|The A to Z of Scottish Places: Gazetteer A|
The A to Z of Scottish Places: A
A is for...
Founded in 1179, the city of Aberdeen is Scotland's third largest city and is built on the rivers Dee and Don with a harbour on the North Sea. Aberdeen is almost entirely built of granite which although a little grey and depressing on a rainy day gives the city a clean and bright aspect when the sun shines. It has one of the most impressive Scottish University buildings in the 19th century Marischal College whose multiple towers give the building a jagged look. Fishing and the sea have always been important commercially and this continues into the 21st century with the boom in the off-shore oil industry. The population of the city has grown slightly in the last thirty years bucking the trend of most other large places. The city preserves the so-called Aberdeen Maiden, the forerunner of the French guillotine, in the Tolbooth. Interestingly, the famous song the Northern Lights of Aberdeen was penned by a London woman who had never visited the place...
Its name meaning "high hill pasture", Airdrie owes its existence as a town to Robert Hamilton. He bought a farm, built some houses and lobbied for an act of parliament to make it a market and fair town. Its prosperity was built on the now defunct industries of iron-founding and coal-mining. Made it burgh in 1821, it is now primarily a dormitory town.
A contraction of the original name Aberbrothock which means "mouth of the boiling water" Arbroath became a royal burgh in 1599. However Arbroath Abbey, now a well-preserved ruin, is much older having been founded in 1178 by King William the Lion. An admirer of Thomas a Becket who had been murdered eight years earlier at Canterbury, King William had the Abbey built in the style of that english cathedral. In 1320 the Abbot drew up the declaration of independence which was signed by all the scottish nobles. In 1951 when the Stone of Destiny (the ancient coronation stone of Scotland) was stolen from Westminister Abbey and hidden for three months, it was discovered on Arbroath Abbey altar. Returned to England, the stone finally came home to Scotland in 1997 and now sits in Edinburgh Castle. A museum in the Abbot's House recalls Arbroath's place in scottish history. Another museum in the town is in the Signal Tower which overlooks the harbour. This was originally used to communicate with the Bell Rock Lighthouse which stands eleven miles off the coast and which is considered to be the best example of the work of Robert Stevenson an ancestor of the famous author. Arbroath is also famous for its smokies, fresh haddock, gutted, headed and dry-salted before being hung in the hot smoke of oak chips.
Fourteen miles from the Ayrshire coast but at one point only a mile from the Kintyre penninsula, Arran dominates views from all sides with the craggy peaks of its northern half forming the outline of a sleeping soldier. The highest but by no means the least accessible peak is Goat Fell. The mountain rises above the ferry port of Brodick Bay, the starting point for most visitors to the island, although there is another service to Lochranza in the north from Kintyre. The resort towns of Whiting Bay, Lamlash and Kildonan lie to the south. There are a lot of interesting historical places on Arran, including the King's Cave which is associated with Robert the Bruce, but if you like stone circles then you will find Machrie Moor where there are several is an outstanding ancient spot. With agriculture and tourism still the island's main industries, Arran remains a welcoming yet unspoiled part of the country.
... Loch Awe
Roughly twenty-three miles in length and a mile across this West Highland loch is to be found on the main road from Glasgow to Oban. The loch has a good reputation for the fishing and the visitor will be rewarded with fine views of Ben Cruachan to the north and the wooded island of Fraoch Eilean on which a ruined castle once held by the MacNaughtons sits. Near Loch Awe railway is the beautiful modern Church of St Conan completed in 1930. Even more modern is the secret that lies in the heart of Ben Cruachan; a hydro-electric power station with an exhibition centre on the shores of the loch. Minibus trips down the James Bond like tunnel of the hidden station run frequently and are well worth taking.
Ayr, a fishing centre and seaside resort on the Firth of Clyde has long been associated with Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns. He was born nearby in Alloway, and christened in the town. The Tam O'Shanter Inn is a favourite point of call for visitors exploring the poet's history. Ayr has a long sandy beach and was a favourite with Glasgwegian holidaymakers before the advent of package holidays. The town has a busy centre and can be difficult to drive through on Saturdays with a one-way system in operation. Ayr is also home to Scotland's foremost race-course where the Scottish National is run. John Macadam, who gave his name to the road surface, was born in the Royal Burgh in 1756.