million.

9 expensive houses

Kepplestone Gardens

We passed the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum.

10 gordon highlanders

Gordon Highlanders museum

A bit further on we came to Rubislaw quarry.  Some of us could not resist scrambling up the bank to peak at the quarry through the wire-mesh fence.  We couldn’t see much.

12 quarry

11 quarry






We returned through Rubislaw Park where the Ramblers’ chief executive Van Griffiths and Scottish president Ben Dolphin stopped to make a short video with Danny Carden, Ramblers’ Scotland’s communications and engagement officer.

13 Rubislaw Park

Ben Dolphin, Van Griffiths and Danny Carden make a video in Rubislaw Park

While I waited for them I was delighted to see a grey wagtail by the stream.  It was a nice coincidence since last year I saw my first grey wagtail also at Scottish Council, on the River Annan in Dunblane, where I enjoyed a pre-breakfast walk.

14 grey wagtail

Grey wagtail in Rubislaw Park

Most of the walkers had by now returned to the hotel, but some of us went on to Springbank cemetery.  We wanted to look for Nan Shepherd’s grave which we knew to be there, but we had no idea of the exact location.

Nan Shepherd (1893-1981) was born and died in Aberdeen, but spent much time in the Cairngorms and wrote some significant books including The Living Mountain, her impression of the Cairngorms where she spent much time.  She taught English at the Aberdeen College of Education.

Springbank cemetery
So in a rare bit of sunshine we split up and scoured the large cemetery for half an hour, but without success.  Although that was frustrating, it was a tranquil and restful experience to wander around this quiet spot—a highlight of the weekend.

15 cemetery

Springbank cemetery

The third walk was after Scottish Council had ended, on Sunday afternoon.  We set off in the same direction as for the first walk, and then on to Den Woods.  The apogee was a point which gave us a view of the Cairngorms and of Clachnaben, a hill with a prominent tor which is threatened with the Glendye wind farm.  We had discussed this during the meeting.

16 Cairngorm view

View of the distant Cairngorms

Then we walked down towards Cult and back past a couple of the March Stones.  These mark the boundary of Aberdeen’s Freedom Lands.

17 March Stone

March stone number 11

As we came back towards the city we spotted some roe deer in a field, a nice end to three, short Aberdeen walks.

18 Roe deer

Roe deer, Craigton Road

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, Ramblers, Scotland, walking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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