In the 21st century, Aberdeen has cleaned up the beautiful granite buildings, pitted with mica and giving rise to the moniker ‘the silver city’. The city doesn’t just depend on oil anymore, with a growing tourism sector, bars and restaurants.
I didn’t spend long in Aberdeen itself on this occasion, just enough to visit the ice cream makers Mackies 19.2 and an award winning cocktail bar Orchid which distills gin using Buddha’s hand citrus.
I ate a warming Cullen Skink soup, an Aberdonian speciality of smoked haddock (from nearby Finan) and potatoes, at the spectacular harbour side restaurant The Silver Darling. On the wall were all the fish market prices of the day, which you eat as ships parade past grandly.
‘A little old woman with a stiff pelmet of steely hair. You are about her height.’ purred one.
I stayed at Douneside House, formerly a hotel for the forces. Although it is now open to the public, ex and current military can access incredible discounts for the luxury rooms. The dinner, cooked by Chef David Butters, was one of the best I’ve had in Scotland. Modern Scottish food, not overly fussy, but beautifully presented. Douneside really feels like that gorgeous countryside mansion you’ve always wanted, and the Royal Horticultural Society gardens are equally magnificent.
Brewdog is an Aberdeenshire business that has done incredibly well the last few years, expanding from a couple of beerheads and a dog in 2007 to an internationally traded company with over a thousand employees. I was part of a group that was shown around the trendy vast warehouses, no employee appeared to be over 35, by a violet-eyed woman with turquoise hair. Afterwards we drank sour beer and other styles at the company pub within. Brewdog are now making spirits and even plan to do their own whisky. They had a ‘three bubble’ copper still made especially for this purpose.
When you order food in Scotland, portions are huge. I had a fish n chip lunch, crispy ballooning batter duvet-like around spanking fresh fish, at The Boat Inn, a pub that uses excellent local produce. Amusingly it has a toy steam train that puffs around a narrow track affixed to the top of the walls of the room.