It’s an age old rivalry that’s had some fuel added to the flames in recent weeks, with one councillor claiming Aberdeen is Scotland’s “forgotten city” following a major jobs boost for Dundee.
So The Courier has decided to settle the Aberdeen v Dundee debate once and for all by light-heartedly comparing the best things about the two cities.
We’ve called up our Dundee chief reporter Stefan Morkis, a man who knows the City of Discovery like the back of his hand, and online reporter Blair Dingwall, our resident Aberdonian, to fight the case for both cities.
B: Two stunning rivers in the Dee and the Don rush through the city and there are architectural landmarks in the likes of Marischal College and St Machar Cathedral. Old Aberdeen itself with its old-world feel is brilliant, as are the hidden gems of Fittie (a quaint old fishing village still intact near the harbour) and St Andrew’s Cathedral on King Street with its ties to the Jacobites. Duthie Park is one of the jewel’s in Aberdeen’s crown, but Seaton and Westburn parks are also worth mentioning. Dolphin spotting at the Torry Battery is a beloved pastime of many.
The River Dee Aberdeenshire. Thanks to John Strachan's photography for sharing.
S: There’s an old saying I’ve just made up that says Aberdeen needs two rivers to even think about competing with Dundee’s one. Dundee’s position on the sun-kissed northern shore of the Tay gives it glorious views over Fife. In the city itself you can climb The Law to get stunning views to Fife and back towards the hills of Angus.
There are also loads of beauty spots dotted around Dundee, from Balgay Park to Broughty Ferry. City planners haven’t always got things right, but the ongoing redevelopment of the waterfront means residents also get the privilege to watch the transformation of their home happening virtually day by day.
Things to do
B: Aberdeen has four cinemas, the best one being The Belmont. For decades this independent cinema in the centre of Aberdeen has been bringing great movies which the multiplexes ignore to city residents. There are always shows on at His Majesty’s Theatre, gigs at the AECC, and exhibitions at the Aberdeen Art Gallery and the Maritime and Gordon Highlanders museums.
However one of Aberdeen’s greatest assets is its proximity to the incredible countryside which lies on its doorstep. Deeside is one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland and the Cairngorms National Park is just a couple hour’s drive from the city. Just up the road there is Newburgh Beach (and its seals) and the ruins of Slains Castle (which inspired Castle Dracula).
The whole of Aberdeenshire is laden with ancient strongholds such as Dunnottar Castle, and in the summer the region is home to some of the best Highland Games around. In the winter it’s easy enough to jump in a car and head to The Lecht and Glenshee to snowboard or ski.
S: For decades, Dundee laboured under the stereotype that it was a dour, depressing city with nothing going on. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are amazing tourist attractions such as the Discovery and Verdant Works, a wonderful museum in the McManus that brings the city’s history to life and even an observatory to satisfy star-gazers.
There’s also a little museum on the waterfront due to open next year that might be quite special. You can even get a boat down the Tay to inspect the V&A from the water if you so wish. You might even see a dolphin at the same time.
And that’s before we start looking at Dundee’s cultural offerings. The Rep has been one of Scotland’s – if not the UK’s – best theatres for years while the DCA regularly hosts shows by some of the world’s top artists – as well as boasting a great cinema showing the best films from around the world.
The Caird Hall regularly hosts top acts and shows while open air concerts Slessor Gardens and the recent Carnvial 56 festival have all been musical triumphs.
Add to that annual events such as the Literary Festival and Design Festival and you realise that Dundee isn’t punching above its weight anymore, it’s just moved into in the heavyweight category.
B: I’ll profess to being a bit out of touch on this note. Back in my student days the club scene was thriving with the likes of Snafu and Moshulu offering the best evenings out. However today you need look no further than the cheap entry and good music of Exodus or the always brilliant Tunnels.
S: The Reading Rooms is the sort of club where they put up a plaque to say Lee Scratch Perry played there and so, indisputably, must be very good indeed. It’s not just a great club, it’s a great little venue for bands too.
Elsewhere Club Tropicana and Liquid and Envy offer up more mainstream fare for those wanting to dance the night away.
B: There are some great pubs in Aberdeen. Six Degrees North, CASC, Bar 99, The Tippling House, Krakatoa (formerly The Moorings) and the two Brewdog venues are always good for a pint; as are most places on Belmont Street. The Siberian Vodka Bar, Ma Cameron’s, The Howff and the Prince of Wales are among my personal favourite haunts.
S: The first rule about Dundee pubs, is you don’t talk about Dundee pubs.
Well, at least not by their real name anyway. Using the proper name of Perth Road favourite Mennie’s isn’t so much a faux pas as just plain weird.
Elsewhere Dundee has outstanding pubs to satisfy every taste and quench every thirst. From The Phoenix on Nethergate to The Fisherman’s Tavern in the Ferry, there are a host of long-established, friendly boozers across the city.
