At the end of The Chanonry, next to the entrance to Seaton Park, is the Cathedral and Churchyard of St. Machar. Machar, or Mochumma, was said to be a son of Fiachan, Prince of Ulster, who accompanied St. Columba in exile to Scotland around 561. He was given the unenviable task of taming the Picts. In Alford, 30 miles away, is a place called St. Machars Well. Although he has a Cathedral, he is not the Patron Saint of Aberdeen (that job is held by St. Nicholas, a.k.a. Santa!) The Cathedral was begun by the Black and Grey Friars of Aberdeen between 1515-1530. It is the only granite Cathedral in Britain. Parts of the building were looted by Cromwell in the 1680s, leading to extensive repair and restoration work by the great architect John Smith (Tudor Johnny) in the 1830s.
This is one of the many beautiful stained- glass windows in the Cathedral. The central panel depicts Bishop Elphinstone, the Builder Bishop who founded the nearby University in 1497. Other windows were designed by the famous Glasgow artist Daniel Cottier. Remember to look up at the incredible beamed roof!
The very grand tomb of Isobel Christie, wife of George Paton of Grandhome, a very old Aberdeen family. Below - the Font.
The two massive gatehouses were added in 1830. On the left, under a little pyramid, is an old wellhead. Just inside the gate is the last grave to be added, in 2000 - that of David Welch, the Director of Leisure and Tourism for the City Council. His guidance led Aberdeen to win Britain in Bloom a record five times running.
Leaving St. Machars, you walk down The Chanonry, more commonly known as just The Chan. This building was the Chaplains Court and is dated 1676. Note the moulded arch with Bishop Elphinstones arms above it.
This was the burgh hall of Old Aberdeen until it was incorporated into new Aberdeen in 1891. In front is the Market Place and Mercat Cross, now very badly eroded. At the back you can still see where the two Police cells once were. The arms of Old Aberdeen, the Aulton Lily, are still just about visible above the door.
Tiny chocolate-box cottages in Wrights and Coopers Place.
Bishop Elphinstones arms are picked out in a beautiful mosaic, with mirrored pieces. This wall is in Wrights and Coopers Place, opposite the Universitys Land Economy Building. Bishop Elphinstone roses, bred in Aberdeen by James Cocker. These were commissioned for the Universitys Quincentenary celebrations in 1997.
On the extreme left is the entrance to Kings College Chapel. The gate in the centre leads to the Quad, and what was formerly Kings College Undergraduate Library. It is now a Visitors Centre and very nice tearoom!
The Chapel was built between 1500-9, and the red façade added later in the mid 1800s, replacing earlier buildings. The University itself was founded by Bishop Elphinstone in 1497, with the famous humanitarian writer Sir Hector Boece as the first Chancellor. His annual salary was a staggering £2/4/5d! The Crown Tower is a very typical Scottish architectural feature of the era - another example is St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.
For formal occasions, Aberdeen University Undergraduates wear red robes with unusually shortened sleeves. This is said to be in remembrance of a practical joke that went horribly wrong. There once was a particularly nasty Sacrist, whose strictness made the students lives a total misery. The students decided to teach him a lesson. One night they kidnapped him, blindfolded him and led him to the Well which still stands in Kings College Quad (just in the foreground of this picture of the entrance to the former Undergraduate Library). This sign, showing a list of fines for various undergraduate misdemeanours, is still in place at the entrance to the Quad. Quite right too!
As the blindfolded, bound Sacrist was made to lean over the Well, the students told him that he was going to be beheaded for his sins. One of them slapped the poor mans neck with a wet towel. But the Sacrist was so terrified, that he had a heart attack and died. From then on, all Undergraduates wear their sleeves cropped to 3/4 length, in recognition of this terrible crime. The C17 Elphinstone Hall above is now used as a Conference venue. It was (and still is) also the dreaded Exam Hall for generations of undergraduates - myself included!
Many of the University Buildings had former lives as part of the Aulton, or Auld Toon. This gate leads to the English Department, or the Old Brewery. To the rear and right of this is Coopers Court, now used as student accommodation. College House, immediately across the High Street from New Kings, would have been a wealthy family home in the days of the Auld Toon.
New Kings Lecture Theatre, with The Old Brewery on the far left.
Right across the road from Kings College is the entrance to what was once Powis Lodge, a very grand Scots Baronial-style home. The old house was built in 1697, and the towers are said to be a replica of the original Kings College towers, demolished to make way for the Senate buildings of the 1830s. The grounds are now occupied by more modern buildings used as students Halls of Residence.
At the opposite side of the High Street, behind the old buildings, are some more modern ones.
The domed Sir Fraser Noble Building was thought to be very innovative when it was built as part of the great University expansion in the 1960s. It used to be called the Nat Phil Building as it houses the Physics Department.
Beware -car parking is mostly Residents Only around the University area, and its a favourite haunt of traffic wardens! Park in Bedford Road (B991) and walk down Meston Walk, or drive along King Street to Seaton Park, where there is a large car park. Walk through the park to St. Machars Cathedral. Or take a number 20 bus from Littlejohn Street, opposite the Marischal Bar, to Old Aberdeen. How to get there!