Aberdeen’s princely Union Street begins at the ancient marketplace, the Castlegate. Cobbled stones confidently take us back in time, as history meets the high street and kisses it goodbye. The Castlegate defies the consumerism and modernity of the city centre; here is it impossible not to connect with the past beneath and all around you. If you close your eyes, you can feel it, the historic heart of the city.
The Mercat Cross stands supreme in the middle of the square, a landmark that time forgot to age, history hiding in every one of its stones. The Stewart dynasty is depicted on the hexagonal base, and the structure is crowned by a Scottish unicorn. The Cross dates from 1686 and was designed by architect John Montgomery.
The Castlegate is framed by local shops, charities and restaurants. The latter includes La Lombarda, the UK’s oldest Italian restaurant dating from 1922. The name stems from its original owners who were from Lombardy; the business was subsequently handed down to their daughter and son-in-law. The current management took over in 2016. However, the beautiful restaurant whisks you to an authentic Italian past of wooden beams and sublime stonework. You cannot escape history in the Castlegate. I recommend La Lombarda for its interior alone, the food is an added bonus.
A second restaurant is Siam Cottage, a delightfully decorated Thai restaurant with a mouth-watering array of culinary treats. If you love Chinese or Thai food, you will not be disappointed. The staff are very welcoming; an atmosphere of warmth envelopes you as you enter, auspicious for your appetite.
Aberdeen beach is a short walk from the Castlegate on the one side; at the other there is the Maritime Museum and the ancient Tolbooth Museum. History hugs the Castlegate from all quarters, as seagulls embrace the skies with their timeless cries. Visit the Castlegate and marvel as history takes your heart hostage. Aberdeen’s past meets its future and flirts with all the centuries inbetween, and then time stands still.