Our day in Aberdeen
Ø July 24 Aberdeen (Wednesday) More pictures can be found here.
Our B&B host had our meal underway when we went down to the breakfast room – strawberries, a banana, OJ, toast and a poached egg for me. The streets were wet, but it didn’t seem to be raining, so I guess that would be “typical weather”. Mandra decided to join me on my early excursions in Aberdeen, rather than exploring on her own schedule.
First up on the plan was a trip to the train station, as our Thursday journey to Inverness would initially be on a bus before getting on the train as originally planned (due to railwork.) I wanted to confirm that I knew the correct location – better to be safe than sorry. Well, as it turns out, the Cathedral Church of St Andrew was about 4-5 blocks from the flat, and on the way to the station. Arriving at the east end off Peacock court, a narrow alley, we came around to enter off King Street with the main entrance to the west. The interior is mainly white, thus bright and airy. Ribbed columns of white stone supported the arches crossing the ceiling ending in gilded bosses in the center aisle and in decorative shields for the side aisles. Dark wooden pews on either side of a center aisle fill the nave.
In the chancel, the organ pipes hang above the south stalls, opposite to the slim wooden cathedra. Poised over the alter on golden columns is a ciborium designed by Sir Ninian Comper finished early during World War II. (I think a baldachin is suspended from above, while a ciborium is held up by columns. Or the terms can be used interchangeably?] The example here is quite elaborate, showing influences from Comper’s world travels. The #Aberdeen Episcopal community has strong ties to the American Episcopal Church, as the bishops of Aberdeen and Moray, with the rector of this St Andrews consecrated #SamuelSeabury as Bishop of America in 1784 after the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to do so. (Seabury would have had to swear an oath of allegiance to King George III as part of the English ceremony.) St Andrews itself was built in 1817, relocating from another site, and became a cathedral in 1914. Memorials from Joseph Kennedy, then Ambassador to the Court of St James, and Dwight Eisenhower, departing Commander in Chief of the European Theater are in the Seabury Chapel. We left just as the 10am Communion service began.
After a half hour in St Andrews, we walked to the large open square where we’d had dinner. Rising tall and imposing behind the Mercat Cross was the Salvation Army Church and offices. At the bend where King turned west onto Castle Street, that morning it was empty. On our way to the station, we stopped at the Tourist Office and picked up a walking map. We descended towards the river, and (facility break) went into the Aberdeen Maritime Museum. Three adjoining buildings house exhibits of contemporary oil rigs going back through shipbuilding (including the first modern Japanese war ship) to clippers and then back to 13th century fishing communities. A full lighthouse lantern is on display and readily touchable. I lost count of how many models of sailing vessels were on display behind glass. All were stunningly built and beautiful.
Abandoning the station visit until later, we forged westward, as Castle became Union. We viewed St Nicholas from behind the iron fence: the mother church in Aberdeen, it has a nice sizeable, well-kept graveyard. Coming to Huntly Street, we headed right to approach the
Cathedral Church of Saint Mary Assumed into Heaven. With a tall single spire tower to the north of the west door rising another 20-30 feet over the nave’s roof peak at 4-stories, the stone building dominated the block. Opened in 1860, it became a cathedral in 1878 with the establishment of the Catholic diocese of Aberdeen. A brightly lit church, the neo-gothic arches support the aisle roofs with skylights, and clerestory windows support the jousts of the dark wooden central nave ceiling. Reddish wood pews fill the nave floor. The very modern mosaic Stations line the north wall, while little else adorns the south side aisle wall.
The Blessed Sacrament Shrine, where the Eucharist is reserved, has a very interesting modern tabernacle, backed by a red wall set in an arch inset with an Orthodox-like icon painting of Christ the Merciful Judge. The cathedra is a simple leather and wood armchair, up four steps from the sanctuary floor and set against the back wall under a fiberglass rood. A large rose window with geometric designs fills the wall above the rood. On the side walls of the sanctuary are large mural paintings depicting saints associated with the diocese, primarily in shades of blue and red.
