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Aberdeen Beach: The Silver City with the golden sands was a haven for holidaymakers

For decades, Aberdeen was a holiday hotspot that drew in thousands of families from across Scotland each year - and the beach was always a popular destination for sunseekers.

A view along the golden sands of Aberdeen Beach in June 1958. Image: DC Thomson
A view along the golden sands of Aberdeen Beach in June 1958. Image: DC Thomson

When the sun is shining on the Granite City, Aberdeen Beach has always been the place to be.

In its heyday, Aberdeen was a popular holiday resort drawing in families from across Scotland, particularly from the Central Belt.

The city had much to offer: beautiful parks, independent shops, rail access to Deeside and beyond, and of course, a golden beach with activities for all ages.

We look back at some joyful photos of Aberdonians and visitors enjoying the beach, arguably still one of the city’s greatest assets today.

Aberdeen Beach Bathing Station

Aberdonians of a certain age may have hazy memories of the striking, red, brick-built baths overlooking the beachfront.

When the salt water Victorian baths opened in 1898, it was the largest swimming pool in Scotland.

So accustomed are we to granite Aberdeen, that the beach bathing station looks foreign with its brick towers and turrets.

The Beach Baths at Aberdeen seafront, pictured probably around 1910. Image: DC Thomson

In the early 20th Century, many people still lived in inadequate and overcrowded housing in Aberdeen.

Inside toilets weren’t common, let alone a bathroom, and many people would go to the Beach Baths for a wash.

The baths clung on through the 1960s when a lot of Aberdeen’s historic buildings were flattened.

But by 1972, declining numbers of swimmers saw the baths closed then demolished, the grand dame of the beachfront gone from the city skyline forever.

1930s: Aberdeen Beach from above

The 193os were difficult times for many, as the ripples of the Great Depression spread throughout Scotland.

Poet WH Auden famously called the 1930s “a low, dishonest decade”, because it was characterised by lingering debts from the First World War, poverty and unemployment.

The hard times affected Aberdeen too, with poor health the result of very poor housing.

An aerial view of Aberdeen Beach in 1930s. Image: DC Thomson

Slum housing was rife, so a trip to the beach would have been an escape from the city centre stour on a fine day.

This aerial photo shows the juxtaposition between recreational Aberdeen and industrial Aberdeen.

The sweeping golden sands in the foreground contrast sharply with the factories and housing hemmed in together on the horizon.

The sizzling summer of 1932

The sun was said to be the “most welcome visitor” to Aberdeen Beach in the summer of 1932.

Aberdonians, holidaymakers, sunbathers and swimmers alike flocked to the beach that year, one of the hottest on record until that point.

A flashback to the summer of 1932 at Aberdeen Beach when most Scots took their holidays in Scotland. Image: DC Thomson

In the days before holidays abroad, Aberdeen was a top destination for families who travelled up from Glasgow.

Barely an inch of sand was free of deckchairs which mobbed the beachfront, particularly during trades fortnight.

The P&J reported how the beach was so busy “it was impossible to move more than a yard without interrupting a happy family group or a party of young people”.

1947: Demand for deckchairs

It was a sunny September day at Aberdeen Beach in 1947, but these faces are looking rather glum.

The reason why? The length of the queue to hire a deckchair – and then the struggle to find a space to put it.

It’s 1947 and the queue for deckchairs at Aberdeen Beach stretches into the distance. Image: DC Thomson

Aberdonians must have thought the wartime days of queuing were behind them, but not when it came to sunbathing.

Although, with their suits, ties and overcoats, the men look like they are off to church in their Sunday best rather than the beach to bathe.

A busy beach in June 1952

Scotland experienced its hottest day of the year at the end of June in 1952, yet these men still sweltered in their suits at Aberdeen Beach.

By contrast, the youngsters made the most of the weather, splashing and paddling in the sea in their dookers.

A sunny day led to a busy scene at Aberdeen beach during in 1952. Image: DC Thomson

The sunshine and sand wasn’t the only attraction at the beachfront.

During the summer season, a variety of concerts and performances took place at the Beach Ballroom, while the carnival always proved popular.

1955: The golden sands of Aberdeen Beach

It was the slogan that sold Aberdeen to the rest of Scotland: The Silver City with the golden sands.

This newly-painted publicity poster from 1955 was destined to grace advertising hoardings down south at the start of the tourism season.

The year is 1955 and the slogan from Aberdeen Town Council’s publicity department is – the Silver City with the golden sands. Image: DC Thomson

It clearly worked, because Aberdeen was a popular holiday resort for decades for those escaping the central belt for a few days each summer.

During the holiday season, tourists and residents could enjoy special excursions by bus or train to Royal Deeside or the Highlands.

1960: Rock ‘n’ Roll reaches Aberdeen

The year is 1960 and Rock ‘n’ Roll had landed in Aberdeen.

In July, when this photo of the rock and rollers at Aberdeen Beach was taken, teen heart-throb Cliff Richard was at number 1 in the charts.

‘Please Don’t Tease’ by Cliff Richard and The Shadows remained in the top spot for two weeks.

A rock ‘n’ roll contest on the open-air dance board was the centre of attraction for this crowd at the Aberdeen Beach in 1960. Image: DC Thomson

Influenced by the shift in culture favouring the interests of young people, the open-air dance board at Aberdeen Beach hosted a rock ‘n’ roll contest on July 28 1960.

Only three young lads had the nerve to join the jiving lassies in their petticoats in front of the crowds.

In the background, corporation buses line the promenade to shuttle sunseekers between the city centre and beach.

1973: Do you remember Aberdeen’s beach leader?

For decades, Aberdeen had an official ‘beach leader’ who was appointed each July and August to organise games, sports and activities.

Aberdeen lead the way when it came to appointing beach leaders, and the scheme was so successful in the 1940s that many other resorts followed suit.

Not dissimilar to the Butlins redcoats, the beach leader donned an official blazer and had a designated hut on the beachfront.

The crowd overlooking Aberdeen Beach in July 1973, with the Beach Shelter and Beach Leader’s hut in the background. Image: DC Thomson

In 1960s, the beach leader was Jim Morrison, a youth club worker and teacher at Northfield Academy.

As well as organising contests and games, the beach leader had the unenviable task of raising the spirits of disgruntled tourists on wet summer days.

A Glasgow holidaymaker contacted the Evening Express in 1963 to complain that the city was ‘a fair weather town’ and called for indoor entertainment at the beachfront.

1982: Aberdeen Beach still draws crowds

By the 1980s, Aberdeen’s heyday as a holiday resort was waning due to the rise of package holidays abroad.

The oil boom of the 1970s brought a lot of wealth to the city and many Aberdonians could afford to holiday abroad each summer.

Still, a programme events was held during the school holidays to entertain those who did choose to holiday in the Silver City.

Crowds of people enjoying a day out in the sunshine on the golden sands of Aberdeen Beach in 1982. Image: DC Thomson

In 1982, activities on offer included the Quaich golf tournament at Hazlehead, a Disco Bus in Tillydrone, street theatre in Summerhill, cricket coaching in Hilton and live music in the city centre.

Although the crowds may not be in their thousands as in previous years, the beach still proves a popular spot on a scorching day.

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