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.
Near the café there are stones which record episodes in the life of Robert the Bruce.
In the North Sea Memorial Rose Garden there is a moving memorial to the victims of the Piper Alpha oil-rig disaster in 1988.
Each of the 167 victims is named on the sides of the plinth.
At the entrance to the garden is a fine, Gill-like sculpture by Richard Robertson, Freedom with the Dove of Peace (1953).
From there we went into Countesswell Woods, which were amazingly tranquil considering they are close to the city.
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.
Then we visited Kepplestone and saw some rather dour houses which sell for around £1 million.
We passed the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then we walked down towards Cult and back past a couple of the March Stones. These mark the boundary of Aberdeen’s Freedom Lands.
As we came back towards the city we spotted some roe deer in a field, a nice end to three, short Aberdeen walks.