South of the altar is The City Patron Shrine, with an interesting painting in the arch over the altar which is primarily oranges and grays, with figures and scenes covering 2000 years. To the west, over the vestibule at the entrance is the organ loft, with pipes on either side of a 6-light stained-glass window featuring the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. North of the entry under the spire is the Lady altar with a deep blue arched vault.
Walking back to the corner, we popped into Starbucks for a break and a coffee. Then out to the corner and onto a #2 bus for a 2-mile, half hour ride north, primarily along King Street. Located outside Old Aberdeen near the University area, the stone walls of buildings downtown were replaced by shady trees. A Church of Scotland, the Cathedral Church of St Machar is the remains of the pre-Reformation Catholic cathedral. The most of the transept, and all of the central tower and chancel are gone; twin spire towers at the west end remain, providing the main entrance into the nave. The building itself is surrounded by a very full graveyard, entered through a pair of gatehouses. Interestingly, Catholic bishops, Anglican bishops and Presbyterian ministers are buried nearly side-by-side. We strolled by these and other memorials before entering the church.
As this active but historic church is comprised of the surviving nave, it is rectangular, with support columns on either side of the main aisle. Combining old stone relics displayed along newly created art work, I felt the vibrancy of a church, rather than a museum. The guidebook points out the 16 stained-glass windows bringing colorful light in from all sides; these portray Bible stories, lives of saints, church and secular history and were produced over the last 200 years. The ceiling of the central nave, flat, wooden slats framed in a crisscross pattern, displays 48 heraldic shields: each of the three columns of 16 begins nearest the crossing
with the highest ranking of its category. Pope Leo X leads the ranks of Scottish bishops, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V heads the royalty of Europe, while Scottish King James V has his vassals, the earls of Scotland following him. Created in 1520, Bishop Gavin Dunbar showed wisdom predicting the changes the world was facing.
Access to the gallery in the west end gave a great vantage view of the church – the benches in the center to the sanctuary with stalls for the choir and elders, and a small altar table at the east end. From there, the 7-light great west end stained-glass window shows the apostles and St Paul with their symbols, and below, their martyrdom. Leaving, we again walked through the graveyard before descending a sloped tree-lined path into Seaton Park. With stunning formal gardens, the early afternoon was filled with nearly clear sunny skies as we continued towards the River Don. At the end of the park we found a section of student housing for the University of Aberdeen, and then the Brig O Balgownie, a bridge over the river.
What I was taught in high school was that the River Don would be an old river, given the twists, turns and oxbow that mark its flow towards the North Sea. Continuing east along the north bank, we saw quaint stone cottages with manicured but overgrown gardens. When we came to the Ellon Road heading back towards downtown, we turned south, looking for a place to have lunch. A corner pub north of the river crossing didn’t serve food, so we walked the bridge to the Brig O’Don Pub and Grill. With an Innis & Gunn IPA, I ordered a lamb and rosemary burger (with mint and feta) and fries. The burger was preformed and well done, too much bread; however, the fries were crisp.
Ellon Road became King Street on the south side of the Don. We could see the Esplanade along the sea coast. Mandra was tired, so we didn’t head out to see the beach, but instead caught a #2 back to town. She got off near the B&B, to do a little shopping on her way back to putting her feet up. I continued on into town and found the train station. They confirmed that the first leg of the ride to Inverness would be by bus, and told me how to get to the pickup point. Crossing the tracks on a skyway, I came down on College Street and watched the boarding process for the afternoon “train”. Walking up College, I got to the statue of Edward VII at the Union Terrace Gardens on Union Street and knew how to get there in the morning.
Back at the room, I started the photo download, did some internet, and caught a brief nap. About 8 we walked back up to that square and had dinner at Siam Cottage. Soup to start – Tom Yum Goong – which had large pieces of chicken, and Pad Prik Kaeng Gai, a (very) spicy chicken and peppers dish. No draft beer choices, so I opted for a Tsing Tao. Great food. We returned, I finished the camera stuff and packed. Armed with earplugs, I was down for the count. (Yes, we both snore.)