Scotland’s third city of Aberdeen has a special place in the Scottish game. Flagship club Aberdeen FC, the last non-Old Firm team to win the title, can claim an unbroken run in the top flight for more than a century. In 2014-15, they claimed second spot for the second consecutive time, something the Dons hadn’t achieved since the early 1990s.
2015-16 saw a credible challenge for the title – and European football is now a regular feature of Aberdeen’s season.
The 2014 winners of the League Cup, Aberdeen were also the last Scottish club to lift a European trophy, in 1983. This was achieved under Alex, now Sir Alex, Ferguson, in a golden era of three titles and four Scottish cups.
The only Scottish player to win the Ballon d’Or, Denis Law, was born and bred in Aberdeen, a club he supported as a boy.
Not every statistic attached to the Granite City is a welcome one. Aberdeen was also the home of Bon Accord, whose infamous footnote in football history is as having been on the receiving end of a 36-0 pasting by Arbroath in 1885, a negative record that has stood the long, long test of time.
Even more bizarrely, that very same day, Aberdeen Rovers lost 35-0 to Dundee Harp, also in the Scottish Cup.
Both Aberdeen Rovers and Bon Accord have long vanished, though the club first lined up to play Arbroath on that fateful afternoon, Orion, were one of three later amalgamated to form Aberdeen FC in 1903.
Bon Accord, in fact, met Aberdeen in the cup six years after 36-0, the original Aberdeen club who would soon merge with Orion and Victoria United.
These three clubs, Aberdeen, Orion and Victoria United, monopolised the Aberdeenshire Cup – competing against the likes of Aberdeen Athletic, Granite City and Aberdeen City Wanderers – until 1903.
After that, only the likes of Peterhead, Buckie Thistle and Fraserburgh got an occasional look-in – Aberdeen FC dominated the local game.
The newly formed Aberdeen FC took over the Pittodrie (‘manure heap’ – its original use) Stadium from the original Aberdeen, who had been playing there since 1899.
In its century-plus history, Pittodrie has never seen such success as with Alex Ferguson in charge, from 1978 to 1986, when Aberdeen broke the Old Firm’s stranglehold on the Scottish game.
Always there or thereabouts, Aberdeen have been run by building millionaire Stewart Milne since 1998. For much of his chairmanship, and certainly in recent years, Milne has been looking to build a new arena near Cove Bay, south of the city. The latest plans call for the venue to be unveiled in 2017-18, thus ending 118 years of football at Pittodrie, considered too small and too expensive to convert.
Cove Bay is the home of Cove Rangers, currently based at Allan Park. The Highland League side have a stadium saga of their own, after being linked to a groundshare with Aberdeen FC in the new-build. The current situation centres on a new ground at Calder Park in Nigg, with Allan Park being sold for development.
Knocking on the door of the Scottish League in 2008, claiming the occasional scalp in the Scottish Cup, Cove Rangers are still aiming for full league status to complement the move to Nigg. In May 2018, they came awfully close, leading Cowdenbeath 2-1 in a relegation play-off, only to fall to two goals and some controversial refereeing decisions.
Until any move, to see Cove Rangers, take First Group No.3 (every 15min, 15min journey time) from Guild Street to Loirston Road in Cove. Admission is £8 (£4 children) and there’s a social club on the premises.
Aberdeen Airport is 9km (six miles) north-west of town in the suburb of Dyce. The most direct bus into town is the Jet Service 727 (£2.80 single, £4.70 return) operated by Stagecoach, which runs every 10-20min to Union Square (journey time 25min).
Airport-recommended Comcab taxis charges around £15 for the 25min journey into town. Alternatively, you can take a taxi to Dyce station (£6-7, 8min) and get a train to Aberdeen from there.
In town, Aberdeen Taxis (01224 68 68 68) also offer online booking. There are four ranks close to Union Street, Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare.
The city centre is compact and easily navigated on foot, including Pittodrie Stadium.
Three main companies provide bus services – all timetable information is available on Traveline Scotland.
Most lodgings are within an easy walk of the city centre, Pittodrie and the beach.
Many of the major chains have a branch in Aberdeen, the nearest to Pittodrie being DoubleTree by Hilton Aberdeen City Centre, with a gym, pool and spa, and budget-concious Premier Inn Aberdeen City Centre.
Given the proximity of Pittodrie to Aberdeen’s compact city centre, most pubs and bars can be considered pre- and post-match ones.
Recent modernisation of the harbour area has stripped away many of the watering holes traditionally used by travelling fans arriving at the city’s train stations. Luckily, there are still plenty of options nearby.
The Prince of Wales, tucked away on the cobbles of St Nicholas Lane, has been serving up real Scottish ales since opening in 1850. These days you can feast on mince and tatties in a TV-free environment.
Old Blackfriars on Castlegate is another traditional favourite that serves haggis and home-made Cullen skink soup. The bar also has its eponymous house ale on tap. No football colours allowed.
Opposite, The Archibald Simpson, is a Wetherspoon pub named after the Aberdonian architect who designed this former bank building in the 1840s.
BrewDog on Gallowgate is the flagship bar for this rapidly growing Aberdeenshire craft brewer that offers nibbles with independent ales, stouts, IPAs and lagers.