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VisitScotland's Aberdeen iCentre staff celebrate local stories and tall tales

By Kirsty Brown

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VISITORS to Aberdeen are being urged to delve into the rich history and local legends of the region, as part of the themed year celebrations.

The Year of Stories 2022 aims to spotlight, celebrate and promote the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland, and VisitScotland staff at Aberdeen iCentre are encouraging visitors to unearth some of the best-known secrets, myths and legends associated with the local area.

Visitor services advisor Keith Wright is one of seven visitor services advisors based in the city.

He enjoys regaling visitors with interesting facts and tales from the region, rich in history and folklore.

One of these stories includes the legend of the gargoyle on one corner of Provost Skene’s House in the Granite City.

The gargoyle takes the form of an old man’s unhappy, scowling face with furrowed brow and baring his teeth.

Known as the Russel Head, it was carved on the instructions of a 19th-century baker whose shop was closed down by the town council due to its location next to a sewer.

Believing that it was his neighbour who complained about the location of the shop, he ordered the effigy to be carved into the property so that they would always see it as he left or entered his house.

It was subsequently attached to Provost Skene House after the demolition of the lane in which the bakery was located.

Another notable story lies behind the reason that Aberdeen includes a leopard in its coat of arms.

Legend has it that two leopards were bestowed as a gift to the city by King James I after his long captivity in the English court.

Aberdeen was one of the richest towns in Scotland in this era, and the town council agreed to send funds to James in England to support his captivity.

The leopard was incorporated into the design of the city’s seal and has remained a prominent symbol in the north-east.

An important part of the iCentre’s role is helping visitors to enjoy the area responsibly, by linking visitors with local tourism businesses and sharing information on some of the hidden gems that can be enjoyed.

Keith Wright.
Keith Wright.

Commenting Keith said: “The Year of Stories presents the ideal opportunity for our visitor services advisors to recount some of the fascinating people and places to discover right across Scotland.

“We would encourage locals and visitors alike to pop in to our iCentre on Union Street for suggestions on some of the fantastic things to see and do across the city and further afield.

“Between us we have almost 50 years’ experience welcoming visitors.

"We love nothing more than regaling our visitors with a tale or two about some of the many interesting and unique stories in the region.

"It is often the more quirky and unusual details about local attractions and stories that visitors remember.”

The delivery of an exciting programme of special events is an important part of the Year of Stories.

There are more than 300 events taking place across the country as part of the Year of Stories events programme, including:

  • Yoyo and The Little Auk on October 9 at Haddo House Hall.
  • The Singing Land - concert on September 25 at Tarland Food and Music Festival.
  • Aberdeen’s Voices: iconic stories through the generations – 15 October-15 November: four drop-in story sessions for younger children; 16 November: Celebration event, all taking place at Aberdeen Central Library.

VisitScotland’s iCentre network can offer a platform for tourism businesses to connect directly with visitors.

They can also host supplier events and offer a range of ticketing services, sales of local artisan products, as well as onward booking advice for visitors across Scotland.

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