There are also newer pubs like Brewdog and The Beer Kitchen for those who prefer their drinks a little more hipster-y.
B: Since moving to Dundee I’ve probably enjoyed more sunny days than in a whole year up north. Seriously, it’s like Dundee has a weather pattern different to the rest of Scotland or something.
This is subjective though. I don’t mind the rain and if you’re a lover of winter mornings then Aberdeen and the surrounding countryside is great. You can’t beat waking up to a few inches of sna’ and views to the snow-capped Grampians.
S: You wouldn’t know it from this summer, but Dundee is usually sunny. Or sunnier than other Scottish cities. Scotland is still Scotland, after all.
B: There are plenty of great places to eat in the Granite City. For me the pizzas at Borsalino’s in Culter are the best around, the tapas at Cafe Andaluz is incredible and you can’t go wrong with a New Yorker at the Siberian Vodka Bar. For Indian food Shri Bheemas in Bridge of Don is excellent and so is Royal China in Culter for a Chinese. Aberdeen was also home to the first ever Boozy Cow, a great place for a burger (as is Byron Burger in Union Square).
S: Dundee now boasts a huge array of places to eat. For fine dining you can head to the Tayberry or nip across the bridge to Masterchef: The Professionals winner Jamie’s Scott restaurant, The Newport.
Meanwhile, you can sample Kiwi fare at The Bach, or sample street food from around the world at Food Anarchy on Perth Road.
And of course, there’s The Agacan, which has raised the humble kebab into something approaching an art form.
B: Surely deserving of its own sub-category. Thains, the late night/early morning bakery on George Street, is always worth the walk after any night out.
S: Did Thains give the world the Scooby Snack as Clark’s in Dundee did? I rest my case.
B: There’s only the one railway line which runs through the city from Dundee up towards Inverness. The old Deeside, Alford Valley and Buchan railways were phased out in the 1960s, much to the detriment of the area. Locals in Aberdeenshire remain dependant on increasingly pricey bus journeys to and from the countryside to Aberdeen. Traffic is also notoriously awful in Aberdeen, but hopefully the AWPR will ease that. However Aberdeen International Airport has always been a great asset for the north-east.
B: No argument here! Aberdonians are largely united behind the one club (which, by the way, brushed aside Bayern Munich and Real Madrid to be crowned champions of Europe in 1983). In recent years the Dons have been the only side to offer Celtic much of a fight in the premiership. Under Derek McInnes, we’ve become the strongest and best Aberdeen side I can remember in my lifetime.
Other sports: Aberdeen has a fantastic dry slope for winter sports lovers, one of the best swimming pools in Scotland in the Aberdeen Aquatics Centre and an ice hockey team in the Aberdeen Lynx.
S: Steady now. Aberdeen might have been great in the 80s when the won the Cup Winner’s Cup and then the European Super Cup, but Jim McLean’s Dundee United did just as much to put Scottish football on the map. And is the only team in the world that can honestly call themselves Barcelona’s bogey side.
Across the road Dundee FC are no slouches either and have a pretty remarkable history of their own and I hear people in Cologne still wake up in a sweat at the mention of the Dark Blues.
Having two sides also makes Dundee far more interesting. There’s plenty of mickey taking but none of the aggro that’s associated with other city rivalries that spring to mind.
B: If there’s one thing I miss aboot hame, it’s bletherin’ awa in the Doric. As famous names go, Lord Byron was raised in Aberdeen (his mum being from the local Gordon family). Writer Nan Shepherd and musician Annie Lennox also hail from the Granite City.
S: Dundee has given the world the songs and poetry of Michael Marra, the novelist AL Kennedy, William McGonnagal and even, possibly, probably, inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. Aberdeen is where Irvine Welsh sent Renton to develop a heroin addiction in Skagboys.
Now down to the nitty gritty…
Whose gull “problems” are worse?
B: You think DUNDEE has a gull “problem”?
You know nothing! NOTHING!!
Here’s some things I’ve accepted growing up with herring gulls soaring and squawking above me:
A. They have always and will always live on the coast and culling them is not the answer. Stop making a mess and they won’t scavenge.
B. If you don’t eat in public you won’t get into a fight with one (on a side note, gulls are huge, hardy b*****ds in Aberdeen and will win any fight).
C. Gull poop on your car or head is a part of life. Accept it.
D. The subject of much debate in The Courier news room…THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SEAGULL. There are 11 species of gulls in the UK. The word “seagull” is a nickname.
S: I am willing to let Blair win this one. After all, the cull is on so it’s not so much that Dundee has a gull problem, it’s that gulls have a Dundee problem.
Classic Aberdeen moment
An Aberdeen man getting his head stuck in a bin in the Castlegate.
Classic Dundee moment
A Dundee dog blasts a car horn.