What lies under Aberdeen’s most famous street?
As part of our Keys to the City series, we made it our mission to uncover some of the secrets of the Granite Mile.
Union Street was developed in 1794 as a remedy for the winding and steep mediaeval street network in the city.
The new high street was completed in the early 1800s and the project was said to have cost so much, it almost bankrupted Aberdeen.
But, more than 200 years on, there are still questions about the structure so many of us know as the most famous street in the Granite City.
What’s beyond the Tunnels nightclub?
The Tunnels nightclub and the areas around Carnegie’s Brae give a flavour of what the city’s underground is like, and this space is open to the public and well-photographed.
The area we were most interested in is between Bridge Street and Market street.
As far as we know, this mystery space is unexplored territory.
Asking around city folk and businesses in the area, it was clear that there were no consistent answers, and this was coming from people who had lived and worked in Aberdeen their whole lives.
What Union Street rumours did we hear?
One fantastical theory we heard more than once was that there is a hidden bar under Union Street between Market Street and St Nicholas Kirk.
Another common thread was that underneath Union Street is a continuous tunnel you can walk up and down.
We also heard that there are enough tunnels in the city to form a fully-fledged subway system.
What did we find underneath Union Street?
We knocked on doors on the Granite Mile, asking for information about access points to the arches we know Union Street was built on.
We were ready to give up our search after plenty of knock-backs from business owners and shopworkers saying they couldn’t help us uncover any secrets.
However, Millets came forward with some fascinating information about what lies beneath their Union Street branch.
The outdoor clothing shop sits on top of the former C&A department store and the staff knew of access to a tunnel.
Millets were kind enough to grant us access to this underground lair, which staff call ‘the dead space’ – and from there they could lead us to our lost arch.
Why was Aberdeen C&A store connected to the Union Street vault?
The former C&A department store area that still sits empty under the current businesses was almost as captivating to explore as the vault itself.
Old maps on walls, as well as stickers with logos and linoleum flooring are all weathered reminders of a shop long since gone.
These hallmarks shoppers will be all too familiar with unlocked lots of memories of a bygone era.
However, the secret to the access points for underneath Union Street came from C&A’s construction.
Parts of the old plumbing system can be found underground in the vault. And for this reason the store also had access to a vault underneath Bridge Street.
As I creaked open the door, I became one of few people to explore this mysterious part of Aberdeen’s past.
Do you know more about the Union Street tunnels? Let us know in our comments section below.
Read all our latest Granite Mile coverage here.