Ale and hearty history of Aberdeen’s famous pubs

By Chris Foote, 18 Jan 2014 8.00am

THE pubs and alehouses of the Granite City have helped to define it culturally.

Many visitors to the city have spent an hour or two in The Grill or Ma Cameron’s.

Even Star Trek’s “Scotty” once proclaimed himself an “old Aberdeen pub crawler”.

It is believed that the city’s first public house was the Le Sandy Velle, founded in Torry in around 1535.

By 1845, there were 193 inns, alehouses and vintners in Aberdeen.

The five most popular were the Royal Hotel, Union Hotel and the Aberdeen Hotel on Union Street, the Lemon Tree Hotel on Huxter Row and Cruickshank’s’ Inn in Schoolhill.

There was the Ferry Boat Inn run by publican Willie Cormack, the Lochside Bar owned by John McKay and the Rising-Sun Tavern run by Alexander Barron.

The Steam-yacht Tavern in Footdee was one of several pubs in the small town, where locals joked that the pubs never opened because they were never shut.

The first Red Lion Inn on Firhill Place was founded in the 1750s and regularly visited by the Aberdeen Philosophical Society of the day.

The present Red Lion Pub dates from 1903. Ma Cameron’s on Little Belmont Street is Aberdeen’s oldest running pub.

The 300-year-old tavern flourished as a coaching inn back in the 1800s and has been popular ever since.

Amelia “Ma” Cameron was its most famous landlady and later gave her name to the establishment.

Several old Aberdeen pubs have remained open under new names.

The Lang Bar now operates as The Tilted Wig while the Tappit Hen on Back Wynd is now O’Neill’s.

The Lemon Tree Hotel was a favourite drinking spot for 19th century Aberdeen traders.

The first meeting of the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce was in the pub, just off Castle Street.

In 1867 the Lemon Tree Hotel was demolished to make way for the new Town House and traders moved to the Royal Hotel. The tavern’s name lives on thanks to The Lemon Tree on Stirling Street, which opened 125 years after its namesake closed its doors.

The Prince of Wales on St Nicholas Street was founded in 1850 and has one of the longest bars in Scotland.

The Wallace Tower pub on Netherkirkgate took its name from the famous Aberdeen landmark.

The tower itself was later moved to Seaton Park in Tillydrone.

The Grill was established in the early 1830s and has had the same name since its time as a restaurant in the 1870s.

The bar was a restaurant and dining room for 30 years until it was converted into a pub in 1925.

The Grill’s magnificent bar is panelled in mahogany veneer and the back windows of the pub had to be removed twice to make way for the counter. Women were served at The Grill for the first time in 1975.

C S MacDonald’s – better known as Bella’s Bar – was famed as the last pub in the city to have sawdust on the floor.