Posted by: christinelaennec | September 18, 2010

Aberdeen’s Doors Open Day 2010

Last weekend I took the Dafter and a friend to a few of the places on the Doors Open Day list, so I thought you might like to see a few of the sights as well.  (This post does not claim to be comprehensive!  Sorry if you were hoping for a view of the inside of the Masonic Temple.)

We started off in Old Aberdeen, at the University’s Natural Science museum, where the Dafter’s friend was very keen to go.  We saw lots of skeletons of animals, some of them rather alarming:

Ginormous crab (stuffed), Natural History Museum, University of Aberdeen

And there were lots of taxidermised animals.  The Dafter had nightmares about a ferocious tiger that night!  Some of the heads seem sadly wise and life-like:

All classified and in the past tense: antelope gazing at us from beside plaques memorialising learned zoologists

The top plaque is to a very interesting person, William MacGillivray.  He was an ornithologist from the Isle of Harris.  He was born in 1796, and used to WALK to Aberdeen to attend university.  (This journey took him several weeks – nowadays it takes us the entire day of driving, plus ferry, to get to Harris from here.)  He was a friend of James Audubon.

We next had a picnic in the beautiful Cruickshank Botanical Gardens, on the Chanonry in Old Aberdeen:

Gates to the Cruickshank Botanical Gardens, Old Aberdeen

From there, we visited St. Machar’s Cathedral.  The Dafter hadn’t been there for a while, as we moved to South Holburn Church a few years ago.  She said it hadn’t changed a bit, and indeed that is one thing about St. Machar’s!  You don’t feel you are in the current century at all:

The Dafter in St. Machar's cathedral. Atmospheric, i.e. out-of-focus, photo

The windows at the end are modern:  they fill the space where, during the Reformation, the end of the original church was destroyed.  The heraldic ceiling dates from 1520.  You can find out more about it on the St. Machar’s website.

From there we walked past a wedding taking place at King’s College Chapel.  Here is a rather voyeuristic photo:

A Wedding at King's College Chapel, September 2010

What I love about this photo is a) all the kilts, because I think kilts look very cool, and b) all the pale women.  I am waiting for paleness to come back into fashion.  It’s so much more elegant than sunbed tan, for people who live in the North, don’t you think?  There was also beautiful music from the piper:

Piper playing at a wedding outside King's College Chapel, Old Aberdeen

We then went into town and visited the Carmelite hotel.  This used to be the Imperial Hotel, and was where Queen Victoria (and other royalty) stayed on her way to Balmoral.  It does have some impressive features:

Plasterwork ceiling, Carmelite hotel, Aberdeen

Stained glass panel in hallway, Carmelite hotel, Aberdeen

We were given coffees and teas, and a slide presentation on the archaological finds in the area.  The reason the hotel is now named the Carmelite, as you might have guessed already, is that it is built where a Carmelite friary once stood.  The friary suffered far more in the Reformation than St. Machar’s did:  it was razed to the ground.  The slideshow was very interesting, although somewhat trying for the younger generation when we got to photos of bones and smashed skulls:  “And now you see this individual has suffered from a brain infection, which someone tried to alleviate by hacking through the bone, as we can see here from the jagged marks…”  Girls, in an urgent whisper, and with big eyes:  CAN WE GO TO THE LOO PLEASE?!

Despite some scary things, we all agreed it had been a fun (and educational) day.   Just as well we didn’t visit the Tolbooth, where prisoners were kept prior to execution in days gone by!  I don’t suppose they comforted themselves by thinking, Someday people will come visit this place on Doors Open Day…



  1. Clearly I had my ears and eyes shut, as I had no idea this was going on this weekend. Looks like a good time was had by all!

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